Fred Lee, a University Distinguished Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and founder and director of the internationally known Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES), will retire from Virginia Tech in September 2017.
After 40 years at the university, Lee, who is also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, has made immeasurable contributions to the field of power electronics. These include:
- Earning more than $100 million in research funding
- Supervising 84 Ph.D. students and 93 master’s students to completion
- Filing 104 patents (82 of which so far have been awarded, with the rest pending)
- Becoming one of the top three most-cited engineering authors out of over 1 million, according to the Microsoft H index
- Publishing more than 290 journal papers and 710 referred conference papers.
Yet, from the beginning, Lee’s immense career in power electronics was serendipitous.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, Lee came to the United States in 1969 and enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Missouri. His fiancee, Leei Wong, was studying at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — 918 miles away. Lee closed the distance by transferring to Duke University, where he suddenly needed to find funding.
That’s when Lee met Tom Wilson, a professor in Duke’s Department of Electrical Engineering, who would change the trajectory of Lee’s career.
“This professor … has money. And he is also the most well-known in the department,” Lee said of his thoughts at the time. “So I got the money, and I got the famous professor. Why not? Whatever he does, I am willing to learn.
“That’s how I got into power electronics,” Lee said, laughing. “In my generation, almost everyone got into power electronics by surprise, by accident.”
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