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I am an Innovator

I want to work on new solutions to problems rather than tweaking old ones; that's where the fun is for me.

My interest lies in sustainable energy. The power and energy industry has been pretty stable and unchanging for a lot of years, but now that resources are becoming scarcer and world politics are playing a bigger role, there's pressure to change. A lot of that change is going to be lead by younger people and I want to play a part. There are so many solutions to think about: there's the smart grid, wind power, and nuclear energy, just to mention a few.


In my own future, I see doing something with electric energy at a utility or even a research institution. In high school, I was interested in transportation and clean energy—things like electric and fuel-cell cars—but the more I looked at it, the more I realized that the real issue is the power system; even an electric car needs to be powered somehow. I want to work on new solutions to problems rather than tweaking old ones; that's where the fun is for me.

I'm very interested now in how wind and solar are integrated into the power grid. I've been working with some professors and grad students in the Wind Integration Research Lab (WIRL), researching problems related to increased wind integration in the power system.

Right now, I'm looking at how offshore winds—which have very different properties from onshore winds—would affect the aggregate wind power in the system. I'm seeing how offshore wind speeds differ, and how their lower variability may translate to a smaller burden for power system operators. There is a lot of programming and simulation involved in this work, which is great experience. The group at the lab meets once a week to share progress on our own research topics.

Wind Power

In the future, I'm not sure whether I want to work with a research group or in the field. Being in the field might allow me to engage in overseas collaboration and travel. I studied abroad in Shanghai, which was an incredible learning experience, so I'd love an opportunity to do something like that professionally; perhaps in Europe. The Europeans have made impressive advances in wind energy and are definitely the leaders in that area.

I'm a self-motivated person. When I am passionate about something, I can work at it for hours, whether it's developing an idea or doing a research project. I studied as a classical pianist and I think some of my self-discipline came from that. I like composers from the Romantic period, like Chopin and Rachmaninov. This is the first year I've been able to have my piano where I live, so I spend much of my free time playing when I'm not studying or working in the lab. A grand piano is pretty loud, but my roommates are good-natured about it.

I am...

Beau Van Kirk

Beau Van Kirk

Senior at University of Washington

Major: Electrical Engineering

Concentration: Sustainable Power

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