July 2006 ISSUE

Alberta’s Own Power Superhero


By Francine Maxwell
Editorial Assistant

Dr. William Rosehart, P.Eng., participates in power systems research, which is particularly relevant with the trend towards deregulating electricity markets throughout the world. He has presented papers at several prestigious national and international conferences on the topic. His long list of accomplishments so far only indicates bigger and better things to come.

Dr. Bill Rosehart, P.Eng., doesn’t strike you as a superhero at first glance. But when you see the list of accomplishments thus far in his career, you can’t help but notice a cape.

Dr. Rosehart graduated with a bachelor of science degree in applied science in 1996 and had added a master’s and a PhD in electrical engineering by 2001. Since then he has earned 11 teaching awards, written 15 peer-reviewed journal papers, 29 peer-reviewed conference papers, and worked his way to an associate professorship at the University of Calgary. He was also a U of C associate chair of the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Design Chair in Life Cycle Engineering.

The future certainly looks bright for this 33-year-old University of Waterloo graduate.

Dr. Rosehart’s research and expertise in the area of power systems, as well as his outstanding teaching record, have earned him the Early Accomplishment Summit Award.

His passion is for powers systems, how they work, and how they can be made better and more efficient. His is a world of generation, distribution and transmission of electrical power. And while not always action-packed or requiring clothing changes in phone booths, Dr. Rosehart’s research on the topic could save thousands of people from cascading blackouts like those in Ontario and the United States in August 2003. At least eight deaths were attributed to those blackouts between the two countries.

“My research is at the transmission level of power systems. I look at optimizing the transmission of power from the power plant to the company distributing it and keeping that transmission stable. The 2003 outages in Ontario could have been avoided if there was power curtailment in strategic locations.”

During the now-infamous blackouts, Dr. Rosehart appeared in national and local media to help the public understand the nature of the problem and how workers would go about fixing what was wrong. A search of his name on the Internet returns a multitude of hits to do with power systems. These range in topic from a reference in a peer’s technical paper to a number of published works from Dr. Rosehart himself. And while he could have chosen any topic, power systems provided Dr. Rosehart with an end product he likes.

“I like the research and I find it challenging, but I need an application for my work. An engineering system shouldn’t be noticed and there should be a trust by the public that we’ve done our jobs. You need to be aware of your system and your system’s limitations.”

Deciding to go into teaching rather than physical practice, Dr. Rosehart quickly became a popular choice with his students. He has won numerous teaching awards at the University of Calgary. They include awards from his teaching assistant days through to teaching excellence awards in engineering. His credits also include Professor of the Year at the University of Calgary for 2004 and 2005. Dr. Rosehart says his awards are indicative of his desire to teach and his style of teaching.
“You could say teaching was a calling. I started teaching during my graduate studies and was drawn into it. It’s all about how you interact with students and whether or not you create a positive learning environment for them. If they are interested, they will want to learn.”

When asked if this was a first choice for a career, Dr. Rosehart says he seemed to have  been destined to be an engineer. Two of his family members were also engineers.

“It’s something I always knew I wanted to do, ever since high school. My dad and grandfather were engineers, Dad in chemical and my grandfather in industrial.”

And while it was a couple of recreation and holiday trips and a subsequent job offer from the University of Calgary that brought Dr. Rosehart to Alberta, the Ontario native has no plans to leave any time soon.

“I love it here. I’ll continue on with my research, with more emphasis on renewable energy and wind energy in respect to its reliability issues and effects,” said Dr. Rosehart.

Perhaps an Environmental Excellence Award is in his future.

The Early Accomplishment Award is presented to members of APEGGA in recognition of exceptional achievement in the early years of a professional career as an engineer, geologist or geophysicist.