Engineering Fresh Faces: Jennifer Bauman

Welcome to Fresh Faces. In this series, we’re highlighting more than 40 engineering faculty members, all hired in the last five years, who are doing interesting and innovative things in the lab and the classroom.

Jennifer Bauman is an assistant professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her research focuses on the electrification of transportation, working to develop new technologies that improve vehicle design, reduce costs and ease the integration of electrical vehicles into society. She has been with McMaster since September 2016.

On her work

I work on transportation electrification, which has been my focus ever since I started grad studies in 2004.

I work within that broad category at three levels: one is the detailed level of power electronic converters within an electrified vehicle; the next level up is at the vehicle level, so vehicle system design and modeling, looking at connected cars and how we optimally design hybrid vehicles; and the higher level is electrified vehicle integration in the grid and dealing with issues around charging.

A lot of people focus on one or two levels, but I do the full integration – I look at how vehicle design might affect charging at the grid, for example. The fact that I have experience in all three levels allows me to make connections between the three that might not otherwise be made.

On what she did before coming to Mac

I worked in industry for eight years before I came to Mac. While I was working on my PhD I built a 65kW boost converter for a fuel cell vehicle as part of the eco-car team at Waterloo. That was power electronics, but we also learned model-based vehicle design, so my PhD was a combination of power electronics and powertrain design.

Then two friends from grad school started a consulting company, and I became their first employee. We were doing model-based design for all sorts of hybrid vehicles, from automotive OEMs to forklift manufacturers to marine vessels. In the last two years before I came to McMaster we were working in smart charging, so I was looking at this problem of electrified vehicle charging at the grid, and I brought that here.

On what makes her proud about her work

Even though I didn’t become an environmental engineer, I’m proud that my work, even as an electrical engineer, is benefitting the environment.

I hope that in my work I also get to be a positive influence on undergrad and grad students. My students say they enjoy being in my research group and they enjoy having me as their supervisor, so I feel like we’re building good relationships, which makes coming to work a positive experience.

On why she chose engineering

I always loved math and physics, but also computer programming – so electrical engineering was the right path. I’ve always been focused on practical applications. I felt engineering was a way to do something really useful in the world – engineering is the application part of what pure science does. I had also always hoped to have some influence on the environment in some way.

On the happiest moment in her life – and her family

The day I found out I was pregnant with my first child was the happiest day of my life. That set my life on a different, “motherhood” path.

I’m passionate about my family, including my children who are six and eight. I make home-cooked food everyday, and do extra teaching with them at home, such as a phonics reading program and an advanced math program.

On moving from industry to academia

It was a little intimidating to start here, because I left an industry job that I loved, but most people who get a PhD have an academic career in mind as an option, so this was my chance to make that change. I definitely had thoughts of, “Am I cut out for this? Should I have stayed where it was easy and comfortable?” And I feel, two years in, that yes – I’m cut out for this. I feel like this is doable, that this is where I want to be.

In the lab, I…

I focus on problem solving with my students, and encourage them to solve problems on their own.

Outside the lab, I…

I like to walk, cook, bake, read, and hike through forests with my family.

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