CLEMSON — An electrical engineer who sees big opportunities to commercialize technology in South Carolina and surrounding states is joining Clemson University as the new Warren H. Owen Distinguished Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Chris Edrington comes to Clemson from Florida State University, where he was a research associate in the Center for Advanced Power Systems and a professor of electrical and computer engineering.
He brings to Clemson deep experience in control systems, drive systems and applied power electronics. Edrington said that he wants to hear ideas for collaboration and that he has already started reaching out to potential partners.
“I feel like this area is growing very fast from a technology point of view,” Edrington said. “There are a lot of companies, there are a lot of startups and there is industry across the state. And then you’ve got your neighboring states of Georgia and North Carolina, which are also very active.”
It’s a fertile environment to take ideas that have gone from basic science to applied science and move them into commercialization, he said.
The employees of Duke Energy made the professorship possible through an endowment, one of many ways the utility has supported educational and research programs at Clemson.
Steven Whisenant, lead engineer in the transmission department at Duke Energy, said professors are critical to building the future workforce.
“Professors are responsible not just for delivering classroom knowledge but developing people who are next-generation employees,” Whisenant said. “We have had a close relationship with universities in the area, including Clemson. It’s important that professors understand the needs of industry.”
Some of Edrington’s most recent research has focused on control systems on naval ship power systems and on low-voltage distribution systems. He plans to continue work in both areas and is looking for opportunities to expand into automotive research.
Automotive research would allow him to tap into his knowledge of drive systems, which was his main focus as a graduate student and when he first started his academic career, he said.
“I see a need out there for people who have a controls background but also an understanding of drive systems,” Edrington said. “I believe that would be something that would be highly attractive to the automotive industry.”
The Warren H. Owen Professorship is named for a former Duke Energy executive vice president of design engineering who oversaw the teams that designed Oconee Nuclear Station, McGuire Nuclear Station and Catawba Nuclear Station, all of which are still generating power.
Owen was also a member of the National Academy of Engineering for his pioneering work in the digital control of power generating systems.
Daniel Noneaker, chair of the Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Clemson, said that Edrington is well suited to carry on the tradition of excellence that comes with the professorship.
“He is passionate about turning students into colleagues and helping technology take the last few steps from the lab to the marketplace,” Noneaker said. “As the Warren H. Owen Distinguished Professor, Dr. Edrington is well positioned to create the workforce of the future and conduct ground-breaking research. I welcome him to Clemson.”
In the fall semester, Edrington plans to set up his lab and help the four Ph.D. students who will be joining him in the move from Florida State acclimate to Clemson. He plans to begin teaching in the spring.
In his 12 years at Florida State, Edrington advised 23 master’s students and 16 Ph.D. students.
“I tell everybody, ‘I’m not here to keep you as a student. I’m here to create a colleague,’” he said.
Edrington said that after high school he worked as a maintenance technician for seven years, first in a gears-and-sprockets factory and later in a packaged foods factory. An industrial engineer who worked on the line in the packaged foods factory saw his potential and suggested he go to college, he said.
Edrington started at a satellite campus of Arkansas State University and later commuted an hour and a half each way to the main campus to complete his degree.
He received his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Arkansas State, graduating magna cum laude. He went on to receive his Master of Science and Ph.D., both in electrical engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly University of Missouri-Rolla).
After receiving his Ph.D., he served three years as an assistant professor in the College of Engineering at Arkansas State. He became an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Florida State in 2007 and began moving up the ranks.
His positions at Florida State included interim director and associate director of the Center for Advanced Power Systems. He was also campus director at Florida State for the FREEDM Systems Center, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center.
Edrington has received several honors for his research and teaching, including several from IEEE, a leading professional society, and Florida State’s College of Engineering. He is a registered professional engineer.
Edrington enjoys bass fishing and playing guitar, especially the blues, in his spare time.
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