College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

From South Carolina to South Africa, Fulbright Scholar Kumar Venayagamoorthy comes full circle


Kumar Venayagamoorthy of Clemson University will bring his career full circle this summer when his participation in the U.S. Fulbright Program takes him to South Africa, the same nation where he received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees.

Kumar Venayagamoorthy poses for a photo in his Riggs Hall lab at Clemson University.

Venayagamoorthy will soon head to South Africa’s University of Pretoria to conduct research and teach. As a Fulbright Scholar, he plans to work on helping the country transition to renewable energy and find a way to halt its rolling blackouts.

Venayagamoorthy serves as the Duke Energy Distinguished Professor of Power Engineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Clemson. His research focuses on power systems, smart grids, and artificial intelligence.

“I have 25 years’ experience in the U.S., and now South Africa needs this experience,” he said. “One of the reasons I chose South Africa is because that is where I got my initial training. I feel it’s only fair for me to give back.”

Venayagamoorthy recalls writing his first AI algorithm, about 30 years ago, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (formerly known as University of Natal), where he earned his Master of Science in Engineering and Ph.D degrees. He later served as a senior lecturer at the Durban University of Technology (formerly known as Durban Institute of Technology).

Venayagamoorthy said maintaining connections with South Africa has kept him up to date with the electric-grid challenges the nation faces, positioning him to contribute to solutions. He is a fellow in the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE) and in March 2023 won the SAIEE President’s Award.

When he returns as part of the Fulbright program, Venayagamoorthy will be working with former classmates who are now professors. He expects to leave for South Africa in July and stay until December.

During his trip, Venayagamoorthy plans to explore ways to continue the collaboration between Clemson and the University of Pretoria, possibly starting with a Ph.D. student exchange program.

The U.S. Fulbright Program promotes international academic exchange, fostering mutual understanding and collaboration between the United States and other countries.

Fulbright Scholar Awards are prestigious and competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad. Fulbright scholars also play a critical role in U.S. public diplomacy, establishing long-term relationships between people and nations. Alumni of the Fulbright Program include 62 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 80 MacArthur Fellows, and thousands of leaders and world-renowned experts in academia and many other fields across the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

In addition to being named a Fulbright Scholar, Venayagamoorthy learned in the spring semester that he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by IEEE’s Power & Energy Society. Through that program, he plans to make himself available for lectures upon his return to the United States.

In addition to his other honors, Venayagamoorthy is a fellow of IEEE.

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