Jason Lai, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been reappointed as the James S. Tucker Professor by Virginia Tech President Tim Sands.

The James S. Tucker Professorship was established in 1984 through a gift by electrical engineering alumnus James S. Tucker ’34. Tucker, who died in 1990, was a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, the Ut Prosim Society, and the College of Engineering’s Committee of 100. He also was the recipient of the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

The professorship recognizes teaching and research excellence, and the renewable appointment is for five years. Lai has held the Tucker Professorship since 2012.

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 1996, Lai has established a highly respected research program in power electronics for energy applications. He founded the Future Energy Electronics Center, which develops energy-efficient electronic technologies for the transportation and industrial automation industries.

Lai’s research focuses on high-power converters for energy applications. He has secured more than $17 million in external funding to support this research. 

Lai has published 285 conference papers and has given numerous keynote addresses and other invited talks. His innovation is further demonstrated by the award of 27 U.S. and international patents. He received the Institute of Electricaland Electronics Engineers’Gerald Gliman Innovation Award in 2016.

In the classroom, Lai teaches courses in power electronics and electronic circuit design. He has advised 44 master’s degree and 26 Ph.D. students to completion. Four of his former Ph.D. students hold faculty positions at other institutions. He currently advises four master’s degree and 10 Ph.D. students. 

Lai engages undergraduate students in research and mentors student teams for design competitions. A team he led placed third in the 2016 Google Little Box Challenge, the only university team to finish in the top three among the 2,000 teams worldwide that entered. Another student team he led won the Grand Prize Award in the International Future Energy Challenge in July 2011. 

Lai was named an IEEE Fellow in 2007 for his contributions to high-performance high-power inverters. He has won 13 “best paper” or similar awards from leading conferences in his field. At Virginia Tech, Lai received the Dean’s Award for Research Excellence in 2010. 

Lai has served on numerous leadership positions in professional societies, including as the program chair, general chair, and steering committee chair for the IEEE Applied Power Electronics Conference in 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively. He founded the IEEE Asian Conference on Energy, Power, and Transportation Electrification and has served as the general chair annually since 2016. 

In addition, he was the founding chair in 2001 and the steering committee chair in 2011 for IFEC, general chair for the 2008 NSF Workshop on Advanced Power Conditioning for Alternate Energy Systems, and served as chairs of the Standards Committee from 1995 to 2003 and the Academic Affairs Committee from 2011 to 2014 for the IEEE Power Electronics Society.

Lai received his bachelor’s degree from the National Taiwan Normal University and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. 

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