STEM Professional of the week

Victor M. Zavala, Ph.D.      
Argonne National Laboratory

Dr. Victor Zavala's original work in computational science has earned him an international reputation as one of the emerging talents in the areas of control, optimization and energy modeling.

Born in Mexico, Victor spent much of his childhood around the engineers who worked with his father at a chemical plant. Developing an early interest in science, he expressed a passion for learning about energy. Through his interests and experiences Victor quickly gathered that emerging technologies and a career in the sciences would lead him to a very successful life.

With heightened curiosity and a with the desire to pursue a path in chemical engineering, Victor enrolled at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City shortly after graduating from high school. After earning his undergraduate degree, Victor decided to move to the United States to pursue his graduate studies. He settled in Pittsburgh, PA and attended Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned a doctorate in chemical engineering. Following this accomplishment, Dr. Zavala was awarded a prestigious Humboldt Fellowship from the German government but opted for another offer– a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at Argonne National Laboratory's – multidisciplinary science and engineering research center. Attracted to the exceptional technical work the computer scientists and mathematicians were doing at Argonne, Dr. Zavala made the decision to join the research center team.

Soon after joining Argonne, Dr. Zavala began leading investigations of ways to optimize building systems under the next generation power grid market. Over the last 7 years, he has made strong theoretical and practical contributions to several key programs. He started a partnership with BuildingIQ to optimize building conditions; he collaborated with researchers from the General Electric Company to conduct nonlinear model predictive assessment for energy applications; and he was Principal Investigator on two Department of Energy (DOE) grants to develop methods for large-scale optimization. In 2010, Dr. Zavala was promoted to assistant computational mathematician in the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at the lab.

In 2014, Dr. Zavala received an early career research award from the DOE, providing $2.5M of support over a 5 year period. With this award, he is developing new algorithms for the solution of extremely large optimization problems arising from energy infrastructure systems.

Dr. Zavala is involved in the Argonne community as well as the community outside of the research center. At Argonne, he has supervised a postdoctoral student as well as several STEM inters. Dr. Zavala is a committed community volunteer, playing a major role at elementary schools teaching science to Hispanic second grade students. For over four years, he has also volunteered for the Hands On Literacy Program inspiring students in the Hispanic community by introducing fresh perspectives on science.

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