College of Engineering professorship: Solving problems and serving others

Dr. Anitha Subburaj, assistant professor of electrical engineering. Photo provided by WT Communication and Marketing

Dr. Anitha Subburaj, assistant professor of electrical engineering at West Texas A&M University, was recently appointed to a newly-endowed professorship for research in engineering, computer science and mathematics.

The McFather Professorship of Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics was established this year as part of WT’s ongoing One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. The professorship was created in honor of the father of the current dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Emily Hunt. Dr. Hunt, along with her mother, Jayne, and sister, Abbye McFather Reeves, set up this $125,000 endowment in recognition of the upcoming 10th anniversary of McFather’s death.

The McFather family decided to establish this professorship for an engineer, computer scientist or mathematician with a desire to encourage underrepresented groups in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. Shane McFather graduated from WT with a degree in finance in 1987. He worked at Pantex, Baylor Bancshares and Amarillo National Bank. He placed a high value on education and believed in the importance of serving others.

Dr. Subburaj’s areas of research match this mission of serving others through using technology to make the world a better place. Her research interest areas include renewable energy, including wind and solar, battery storage systems and control systems. The other aspect of looking at these elements of the grid system involves researching how to eliminate cyber attacks.

The main motivating factor for Dr. Subburaj in conducting this type of research is the way she experienced hours without electricity, sometimes having no electricity all day, in India. It was a big issue. She wanted to understand the grid system and find solutions, as well as find the cause for this happening in the first place.

In terms of cybersecurity, it is harmful when sensitive information gets out. This subject ties into the grid system as well because it is important to have a secure grid.

Like Dr. Hunt’s father, Dr. Subburaj’s father valued education, especially when it came to women pursuing an education.

Dr. Subburaj’s father was a major motivating factor in her desire to pursue engineering. A civil engineer in India, he encouraged his daughters to go beyond what was expected of them and break barriers. In India, it is very uncommon for parents to urge young women to pursue higher education because the culture is for women to get a simple degree and then get married. Her father’s support of higher education for women was completely counter to the culture.

The desire to solve problems, along with her father’s encouragement, is what drew Dr. Subburaj into the field of engineering and continues to motivate her today.

“I get to design, construct, create new products and technologies,” Dr. Subburaj said. “Engineers are problem solvers. I get to solve real-life problems in more efficient ways.”

To learn more about the WT College of Engineering, click here.