Nuclear engineering professor receives lifetime achievement award

Author: William Meiners
Upon returning from a fall semester sabbatical last winter, Lefteri Tsoukalas found a rather humbling surprise in his unopened stack of mail. Unbeknownst to the professor of nuclear engineering was documentation that announced he had not only been nominated, but won the Humboldt Prize from Germany’s Humboldt Foundation.

Nominated by a colleague at the Technical University of Berlin, Tsoukalas picked up his “lifetime” achievement award in a ceremony in June in Germany. The foundation gives up to 100 research awards each year to encourage academic cooperation between scientists and scholars from abroad and in Germany. The award, which recognizes Tsoukalas’ research and teaching accomplishments, comes with 60,000 euros (about $77,000) and the opportunity to work with counterparts in Germany.

Tsoukalas won the very competitive award in the field of science. “This was very surprising to me,” Tsoukalas says. “I feel much honored.”

His pioneering work with the power grid helped make Tsoukalas a world-class scientist. “We demonstrated how you can take advantage of the Internet to compensate for the difficulties of not being able to store electricity.”

Tsoukalas believes “smart appliances,” equipped with I.P. addresses and smart meters, can help stretch electricity by being programmed to run only at certain hours and price points. “We have to do more with less energy,” he says, “in order to build sustainable societies and reduce our environmental footprint.”

While he jokes about being too young to receive a lifetime achievement award, Tsoukalas is equally proud to be associated with the award’s namesake—Alexander von Humboldt, a Prussian naturalist and explorer. A scientist in the Age of Enlightenment, Humboldt traveled extensively through Latin America from 1799 to 1804, documenting his observations in a scientific point of view.