Joseph Kozak, a Ph.D. candidate in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been presented with the 2020 Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year award by the Virginia Tech Graduate School. The award recognizes exemplary graduate students for their character, service, and academic achievements.

“It is certainly a privilege to win this award, but it is a manifestation of the efforts of the Center for Power Electronics Systems, the electrical and computer engineering department, and Virginia Tech in supporting me and the community to strive for excellence in research and academics," Kozak said.

Kozak earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests revolve around making systems smaller and more efficient. Currently, he is conducting research on the reliability of wide band-gap semiconductor devices in power electronic converters, under the supervision of Khai Ngo and Yuhao Zhang within the Center for Power Electronics Systems.

The center's worldwide acclaim, experienced and dedicated faculty, and ample opportunities to research subjects that matched his interests drew Kozak to Virginia Tech for his doctoral studies.

For the past two years, Kozak has served as the chair of the Center for Power Electronics Systems Student Leadership Council, as well as the departmental representative to the Graduate Student Association. Additionally, he was a graduate intern at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Wolfspeed, a Cree company; and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Joseph is especially passionate about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) outreach. He toook part in the Virginia Tech Partnering with Educators and Engineers in Rural Schools (PEERS) program. The VT PEERS program is a collaboration between rural educators, Virginia Tech researchers, and engineers from local industry partners, centered on introducing middle schoolers in Southwest Virginia to engineering as a career path.

The grandson of immigrants, Joseph strives to embody Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) through his outreach efforts and research, as he works to improve technology present throughout our lives. 

“My family has always emphasized the value of hard work and education," Kozak said. "I am extremely fortunate to be a member of a university that recognizes the nature that any challenge can be overcome through perseverance and collaboration. Ut Prosim is the driving force behind Virginia Tech's culture in preparing students with the capabilities to challenge themselves, as well as their peers and communities, to be the best version of themselves.”

Written by Greg Atkins