Biography:

Lorenzo was born in Santiago, Chile, on September 8, 1984. He received the B.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering in 2007 and the professional diploma on Electrical Engineer in 2009 from the University of Chile.

From 2009 to 2012 he worked as a Researcher in the Energy Center of the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Faculty in University of Chile (CE-FCFM), first as a Project Engineer and then as a Project Leader of the ESUSCON project, whose goal was the transformation of Huatacondo (North of Chile) to become the first energetically self-sustainable village in Latin America. During that time he was also Invited Professor in several subjects in the Department of Electrical Engineering, being part of the review committee of various candidates to the Electrical Engineer diploma.

From January 2013 until October 2016 he was a PhD student at the Distributed Electrical System Laboratory (DESL) of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. He is currently a PostDoc in the same laboratory.

Lorenzo has been appointed Assistant Professor at the Institute of Electricity and Electronics of the Austral University to start in January 2019.

In March 2018, together with two colleagues, he has incorporated GridSteer, a Swiss startup that commercializes power and energy management systems for active distribution networks.

Lorenzo is married to Dayana with whom has two children, Agustín and Mateo.
Contact information:
Email (private): lorenzo.enrique@gmail.com
Email (work): lorenzo.reyes@uach.cl

 

  1. What brought you to work / study in Switzerland?

As with many, I would say a combination of “being in the right place at the right moment” and my willingness to pursue doctoral studies. During my bachelor in the University of Chile, I almost always knew I wanted to go abroad and exchange experience with colleagues with a different viewpoint. When I decided to do the PhD, I was working in the Energy Center. I applied and won a Scholarship with the Becas Chile program. At that time one could apply to the scholarship before being accepted by a doctoral program. So, only after winning the scholarship I started looking for a program. I knew I wanted to come to Europe instead of the US so I had in the radar the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. One day, my boss at that time, Prof. Rodrigo Palma, told me about a collaboration project he had with EPFL, Switzerland. It was my first time hearing about it. I applied and got rejected. However, that didn’t discourage me. The collaboration went on and eventually a visit to Lausanne was organised to which I was invited to join. After losing my passport the very same day of the trip, I took the flight two days after and met Prof. Mario Paolone in Lausanne. He told me I was eligible but didn’t have budget to hire me at the time (the scholarship only pays around half of a Swiss salary). That was around March 2012. Around July 2012, Prof. Paolone contacted me back and said he got the budget so he was waiting for me. It is worth noting that I could make my scholarship valid only until December 2012, after that I would lose the possibility of using it.

I finally flew on December 25th, for Christmas and started on January 4th 2013 my PhD in EPFL.

 

  1. How was your experience working in Switzerland? What would you highlight as the most relevant during this time?

The whole experience has been entirely different to what I could have experienced in Chile. The two Technical Schools of Switzerland are known by their diversity of nationalities and cultures. Knowing people from all around the world has been the main gain I have earned from my time in Switzerland. Knowing other cultures but also their rationale when solving technical problems opens a large spectrum of visions and solutions that I could not have imagined before. Still, I feel lucky of the training I got in Chile because it really made me position at similar, or sometime at better, level compared with my colleagues.

Another important aspect to mention, is that at EPFL the infrastructure to perform experiments is amazing. Not sure how it is compared with others around the world, but certainly of higher quality that those you can find in Chile. This is mostly because of budget rather than expertise of the local people, so I would always recommend someone having the opportunity to come to Switzerland, to take it and take the most advantage possible. In my experience, it is a place where bureaucratic and economic barriers are minimized.

 

  1. Do you think that your work can be applied to solve a problem in Chile? What would be this problem and how would your work help to solve it?

Undoubtedly yes. Although I have mostly work to solve problems related with the European reality, since I work in Engineering, the problems can be easily adapted to different realities. One of the main goals I have when coming back to Chile, is to be able to develop technology that can be practically used in our local reality. Namely, adapt the solutions I have developed here to our reality, accounting for both the large economy and social differences we have.

I was mostly involved on facilitating the integration of renewable energy sources into our power grids. We have the intention to become greener, to have more photovoltaic power plants, wind farms, tidal and wave power plants, etc. But this intention comes with a large challenge of being able to maintain the quality of service to our community, provided that renewable energy resources are usually very variable and unavailable in short periods (solar power is at least not available half of a day).

This challenge is not only technical but involves a lot of new mathematical problems that are hard to solve. My work is to develop tools that serve to optimize the operation of our future, 100% renewable, power grids (let us dream!) and in Chile we do have a lot of available resources to do so!

 

  1. What are your expectations regarding the development of your research topic in Chile?

I know, and I have been part, of the large development of my research in Chile since almost 10 years now. This is a global tendence nowadays and new research teams around the planet are being created and/or enlarged due to the upcoming difficulties and challenges we will be seeing in this matter.

In particular, one of my main motivations is to enlarge the international collaboration from Chile, that exists at present at very little scale and mostly in Santiago. I do hope that we will be able to extend the development of the research in modern power systems along the country, and being able to reach the large amount of people that nowadays live with little or no access to a good service of electricity.

 

  1. What are your short-term plans, from here on, in professional terms?

I’m happy to be back in Chile next January. I have been appointed Assistant Professor at the Austral University of Chile (UACh), where currently there is no PhD program in Energy. That will be a huge challenge since I will start mostly teaching, having a rather research training during my goal. My short-term goal is to be able to help creating an interdisciplinary PhD program that allows me to create new laboratories and “hire” PhD students.

I say “hire” because I guess we will not yet be there to be able to pay a salary to new students and here in Switzerland, but I hope we can have a strong enough program that can attract people from all around the world.

Along with that, I have recently incorporated a startup called GridSteer (www.gridsteer.ch), and I will continue working as the CTO from Chile. I will hence be professionally divided between these two activities.

 

  1. What would be your message/advice for Chileans that arrive to study/work in Switzerland?

Take advantage of your stay. Switzerland offers a much broader view of the world than we can ever imagine in any city in Chile. Especially in the universities, but not only, the mix of cultures, languages, backgrounds is enormous and probably one of the largest in Europe.

But do not be afraid, in my experience our training has been very well compensated. I personally have not suffered any knowledge bias with respect to my colleagues and even I have much better trained than many others from European universities. We do have a very good level well recognized internationally and we have to take advantage of that.

Finally, use the existing networks. Switzerland is a difficult country for a Chilean to arrive. People here is much more independent, namely, you need to solve your problem mostly on your own by reading, by following the rules. We are mostly used to ask for support first, get some advices from close people and only then take a decision. In Switzerland you need to take the initiative, not to be shy and solve your problems mostly on your own. Thus, a network as ICES can be a crucial piece of aid when just arriving, especially, for instance, with finding an apartment, getting a health insurance, opening a bank account, etc. Use it as much as you can!

 

  1. What would be in your opinion the most relevant considerations to make before coming to study/work in Switzerland?

If you are too much close to your family, I would say you better stay. The warmth of home and the nice mom’s “cazuelita” won’t find a place in Switzerland. If instead you like to explore new horizons, you can get on by yourself and you are ready for adjusting your way of living, then come. Education, in my own opinion, is not a variable to account for in your decision.

And something only few of us think when coming to Switzerland: imagine the case when you stay here. The possibilities are there, especially if you come to study. Switzerland is a country that is at the edge of science and is always looking for new researchers and good professionals with new business ideas. I would say as a Chilean we are usually thinking on coming back. Indeed, I came here with that idea, I am indeed coming back to Chile and never thought of staying before being here. But knowing the life quality, the work quality, the political system here, makes it a real possibility to think of staying.

Why I didn’t stay then? Because I think I would be selfish with Chile of staying abroad without utilizing my learning to give it back to Chile. Chile is not Santiago and I feel Chilean scientists are mostly grouped there. Instead, we have a great opportunity (we, new young scientists) to foster education all across the country. I have a very good feeling about my back.

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