Study @ UCSD


Power and Energy Systems @ UCSD

The Power and Energy Systems Group @ UCSD integrates power and energy systems research/programs and enhances the community of power and energy systems researchers on campus. We facilitate collaborations among students and faculty across departments/centers, provide feedback to students’ work through biweekly meetings, and provide graduate student career mentoring. We hold Ph.D. application workshops on selecting a program, submitting a strong application, and introducing power and energy systems at UC San Diego.

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


The MAE PhD curriculum consists of 9 courses, of which at least 3 form the basis of our qualifying exams. Much leeway is granted to the student, in discussion with their committee, in terms of how these courses are put together. Course descriptions can be found here: MAE, ECE, MATH, and GPS. Some courses that students in energy systems have taken include (see the MAE Energy Systems Track for more options):

  • Energy systems:
  • Policy / Economics:
    • GPPS 428. Politics of Energy and Environmental Regulation
    • GPCO 401. Microeconomics for Policy and Management
  • Optimization / Machine learning:
    • MAE 227. Convex Optimization for Engineers
    • ECE 228. Machine Learning for Physical Applications/Power Systems
    • ECE 273. Convex Optimization and Applications
  • Numerical methods:
    • MAE 280A-B. Linear Systems Theory, Linear Control Design
    • MAE 290A–B. Numerical Methods for Linear Algebra, ODE Simulation, and Differential Equations
  • Related courses:
    • MAE 254. Energy Materials and Applications
    • MAE 256. Radiative Transfer for Energy Applications

Students who already have funding or are actively seeking external funding are encouraged to contact me. For resources on potential funding opportunities, please visit UCSD Graduate Division, NSF GRFP, International Students Office, and this resource for international students. All prospective students should consult the admissions page for deadline and application information.


Students in the MAE M.S. in Power and Energy Systems are exposed to a rigorous curriculum on fundamentals and applications in the optimization of electric power systems. As the penetration of variable renewables (solar and wind) on the electric power grid has increased, economic and reliable integration into the power system has become the principal engineering challenge. Power systems are also increasingly shifting away from an overly conservative, insufficiently metered, and inflexible operation. Modern power systems instead reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions through flexible distributed energy resources (energy storage, electric vehicles, and flexible loads), abundant metering, and easier market access. The field of optimization lies at the intersection of these thrusts. To learn more about the M.S. program and its requirements, visit the MAE M.S. Program page. View the list of required and elective courses for the Power and Energy Systems track.

Advising on relevant thesis research and other research opportunities for course credit are available to MAE M.S. students.


Undergraduates in MAE or across the school of engineering may inquire about participating in a research project. A minimum time commitment and high degree of motivation are required. Research can be for course credit, stipend, or hourly pay depending on the student’s preference and funding availability.

Desired programming language competencies: python, R, and/or julia

Some relevant undergraduate courses:

  • Energy
    • MAE 119. Introduction to Renewable Energy: Solar & Wind
    • MAE 120. Introduction to Nuclear Energy
    • MAE 125. Building Energy Efficiency
  • Power systems
    • ECE 121A. Power Systems Analysis and Fundamentals
    • ECE 121B. Energy Conversion
    • ECE 128ABC. Power Grid Operation, Modernization, Resiliency

School of Global Policy & Strategy

Masters degrees

GPS offers a variety of masters degrees. The admissions office will be better prepared to answer questions on the differences among the programs. A limited number of research assistantships may become available for GPS masters students on an ad-hoc basis.

Interested students are highly encouraged to take relevant energy policy courses, including:

  • GPPS 428 (Winter, Davidson). Politics of Energy and Environmental Regulation
  • GPPA 472 (Fall, Martin). Latin American Environmental and Energy Policy
  • GPPS 473 (Fall, Herberg). Political Economy of Energy in Asia
  • GPPA 470 (Winter, Davidson). Energy and Environmental Policy in Asia

For life tips on a career in energy policy, Dan Kammen’s website is a good start.

Joint Ph.D. in Political Science and International Affairs

The Department of Political Science and GPS offer a joint Ph.D. in Political Science and International Affairs. This prepares students for careers in political science, including a core curriculum shared with the political science Ph.D. degree. Therefore, it is important to make sure this fits well with your career goals. As a political science program, you will need to identify what contributions you intend to make, what literature you will draw from, etc., in that field. Prior to inquiring about possible advising opportunities in this Ph.D. program, you should identify at least 2 faculty in the UCSD Political Science department who could mentor you.

Science Policy Fellows Program

Prof. Davidson is a faculty mentor with the Science Policy Fellows Program, operated out of GPS. Ph.D. candidates in engineering, medicine, or at Scripps, may apply to be paired with a mentor to work on a policy project related to the student’s doctoral research. This generally involves meeting a few times per quarter and comes with a small stipend, e.g., to attend a conference outside of the student’s primary academic discipline.

Course schedules

The UCSD Schedule of Classes is somewhat difficult to navigate, so here is a set of “quickview” scripts to find out when classes are typically taught and what your favorite profs are teaching: ucsd-class-schedule-quickview