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April 23, 2020

Jahns receives 2020 Hilldale Award

Written By: Staff

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Each year, the Secretary of the Faculty recognizes four professors from the University of Wisconsin–Madison for distinguished contributions to research, teaching and service with the Hilldale Awards.

Thomas Jahns
Thomas Jahns

One faculty member each from the arts and humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and biological sciences is selected from nominations by department chairs. The winners will be awarded $7,500 and recognized an upcoming Faculty Senate meeting.

Thomas Jahns, Grainger Professor of Power Electronics and Electrical Machines in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is among the winners this year.

Jahns has helped make our current world a reality through his internationally recognized leadership in the electric motors underlying such applications as electric and hybrid cars and wind turbines. Jahns pioneered the development of interior permanent magnet machines with adjustable-speed drives, first writing about them in 1986. Since then, these IPM machines have gone on to dominate in robots, air conditioners and electric propulsion systems worldwide, and they are found in nearly all electric and hybrid cars.

His research into other types of electric motors has applications beyond cars. Some of the motors are planned for hybrid aircraft using both jets and battery-driven propellers. Other improvements may allow large increases in efficiency for the electric motors that power our modern world, leading to significantly reduced electricity consumption.

Throughout this productive research career, Jahns has also contributed to the education of generations of engineers with expertise in electric motors. He has taught more than 50 courses that have reached nearly 1,000 students. Jahns helped launch and serves as faculty director of a certificate program for working engineers that provides important training and serves as a funnel to on-campus degrees. And he directs the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium, an internationally renowned partnership between industry and academia that has granted more than 600 graduate degrees.

Jahns was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2015, and in 2005 was awarded the Nikola Tesla Field Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. “Tom Jahns has truly distinguished himself as among the most accomplished, and impactful, faculty members in the physical sciences at UW–Madison,” writes Susan Hagness, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering, in her nominating letter.