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PhD Spotlight: Jun Hao

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Jacquelyn Villa

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Jun Hao

Jun Hao began his journey as a PhD candidate with Professor Wenzhong Gao, PhD, in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering in January 2016. Hao successfully defended his thesis, “Deep Reinforcement Learning for Optimization of Building Energy Control and Management” this August and reflected on his experiences at the Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science.

After Lee Sedol won the AlphaGo games and shocked the world, the core of which is supervised learning and deep reinforcement learning, Hao and Gao were inspired. They began developing an algorithm based on deep reinforcement learning for a distribution power system to improve energy efficiency.

With the evolution of distribution power systems and computer science, the future power system will require advanced control and management algorithms that can achieve smarter and more efficient control. Hao’s thesis focused on developing an advanced multi-agent algorithm that can optimize the control and management of HVAC systems for all the buildings within a distribution power system.

Diagram of Hao's research

Hao said, “During this journey from 2016 to 2020 under the guidance of Dr. Gao, my understanding of machine learning and deep reinforcement learning have improved gradually. At the beginning, my understanding was very shallow like a hiker at the bottom of a mountain. Now, I would not say my understanding is good and deep, but at least I have a better and broader understanding like a hiker at a higher position of a mountain.”

Throughout Hao’s research he was able to gain support and guidance from Gao, Associate Professor Amin Khodaei, PhD, and Professor Mohamad Matin, PhD. He utilized the knowledge from the Ritchie School staff and faculty and fortunately, he was able to continue communicating with staff and his advisor throughout the Spring and Summer quarters. Hao started his journey with the Ritchie School in 2013, before the current building was constructed and he has seen the School expand a lot. He believes that the School will continue to grow and be better.

As Hao got closer to the end of his program, he began preparing for his defense. He described this process as “very busy, nervous, and exited.” Hao advised that the most important thing was for preparation was practice. Practicing with friends and classmates helped him get ready for the final presentation.

When considering what his best memories were from the Ritchie School he said, “the moment I was enrolled, the moment we moved to the new building and I was at the patio at fifth floor enjoying the view, the moment I passed qualifying-exam, the moment I passed comprehensive-exam, and the moment I passed the defense.”

Hao currently works full-time in an internship with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This internship and his time at the School allowed him to expand his expertise and research with power engineering and machine learning. As Hao completes his PhD program he reflected and felt that when told he passed his defense was the most rewarding moment. “My thesis includes every single aspects of my research during my Ph.D. I was surprised that I finally did it!”

The Ritchie School community is immensely proud of all of Hao’s hard work and are excited to see his next steps. Congratulations Dr. Hao!