Interview with PACWorld guru Dennis Holstein

PAC World:  When and where were you born?

D.H.: I was born August 31, 1935; Davenport, Iowa, USA.

PAC World:  Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?

D.H.: Clinton, Iowa; Clinton High School.

PAC World:  Was there someone in your childhood that influenced your decision to become an engineer? 

D.H:  No one in particular. During WWII I was interested in airplanes, built and flew model U-control planes and radio-controlled planes.

PAC World:  What were your interests while in school?

D.H.:  Science courses to prepare for college – engineering.

PAC World:  Where did you go to university and why did you choose that particular one?

D.H.:  Peiyang Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa. I selected Iowa State because of their strong engineering department and reputation in theoretical and applied mechanics. Graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Selected USC because they had a strong reputation in Aerospace Engineering and I was employed by North American Aviation working on advanced airplanes (B70 and F108), on early missile systems (Navaho project), and space systems. After North American, in 1968 I joined The Aerospace Corporation to work on early space reconnaissance systems.

  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering, 1964
  • Engineer in Mechanical Engineering, 1968

PAC World:  What did you study and why did you pick that field?

D.H.:  It was well aligned with my work and career goals. Furthermore, at USC I was picked to work with a team of graduate students under Dr. Samuel Herrick, the father of astrodynamics.

Later this team was to work at The Aerospace Corporation on the emerging military space programs.

PAC World:  How did you start your career?

D.H.:  Between my Sophomore and Junior year at Iowa State College I was a summer intern, working in Aerodynamics, at the Glenn L. Martin Company near Baltimore, Maryland. Between my Junior and Senior year at Iowa State College I was a summer intern, working in Aerodynamics at North American Aviation in Downey, California.

PAC World:   Why did you choose working in the field of aerodynamics?

D.H.:  Growing up during WWII, building and flying model airplanes it was a logical extension of my interest.

PAC World:  What was the reason to continue your education?

D.H.:  I wanted to advance my understanding of space systems and in particular, orbital mechanics.

PAC World:  What was the most challenging project for you while working in the aerospace industry?

D.H.:  Working on the advanced orbital ephemeris system for emerging military space systems operating in low earth orbit. Later, participating in the development of the command, control, communication, and intelligence (C3I) system for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

PAC World:  What was the impact of your work on your understanding of security in general and later of cyber security?

D.H.:  All military space systems required high security clearances.

The integration of secure communications to support space operations and SDI provided the foundation for transferring this technology to other fields of the critical infrastructure, such as the electric power sector.

PAC World:  After more than 30 years with the aerospace industry you became involved with the electric power industry. What happened?

D.H.: Because of my strong system engineering experience with The Aerospace Corporation and my technique for developing object-oriented models of various problem domains, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) asked The Aerospace Corporation and the Air Force for permission to support the development of their Utility Communication Architecture (UCA) initiative.

PAC World:  When and why did you join the IEEE and CIGRE?

D.H.:  Bill Blair, the UCA project manager, ask me to work on the development of UCA2 and later on IEC 61850. I was assigned to TC 57 WG 10 to add my object-oriented analysis (OOA) and model-based system engineering (MBSE) expertise to support that effort. CIGRE and IEEE had study activities and other standards development closely related to the work on IEC 61850.

This gave me a broader perspective of what was possible with the concept underlying UCA2 and IEC 61850.

PAC World:  What do you think about the importance of participation in working groups?

D.H.:  Most important is the diversity of thought and experiences working with international subject matter experts.

This diversity is extremely important when building MBSE logical architectures and solutions that guide the development of IEEE, ISA, and IEC standards.

PAC World:  Do you see any parallels between the aerospace industry and the electric power industry of today?

D.H.: Integrating cybersecurity solutions in the design of communication system and operating functions employs the same principles and is subject to similar constraints. Satellite systems are basically robots and protective relay systems respond to faults like robots.

Both require similar cybersecurity solutions to protect against someone interfering with, disrupting, or disabling their critical functions.

PAC World:  You have a lot of interest in cyber security. How did you develop this interest?

D.H.: All military space operations and SDI in particular required embedded and highly automated cybersecurity protection.

The same is true to protect critical infrastructures such as the power systems.

PAC World:  You have been teaching different courses in the US and abroad. Is there a difference in the students?

D.H.:  Not too much difference except for the diversity of thought and experiences.

One driving factor is the stark difference in government laws and regulations between the United States and other countries. How these laws and regulations play in the development of secure operational systems is an interesting discussion to have with the students working on PhD programs.

PAC World:  What is the greatest challenge you faced during your professional career?

D.H.:  To patiently listen to the views of other subject matter experts. This requires discipline and practice.

The best approach is to put a pencil between your teeth so that it takes time to remove the pencil before speaking!

PAC World:  What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?

D.H.:  Three areas:

1. My contribution to the development of the advanced satellite mission planning operations.

2. My contribution to developing the concept of a virtual battle group to respond to an attack by missile launches and ground forces.

3. My contribution to increasing the awareness of the importance to design cybersecurity into the advance solutions for electric power operations.

PAC World:  You have received many awards. Which one do you consider the most important to you?

D.H.:  My work at The Aerospace Corporation on advanced space operations, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the Defense Dissemination Program.

Recognition by CIGRE Study Committees B5 and D2 for contributions to promote the solutions for embedding cybersecurity solutions in advance electric power system operations.

PAC World:  What do you think about the impact of IEC 61850 on the electric power system and its protection?

D.H.: UCA and IEC 61850 introduced concepts for communication between intelligent systems that foster most emerging solutions for what is known as the “Smart Grid.”

Understanding these concepts and putting them into practice has taken time and a lot of energy by the subject matter experts. But, in my opinion, the basic concepts are the foundation for new innovative control and protection solutions.

PAC World:  What is your opinion about the use of cloud technology in protection and control?

D.H.:  The use of cloud services, software-defined networking, and network function virtualization are going to be adapted in the near term for non-time sensitive applications because they offer significant cost reductions to the power system operators.

Furthermore, they off-load the specialized skills required for operating highly complex communications systems.

PAC World: How do you see the future of our industry?

D.H.: With the advent of the Smart Grid initiatives the future looks good. What is needed are new engineers and scientists with an interest in power engineering. This is a serious shortfall that is finally receiving the attention it deserves.

PAC World:  You are still involved in IEEE and CIGRE. What keeps you going?

D.H.: Mostly, the technical and social interaction with colleagues that are so creative and have a sense of humor that makes the interaction fun!

PAC World:  How do you balance your active professional life with your family life?

D.H.: Joan and I love to travel, and we have developed many new friends. We continue these relationships with remembrances for birthdays, anniversaries, and other events.

Our children are grown with their families, but as the grandchildren reach 16 years, we treat them to international travel and introduction to our international colleagues.

This is one of the most rewarding experiences in which we participate with the grandchildren.

PAC World:  What do you consider your greatest personal achievement?

D.H.: A wonderful marriage to two ladies. The first was lost to Cancer at an early age. Joan and I are now celebrating our 22nd anniversary. We are both healthy and active socially.

PAC World:  What do you like to do when you are not working?

D.H.: When I married Joan, I was introduced to the life of RVing.

We have a 36-foot Winnebago with a Honda tow car. The RV is outfitted with a full office, so I can work on the road. We have RVed to Alaska, and several trips across North America to visit most of the Civil War battlefields and see the fall colors of Vermont and New Hampshire. We belong to two clubs and when home we take the opportunity to go RVing with them.

PAC World:  You travel a lot all over the world. Do you have a favorite place?

D.H.: International meetings always provide us the opportunity to take a few days or more to enjoy the culture of the country and locality.

Although we enjoy every place, our favorites are Paris, France; San Sebastian, Spain; and Sicily.

PAC World:  Do you have favorite music?

D.H.: Joan is a voice major. Sometimes I catch her singing. I like most music that is not organ music or hard rock and roll.

Frank Sinatra is probably my favorite of the past singers. Now I enjoy Lady Gaga and her duets with Tony Bennett.

PAC World:  Your favorite form of entertainment?

D.H.: Watching college football.

PAC World:  What is your favorite food?

D.H.: Italian. I make my own pasta and sauces.

PAC World:  Do you have a motto?

D.H.: Don’t be afraid to be wrong. You can always correct a mistake.

PAC World:  Is there anything you would like to say to the young PAC engineers around the world?

D.H.: Get involved in CIGRE and take the lead to introduce new ideas. Argue your position with passion, a sense of humor, and respect. The reward will surprise you.

PAC World:  Is there anything that we didn’t ask you that you think can help our readers better understand who you are?

D.H.: I think you covered all the bases.

BeijingSifang June 2016