Dr. Mohindar S. Sachdev

PAC World:   Dr. Sachdev, where were you born?
M.S.: I was born in the city of Amritsar that is the prime seat of the Sikh religion. This city is in the province of Punjab, India.

PAC World:  Where did you go to school and did you have any special interests while there?
M.S.:   I studied in the Municipal Primary School from Grade 1 to 4; in Government High School from Grade 5 to 10 and attended  Khalsa College for Grades 11 and 12.

PAC World: Do you think that studying in that school had an impact on your future career?
M.S.:   My education in high school had a tremendous impact on my subsequent education and ultimately my career.
Just after I completed Grade 8, my father, who had a small business, became very sick and could not work.  I was the oldest kid he had and it became my prime responsibility to look after the business so that we would not starve.  But I did not want to leave school where I was the top student of my class.  My father and I had a meeting with Mohammed Ayub Khan, the Head Master of the School to deliberate on this dilemma.  He was very considerate and suggested that I could come to school every morning for about one-half hour, get from the teachers the topics they taught in the class on the previous day and find out the homework they had assigned.  Then, I could leave the school and look after the business but it would be my responsibility to study the assigned topics, complete the homework and submit it next morning.
I took this as a challenge and spent all the slack time I had at the business in self studies and completing the assigned homework.  I do not remember ever going to my teachers for explanations of new topics or parts of those topics.  This procedure lasted for two years after which my father recovered sufficiently to look after the business. This incident had a major impact on my future; I learned to focus my activities towards future targets, decipher the concepts I had not seen before and use them in problem solving. At the end of the two years, I was still the top student in my class.

PAC World:   Were there any members of your family with technical interests that had an impact on you?
M.S.:  Our family was not rich but my father and uncles considered education as the ladder to enhance their quality of life.  We were a joint family and had a few professionals in our family.  I was an exceptionally good student and all my family always encouraged me to focus on my studies and plan to be a professional.

PAC World:   How and when did you decide to study electrical engineering?
M.S.:  With a lawyer and a medical doctor in the joint family, everybody encouraged me to choose a different profession.  To me, it was a toss-up between medicine and sciences; I decided to pursue a career in sciences.
Admission in an engineering college in those days was very difficult because the total enrolment in engineering was not much more than a thousand in a country of four hundred million.  Before completing grade 12, I applied for admission in the Benares Engineering College of the Benares Hindu University.  I was accepted for admission in a program for electrical and mechanical engineering.  I found that I could score high grades in the mechanical engineering courses without too much effort but found electrical engineering courses a challenge.
Because I always liked challenges, I chose to pursue an electrical engineering career after graduation with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.

PAC World: Did you take any electric power systems protection classes while at the university.
M.S.: No power system protection course was offered at the Benares Engineering College.  I started teaching at the Punjab Engineering College in 1961.  By that time I had a sufficient background in protection of power systems.  I was assigned to teach basics of Power System Protection.  I also used this opportunity to register in a self-study program of the Punjab University for M.Sc. in Electric Power Systems.  While preparing the courses for this degree, I studied advanced techniques for designing protective relays and protection systems and applying them in power systems.

PAC World: Did you have any interests in sports, music or arts while studying?
M.S.: In High school I played cricket and soccer for fun and during the undergraduate engineering program, I played cricket, basketball and table tennis.  I was never an exceptional athlete but I always managed to give tough times to even the best players at the University and Provincial levels.

PAC World:  After graduating you started your professional career with Punjab P.W.D. Electricity Branch and Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).  What were the first projects that you worked on?
M.S.: The first task assigned to me was to design rural electrification projects for selected villages in the districts of Jullundur, Hoshiarpur and Ludhiana.  I had to conduct a load survey, design the distribution system, prepare the list of materials needed for the project, calculate the total cost of the project, estimate the expected revenue, prepare a justification and submit the project to the Chief Engineer for approval.

PAC World:  When did you start working on projects related to power system protection?
M.S.: My first attempt at power system protection was in 1948 when I spent four months after my sophomore year in relay testing and maintenance of a power system.  I studied the operation of relays that were used on the system.  These relays included overcurrent relays, directional overcurrent relays, current-balance relays for protecting double-circuit transmission lines, differential relays, field-failure relays and stator ground fault relays.  The next phase in power system protection work was when I designed automation, control and protection circuits for the 5x100 MVA generating station.

PAC World:  After almost twenty years working for an Indian utility you changed to an academic career in Canada. Why did you decide to teach and why in Canada?
M.S. There are three reasons why I like teaching instead of working for an electric power utility.  The first is that it provides an environment in which enough resources are available to enhance the knowledge base of techniques and technologies in which the person is interested.  The second is that academia provides an environment in which a person is continuously in contact with young generations; this I believe keeps one young at least in thoughts.  The third reason is that the style of teaching in India when I was a student was to transfer information on how techniques and technologies work. Very little emphasis was on understanding the underlying principles of the techniques and limitations of the technologies.  I believed that I could make an impact on the education of young engineers by motivating them to understand the fundamentals and to apply them in problems they had not seen before.
Selecting Canada for a teaching career was strictly an economic decision; better remuneration and better resources for conducting research work.

PAC World:  Do you see any difference between the students you were teaching thirty years ago and now ?
M.S.: Yes, I see a tremendous difference in the Canadian students of the 1970’s and 1990’s.  In 1970, I instructed a final year class of 30 students.  About one-half of those students had a few years experience working with technologies.  Those students joined the engineering program to enhance their knowledge and understanding of engineering principles.  Those students made sure that their colleagues paid attention to the instructions; I did not have to make any effort in maintaining the discipline in the class.  After every examination, they always came to me to discuss the problems they could not handle.  They never complained about the marks they received for their answers.   In the 1990’s, maintaining discipline in the class was one additional task of the instructor.  Some students would disturb others by talking while the lecture was going on.  The average student did not have much interest in learning; they wanted to get a degree so that they would be able to land a job.  After the examination, many students wanted higher grades without understanding why their grade was not what they would have liked to see.  Of course the smart students continued to be good, thoughtful and concerned about understanding the techniques and technologies.

PAC World:   What were the subjects of your research at the University of Saskatchewan and why did you select them
M.S.: When I joined the University of Saskatchewan as a post-graduate student, research in power systems was limited to power system analysis, control and reliability evaluation.  I decided to work in power system analysis that was an area I was quite comfortable in.  I conducted research in analysis of composite EHV AC and HV DC systems.  After completing my Ph.D. degree, I started conducting research in power system protection. 

PAC World:  How did you get involved in different international industry organizations?
M.S.: After joining the University of Saskatchewan, I started attending the Annual Meeting and Conference of the Canadian Electrical Association and the IEEE Winter and Summer Power Meetings for presenting results from my research, participating in discussions on papers and attending the Working Group and Committee meetings in the areas of my interest.  Power System Relaying Committee was not meeting at those conferences.  In May 1972, I attended the meetings of the PSRC for the first time. The CEA Power System Protection WG recommended me as the Canadian Representative on  IEC TC 41 and its subcommittees, TC-41A and TC-41B. I was nominated by the Canadian National Committee of CIGRÉ as Canadian representative on Study Committee 34 - Protection and Local Control, reorganized as SC B5 - Protection and Automation.

PAC World:  What role did you play in each of them and how do you see the differences in their roles?
M.S.: During my tenure with CIGRÉ SC 34 and then SC B5, I was Convener of two protection related working groups and Web Master for SC 34 - the first in CEGRÉ to have its own web site which  I designed and then maintained. Over the years I participated in many IEEE committees, subcommittees and working groups: Member of the Fellows Committee of the IEEE Board of Directors, Chair of the Tutorials Subcommittee of the PES Engineering Education Committee, Standards Coordinator and Chair of several subcommittees and ten working groups of the PSRC. I also coordinated three tutorials on behalf of the PSRC.
I was also a member of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Grant Selection Committee for Electromagnetics and Energy Systems for two years and then Chair of the Committee for one year.

PAC World:  What do you consider the biggest challenge of your professional career?
M.S.: My biggest challenge was to balance my activities between teaching, research and volunteer work.

PAC World:  What do you consider the biggest achievement of your professional career?
M.S.: I supervised 75 students who successfully completed their Post Graduate Diploma, M. Sc. and Ph.D. degrees and helped them in understanding the techniques and technologies they had to handle.

PAC World:  During your years at the University of Saskatchewan you had not only academic, but also management responsibilities. Why did you accept that?
M.S.: I believe that the faculty of academic institutions has to teach, conduct research and help in the administration of the academic programs.  The experience and insight of senior faculty is very useful in keeping programs active and meaningful.

PAC World:   Which one of the different awards you have received during your career is most significant and why?
M.S.: I consider the award of an earned Doctor of Science by the University of Saskatchewan as the most coveted award.  Beside this, I cherish the PES Technical Council Award for Life Time Service to PSRC and PES Technical Council Award for Distinguished Service to the PSRC.

PAC World:  Are you following IEC 61850 and if yes, what do you think is its impact on the future of protection?
M.S.: The major impact of IEC 61850 is that it has made it possible to mix and match protection systems provided by different manufacturers.  This has enhanced the flexibility of whose equipment to buy and use in refurbishing older substations and building new substations.
The IEC 61850 compliant equipment used for automation, control, monitoring and protection would make it possible to have smarter grids.  The communication system will act like the nervous system of biological beings.

PAC World:  What do you think about the role of protection in the Smart Grid? Or should we say "Smarter Grid"?
M.S.: The major difference between the smart grid we have today and the smarter grid we will have in the future will be the consolidation of functions.  I see protection, control, monitoring and metering as one integrated function.  I also believe that the departments of utilities managing these functions now will merge into single departments.  This would eliminate duplication of equipment, data and effort as well as will reduce the cost.

PAC World:  You still participate in conferences, present papers and lead industry working groups. What keeps you going?
M.S.: I have several reasons for continuing to participate in conferences.  The first is that it keeps me in contact with my peers whose company I enjoyed during the previous forty plus years.  The second is that I get to know what is happening at the leading edge of technology at this time and how this is different from what was being done previously.  The third reason is that I like to share the latest findings from the work being done at the University of Saskatchewan.  Finally, the fourth reason is that I like to express my opinion and the way I understand the issues.  Even if there is nothing new in my opinion, it is likely to reinforce those issues in the minds of other people and provide them moral support.

PAC World:  You are way beyond the typical retirement age. Did you ever consider retirement?
M.S.: Yes, several times.  I know that I cannot sit at home doing nothing.  If I retire, I will have to pick new activities; this cannot be done at short notice. I have already started taking interest in a local activity in Saskatoon.  This activity is conducted by the Coronary Artery Rehabilitation Group, Inc - a non-profit charitable organization with more than 700 active members who have some sort of heart problems.  I have not picked up new activities in professional societies and the activities I am involved in are coming to an end.  I think I will remain involved but in support roles only.

PAC World:  What do you think about the impact of the Internet on education?
M.S.: There are some advantages and some disadvantages.  The major advantage is that it (supposedly) saves time in searching for information needed by a student.  For example, instructors teaching undergraduate courses can place their class notes on protected websites and their students can download them at their convenience.  Thus a student can concentrate on understanding the topic being instructed and not try to take notes that would end up an imperfect job in both respects.  The disadvantage is that some students might believe that they do not have to attend the lectures.
At the graduate level, a student can search the web site to find information on topics of interest without spending too much time thumbing through paper trails.
A disadvantage of obtaining information from the Internet is that there is no guarantee that the information is correct.

PAC World:  How do you spend your time when you are not working?
M.S.: My life style is a combination of physical activity, mental activity including professional work and entertainment in the form of playing games and watching news, movies and soap operas.

PAC World:  With your active professional life how do you manage to balance it with your family life?
M.S.: With great difficulty; I am very fortunate that my wife, children and grand children understand that my life blood is my professional activity and they are, perhaps because of their understanding nature, not very demanding for my time.  I, however, make certain that I spend some time with them whenever I have an opportunity.

PAC World:  What movies do you like to watch?
M.S.:  I enjoy all types of movies except tragedies. 

PAC World:  What is your favorite food?
M.S.:  I enjoy all types of food especially if the taste is not masked by too many spices.

PAC World:  Our industry is facing significant challenges due to the lack of interest of young engineers in electric power. Do you believe there is something that we can do about it?
M.S.:  One of the major reasons is that we are not paying engineers as well as some other industries are paying their professionals.  For example, engineers are paid less than medical professionals, bureaucrats, computer engineers working in security etc.  The second issue is that power system programs are not attractive for young people.  While the total number of students in electrical engineering in Saskatchewan was sufficient, those opting for power option were fewer.  The power systems course was redesigned to include numerical protection, automation and control.  The result is that more than half of the electrical engineering students are opting now for the power systems option.

PAC World:  What is the advice you usually give to young engineers?
M.S.:  I usually give two suggestions to young engineers:
 Do not blindly trust the numbers crunched by computers.  Question those numbers and make certain that they are reasonable and from a system performance point of view.
Understand everything that comes your way before you apply it in any situation.

PAC World:  Do you have a “motto” of your life?
M.S.:  Enjoy Everything You Do.

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