Interview with PAC World guru Alex Apostolov

Interview with PAC World guru Alex Apostolov

PAC World:  When and where were you born?
A.A.: I was born on 18 July 1949 in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.

PAC World:  Where did you go to school?
A.A.: I went to junior and middle school in my neighborhood school which was in the same block where I lived. Then I went to high school No 21 and I was in a more specialized class with focus on advanced math.

PAC World:  Do you remember anything from your childhood that you think contributed to you becoming an engineer? 
A.A:  Not really. I knew that my grandfather has been an aircraft engineer, but I never met him, because he was killed in 1944 after the Soviet army entered Bulgaria.

PAC World:  Who do you think is the person that had the most influence on you when you were growing up?
A.A.:  My mother. She was an amazing human being and she gave me some guiding principles that I still follow today.

PAC World:  Did you have any specific interests while you were in school?
A.A.:  Many. I had interests in art, I loved to read about history and science, as well as criminal and science fiction novels. I also played tennis, basketball and football (soccer).

PAC World:  Why did you decide to continue your education?
A.A.:  Everybody in my family has gone to university, starting with my great-grand fathers, one of which was the first Rector of the first university in Sofia and another who was an ambassador in London. So, going to university was the natural thing to do.

PAC World:   You have almost 45 years’ experience in Power System Protection and Control. As an electrical engineer, you would have many other options - why did you choose to work in the electrical power domain?
A.A.:  Since Bulgaria at the time was a communist country, my parents explained to me that all the humanitarian fields that I was interested in were not recommended due to the propaganda machine they served, thus I had to choose a technical field. I was good in math and physics and the Technical University in Sofia was the top one in the country.

PAC World:  Did you ever regret that decision?
A.A.:  Not really. It has always been interesting, and I could always find a way to make it more exciting.

PAC World:  Did you study electric power systems or protection while in college?
A.A.:  Yes, after two years of general engineering courses, the third year I studied electric power system topics. Then in the fourth year and first half of the fifth year I studied protection and control related subjects. The second half of my last year was work on my thesis on “Short term load forecasting.”

PAC World:  Did you have any other interests while in university?
A.A.:  I continued my interests in art, but they expanded to photography and films. In the summer I was going as a photographer on expeditions with a student club dedicated to capturing the historical and architectural monuments around the country.
At the same time, I became interested also in Eastern philosophies - Zen and Tao, that had an impact on my development as a person.

PAC World:  What was your first job?
A.A.: After 18 months in the army (which was mandatory) I started as a protection engineer in Energoproject in Sofia - a research and design institute supporting the Bulgarian power grid with around 2,000 employees.

PAC World:  What was the most challenging task at the beginning?
A.A.:  Well, that was in 1975 and we had a mainframe computer only for short circuit studies and the data for the system model was on punched cards without print - imagine what it took to verify the data. I also had to come up with a way to calculate the mutual coupling on a double circuit line operating on different voltages, manually calculating the power swing trajectory for a BBC relay, etc.

PAC World:  What has been the most challenging project that you have worked on?
A.A.:  In Bulgaria it was the design of a System Integrity Protection Scheme related to the extension of a nuclear power station with a 1,000 MW generator. In the US it started with NYSEG’s six-phase line protection and later UCA2/IEC 61850 - a whole new world. 

PAC World:  What is the most satisfying one?
A.A:  All of them and many others. Every time when you do something that has never been done before and you make it work - it’s an amazing feeling.

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