Interview with PACW guru Stanimir Vichev

Interview with PACW guru Stanimir Vichev

PAC World:  When and where were you born?
S.V.: I was born on the 12th of May 1938 in the picturesque historical city of Karlovo located in a valley along the river Stryama at the southern foot of the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria.

PAC World:  What interests did you have while in school?
S.V.:  It may sound strange to many people, but I had an interest in electricity and more specifically in electric power stations and systems. This is probably due to the fact that Karlovo had a hydro power station - one of the oldest in Bulgaria.
So when I used to walk by it, I would see the machines inside. This is how I became interested in power.

PAC World:  Was there any person in your family that had an impact on your interests in technology? 
S.V.:  My father worked in finance and my mother was a biology teacher at the high school in Karlovo.
Both of them had a certain level of interest in electrotechnics and were very happy that I was studying electric power stations and systems.
My father was very interested in technology and was very proud that I was studying in the Technical High School.

PAC World:   What made you study in a technical high school?
S.V.:  My interest in electrotechnics was the main reason to apply and study at the Technical High School in Karlovo. Another was the challenge. To be accepted you had to take exams and to compete with other candidates, so it was in a way an elite school. While for the regular high schools you just sign-up.
But at the same time in order to ensure that I had a broader view of the world and knowledge about culture, my mother supported me to study and take exams on subjects that were not covered by the technical school curriculum but were covered in the regular high schools. 
That is why I graduated from high school with two diplomas from the technical high school and the regular high school.

PAC World:  Why did you decide to become an engineer?
S.V.:   It was a natural transition from the technical high school to higher education in the field I loved.
My love for technology and my high school education were defining my goals. To become an “engineer,” especially in the field of electric power stations, has always been my dream.

PAC World:  Why did you choose the Technical University in Sofia and more specifically the Department of Electrical Engineering?
S.V:  At the time the Higher Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (earlier the State Polytechnic) was the only institution for higher technical education in Bulgaria. It had two faculties - one of mechanical and one of electrical engineering.
Being accepted there was the goal of all young people in the country with interests and love for technology.
Being at the top of the class and the high marks of my technical high school diploma definitely helped my application.
I was accepted in the Electrotechnical Faculty and joined it with great enthusiasm to continue my education in the field of electric power stations and systems.

PAC World:   What was the reason to select power systems engineering?
S.V.:  As I mentioned earlier, being at the top of the class in the technical high school in Karlovo, which specializes in electric power stations and systems, as well as the support of my parents, and my desire determined my decision to fight and become an electrical engineer.
At the time it was impossible to even think about higher education abroad.

PAC World:  After graduation you started your academic career.  Why did you select to work at the Electrical Engineering Department of the Technical University in Sofia and not in industry?
S.V:  The period of time when I graduated as an electrical engineer overlapped with a significant increase in the need for engineers in Bulgaria. The number of students was growing as was the need for lecturers.
There were positions for teaching assistants, including for power system protection.  I applied for such position with great enthusiasm and was able to overcome the strong competition from many other candidates.
My interest in electric power system protection and automation is still strong today.

PAC World:   How and when did you develop an interest in power system protection and control?
S.V.:   My Master’s Thesis under the guidance of Prof . Nancho Nanchev was both theoretical and practical in nature. It was about an induction type overcurrent relay which with the addition of a voltage based system was to be converted into a distance relay.
I developed and implemented the scheme and defended it receiving excellent marks. This cemented my interest in power system protection.

PAC World:   What made you interested in solid-state protection?
S.V.: I started with electromechanical protection relays, because that was the only technology available at the time.
The logic of the electric power systems relays and protection systems has always been of great interest to me, something that is still true today.
The implementation of protection functions and logic using electronic circuits was very interesting to me and I started teaching classes on this subject.

PAC World:  When did you become interested in microprocessor based protection?
S.V.:  Everything was gradual, following the development of electric power systems protection technology. When solid state protection relays became available I developed the course and started teaching it.
When microprocessor based protection relays appeared I did the same.
Again a new course on “Digital protection relays.” Today in the electric power stations and substations in Bulgaria all three types of protection systems are being used, but the majority are microprocessor based relays.

PAC World:  What do you consider your top academic achievement?
S.V.:  My research and publications in Bulgaria and abroad that allowed me to become “Doctor of Technical Science” - this is what I consider my top academic achievement.

PAC World:   You were not only involved in teaching and research, but also got involved in the management of the university by becoming Vice-Dean and working as a Dean of the Electrical Engineering Department of the Technical University in Sofia.
Why did you do that?
S.V.:  My interest in the specifics of the educational process and the new methods and technologies in education is what made me agree with the proposal to become involved in the management of the department and the university.

PAC World:   You also served as a member of the National Agency for Assessment and Accreditation responsible for the regulation of higher education. What was your role as Principle Expert in the agency?
S.V.: I worked for seven years as an expert in the Council for Higher Education at the Ministry of Education. This gave me the opportunity at the time to propose regulations and procedures that had an impact on the organization of the scientific and practical aspects of working with the students in the university.

PAC World:  Have you been involved in national and international professional organizations and what do you think about their role?
S.V.:  As an expert in the Council for Higher Education I had the opportunity to participate in national and international meetings and events where we discussed and made decisions for a more advanced, more theoretical and more practical direction of higher education.

PAC World:  You have published two books and many papers.  What makes you write, and do you have a method that you use to do it?
S.V.: Since I lecture and lead laboratory classes on several subjects I needed to prepare the teaching material for my students.  In the past, this was done by writing textbooks.
Today, the teaching materials are all in electronic format which I typically provide to each of my students on a compact disc.
I update the materials every year based on the changes in technology.

PAC World:  Do you think there is a difference in the students you were teaching more than 40 years ago and the students you teach today?
S.V.:  Forty years ago the students were more careful and thorough. The best of them today are in the leadership of the National Electric Company. Today we also have such students, but their numbers are much smaller.
Another major difference is that the technology is completely different - students today have laptops, use extensively the Internet and learn English. The best of them deserve respect. They become excellent Masters and Ph. D. students.

PAC World:  What do you think about the impact of the Internet on education and research?
S.V.:  The Internet is an amazing tool that is available to all the students at the Technical University. The students that use foreign languages and the Internet develop class projects and theses of better quality. They have a higher self-esteem.
The availability of the Internet is a revolutionary acquisition for both the students and the teaching staff. It is important to give the students different tasks that they can complete with the help of information that they find on the Internet.

PAC World:  Are you familiar with IEC 61850 and if “Yes” what do you think about its impact on our industry?
S.V.:  The IEC 61850 standard for Communication Networks and Systems in Substations and Power Systems Automation has a role for the electric power system of Bulgaria as well. This is driven by the interconnections with neighboring EU countries and the use of a large number of imported equipment based on the standard. All its parts are related to electric power system protection and automation.

PAC World:  Do you think that we will have protection and control systems running in a “cloud” in the near future?
S.V.:  I am not sure if it will be in the near future, since protection systems need to have high reliability, availability and security.
But with the further development of “cloud” technology it may become possible in the future.

PAC World: What do you consider your top professional achievement?
S.V.: My top professional achievement are my students.
This includes all my graduate and Ph.D., students which have completed successfully their studies and are working today in national and regional power system protection groups.

PAC World:  You are still professor at the university. What keeps you going?
S.V:  It is the interest in power system protection, regardless of the fact that I am already retired. Also this way I meet people and keep in touch with the developments in protection technology.

PAC World:  What is your definition of “retirement?”
S.V.:  Retirement means to stop doing what you have done all your life. That is why even though I am in principle retired in reality I am not.
I think that it is important to have retirement based on age in order to provide opportunities to the next generation. But at the same time we need to find ways of using the knowledge and experience of the older generation.

PAC World:  What do you think we need to do as an industry to attract young people to power engineering and protection?
S.V.:  In order to attract young people to our industry we need to expand the research, development, design manufacturing and application entities and their interactions with similar entities in other countries.

PAC World:  What advice do you give to the young engineers or students you work with?
S.V.:  Young specialists should stay within the field of electric power system protection, follow the specialized literature and publications and constantly work on improving their knowledge and skills. This way they will become better specialists which will also have an impact on their income.

PAC World:  How do you mix your professional and your personal life?
S.V.:  In my professional life I focus on the projects that I work on, while in my private life I don’t think about them and enjoy doing things with my family and travel together.

PAC World:  What do you like to do when you are not working?
S.V.:  I have enjoyed hiking in the mountains since I was a child, and going to the mountains with my parents. I still love doing that today. But I also like going on tours in different countries, mostly in Europe.

PAC World:  What is your favorite form of entertainment?
S.V.:  I like watching movies or documentaries with a history theme, because they enrich me as a person and I learn something new when I watch them.  My interest in history probably has to do with the fact that I grew up in a region in Bulgaria very rich in history.
I also like listening to jazz music. 

PAC World:  Do you have any favorite food?
S.V.:  Not really. Since I was a child my parents taught me to love any food.

PAC World:  Do you have a motto?
S.V.:  Yes.
It is “Work, work and work.”
Only when you are working you will be useful and will never be bored. 

BeijingSifang June 2016