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Why him? Michael Mazzola is the director of the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) and the Duke Energy Distinguished Chair in Power Engineering Systems at UNC Charlotte. He holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Old Dominion University. After three years in government service at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1993 Mazzola joined the faculty at Mississippi State University. There, he became known for his research in the areas of silicon carbide power semiconductor device prototyping and semiconductor materials growth and characterization. For the past 10 years he served as associate director of the Mississippi State University Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, where he led research in high-voltage engineering; power systems modeling and simulation; the application of silicon carbide semiconductor devices in power electronics; and the control of hybrid electric vehicle power trains. Previously, he served two years as chief technology officer of SemiSouth Laboratories, a company he co-founded.

What do you like best about your job?  After one week on the job? To get to be the leader of a group of top notch professionals at a major university.  Ask me again in a few months and I’m sure I’ll have a list too long to print!

What inspires you?  Innovation. For me, this often begins with answering difficult questions in science and engineering. But that’s just the start. Through a usually different process pursued often by different people, the advancements in knowledge must be put to work improving our quality of life. And that part inspires me too. Put the two things together and you have innovation.

Who is your role model? Two people. My father Vincent Mazzola for his commitment to innovation during a first career as a naval aviator and a second career as a consultant. He used to give me crystal-ball predictions about the future of national defense that I thought were crazy, but they weren’t. I learned from him that you can’t look back and fight the last war. Change is good! But also my mother. In my family we call her “Saint Jane” for a reason. Living ethically and with concern for others is why I honored her as a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow this past year.

What was your biggest challenge this week? Getting the parking garage gate to lift. Ask me again in a few months and I’m sure that list will be pretty long, too. (By the way, the UNC Charlotte parking department was quick and efficient in fixing that gate problem.)

Favorite N.C. vacation spot? That’s easy — Hatteras Village, North Carolina’s Outer Banks. My wife Janice and our three daughters never miss our annual summer week at the beaches of North Carolina.

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