Academics & Research

Senior engineering major wants to bring power to developing countries

Doug Mackenzie received a $2,000 scholarship from the IEEE Power and Energy Society to help pay for his DU education. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Doug Mackenzie received a $2,000 scholarship from the IEEE Power and Energy Society to help pay for his DU education. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

For the greater part of his time at the University of Denver, Doug Mackenzie woke up at 5:30 a.m. almost every day for swim practice. The two-year captain of the varsity swim team lost rest and recovery time, but won races, academic honors and a prestigious scholarship — twice.

Mackenzie, who will graduate this week with a degree in electrical engineering, in October received a $2,000 scholarship from the IEEE Power and Energy Society to help pay for his DU education. The scholarship requires a 3.0 GPA, volunteer activities and experience in the power and energy field. Mackenzie has earned the award two years in a row, and the society’s publications, online job database and numerous career programs will be available to him after graduation.

“The money is helpful, but the networking, access to IEEE publications and the job postings are the most helpful,” Mackenzie says.

After graduation, Mackenzie says, he would like to work with countries that need help building power infrastructure. He’s interested in bringing reliable energy to remote and rural areas.

“He has a passion for energy-related fields,” says Wenzhong Gao, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “[He wants to find ways] to provide uninterrupted, sustainable energy for the underprivileged.”

Traveling with the nonprofit World Wide Opportunity on Organic Farms, Mackenzie was able to experience firsthand the need for technology in rural areas. He worked in Greece and Italy with the organization, which connects people interested in farming with farms interested in hosting individuals. He says the experience pushed him towards working in the power industry and sustainable international development.

Mackenzie says his passion for helping others is inspired by his father, a journalist who spent his career writing about the struggles of people in developing countries.

“My father made a career out of telling the story of oppressed people within war-torn and developing nations,” Mackenzie says. “In that sense, the news is always on in my house. The result of that news should be an informed society that works toward the betterment of the underprivileged. And I think that is what has happened in my case — I’ve heard my entire life what is happening in the developing world. And now I’m trying to get involved in the process of development.”

Gao and Mackenzie have been designing and building a vertical axis wind turbine, which could be helpful in developing areas. The design serves as an innovative and cost effective form of renewable energy.

“Doug is excellent — a real model for all students, high school or engineering,” Gao says. “He wants to help people in the community and the world.”

The undergraduate Commencement ceremony takes place June 6; visit the Commencement site for more information.

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