2009 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Major: Electrical Engineering
Age: 34 | Niskayuna, NY
Lead Engineer, GE Global Research Center
"At UW-Madison, I learned the true meaning of diversity."
Ayman EL-Refaie describes coming to Madison from Egypt as "the experience of a lifetime."
"The world-class education I received at UW provided me with a jumpstart in my professional career," he says.
EL-Refaie is the catalyst behind a new project to make environmentally friendly vehicles more readily available to consumers. Funded by the Department of Energy, the $5.8 million project aims to develop smaller, lower cost and higher performing motors. Another goal is to improve the power electronics used for plug-in hybrid vehicles. In looking for high-tech partners for the project, EL-Refaie turned to his alma mater at UW-Madison.
As a lead engineer at GE Global Research Center, EL-Refaie also develops advanced generators for next-generation aircraft and explores renewable energies such as wind. His ability to combine innovative thinking with practicality has earned him several GE awards for excellence.
EL-Refaie has contributed to several international publications and patent applications, and he's an elected senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Sigma Xi. His proudest accomplishment, however, is earning his PhD in electrical engineering at UW-Madison.
"I interacted with students and professors of various backgrounds, and experienced firsthand how people can treat each other with great respect regardless of their various differences," he says. "I made a lot of friends and learned the true meaning of diversity."
That diversity is what he misses most about the UW campus, along with drinking coffee at the student unions and walking along Lake Mendota.
EL-Refaie lives in Niskayuna, New York, but still considers Madison a home. He tries to visit Wisconsin whenever he can, but his free time is now filled with the activities of his two daughters, ages 4 and 2.
He taps the university when it's time to recruit interns and employees at GE, where Wisconsin graduates have earned a great reputation. In EL-Refaie's experience: "you get automatic respect everywhere as a UW graduate."