In Memoriam: Radhakisan S. Baheti

It is with sadness we notice the passing of Radhakisan Baheti (known as Kishan) on March 9, 2021, due to complications associated with COVID. Kishan was well-known to the academic community in the U.S. in the field of power systems.  Kishan served as program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for over 30 years from 1989.  He managed over 1300 projects, which impacted over 5000 individuals, during his career at NSF. Although his main technical field was automatic controls, he was an ardent supporter of power systems programs.  His inquisitive nature to be at the forefront of technology prompted him to learn about the latest issues in different fields.  Several professors had an opportunity to work in close cooperation with him as a rotating program director at NSF.  They fondly remember their association with him.

I had the opportunity to work with him at NSF as program director from 2018 to 2020.  I found him to be a great team player, an excellent mentor, and a kind human being.  He had a very practical approach to life.  Our job as program director was to evaluate funding proposals.  He had the opinion that no proposal is perfect and no proposal is bad.  It was all relative and our job was to fund the best ideas identified through the peer review process to advance the technology.  He took great pride in the success of others including his colleagues and the individuals he had funded over the years. We have lost a great colleague and a friend. – Anil Pahwa

G.T. Heydt: Kishan and I joined the National Science Foundation on the same day in 1990.  I was a ‘rotator’ (temporary employee, spending one year at NSF), and Kishan was a permanent employee.  He came from the General Electric Company. On day one at NSF, he had a large number of ‘jackets’ to process.  That is what we called submitted research proposals. He worked very hard to get through the workload, and we often discussed the details of each jacket.  We went to lunch every day, but Kishan often included a ‘run’ in his regimen:  he was a marathon runner of some considerable accomplishment.  His focus was mainly on automatic controls, but this overlapped electric power and we both took advantage of the overlap in finding capable reviewers for the research proposals submitted to the NSF.  During his 31 years at NSF, he tried very hard to engage the power engineering and controls communities in NSF initiatives. He was a frequent speaker at conferences. One characteristic which stands out in my mind about Kishan was the care with which he focused on each submitted proposal. He tried very hard to identify and highlight the strengths of the work submitted.  We had a very finite amount of money to fund the proposed work.  In deliberations over proposals, if someone pointed out a weakness in a given proposal, Kishan would say “No, no …”, and then he would move the discussion positively.  I can recall this clearly on many occasions.

I have lost a good friend, but the power engineering and controls engineering communities have lost a great advocate.

Peter Sauer: I worked as a rotator at NSF in the ECCS division from August 1991 to August 1992.  Kishan was my number one mentor during this time and he helped me with everything I did. From my first day to my last day, Kishan had wise advice for me and helped me avoid mistakes. We often talked about what the power community should be working on and who the main leaders were. In 1992 he led a special directorate-wide research initiative. The initiative was very successful and thanks to Kishan, our team members were each recognized with the NSF Cooperative Team Effort Award.

In later years, I organized several workshops with him and watched him interact with some of the best faculty in our profession. He cared about the faculty and students and was constantly looking for issues that he could improve such as the curriculum. He was always gracious and kind in everything and showed me that service to our community was the most important thing about the job. He was a treasure for the power and control areas of Electrical and Computer Engineering and his family – they and I will miss him immensely.

Vijay Vittal: Kishan and I interacted during my stay at NSF as a rotator during 1993-1994.  This was also the time we moved from the downtown DC location to Ballston in VA. We interacted daily on several issues and Kishan was always willing to help and provide sage advice in dealing with the various issue.  This was the time just before the Internet and we processed all the proposals as a paper copy in a folder.  This required the program director to justify funding a proposal and also justify rejecting a proposal.  Kishan’s mentorship in doing this was invaluable.  Kishan also helped me find a place to live in Reston and was a great lunch companion on Fridays when a group of program directors went out for lunch.  Kishan always looked for a new place to experience every week.

Additionally, Kishan was a great advocate for the community at large and pushed for systems-related activities at NSF.  During my stay, an educational initiative with EPRI was initiated and Kishan and I made a case for it with the EPRI program managers. Kishan was passionate about encouraging young faculty members and many of them benefitted from PYI, NYI, and CAREER awards.

Kishan was a dedicated marathoner and ran several marathons including the Marine Corp marathon.  He was a kind soul with a ready smile and will be missed by the community.

Chen-Ching Liu: Kishan was a great friend and colleague. Dr. Baheti was also my mentor when I served as a program director at NSF during 1994-95. He is strongly committed to excellence. He knows his scientific communities and is well informed of the best research being done and the researchers. At NSF review panels, he would go out of his way to make sure discussions are thorough and fair. Dr. Baheti also made great contributions to international collaborations. The professional communities, particularly control and power engineering, will miss his leadership. My condolences to Kishan’s family. We lost a friend and leader in our profession.

Chanan Singh: I went to NSF in 1995 to serve as program director for power systems. Like most of my predecessors, I spent one year in that position. Personally, Kishan was very helpful in educating me about some of the important things. Professionally he was very dedicated to stimulate research in controls and highlight their role in the advancement of engineering. He was also interested in finding overlaps with power systems and we always had discussions on this topic. He had accumulated a lot of experience at NSF and was always willing to share it and help. Apart from these technical discussions, I found him to be interested in spiritual and philosophical discussions which we both enjoyed. Not long before his death, we were talking on the phone about retirements and he wanted to continue working as he enjoyed it. Little did we know that he would leave us in in a short time after that. His last conversation still rings in my ears and I find it hard to accept his passing away.

Saifur Rahman: Kishan’s passing was as unexpected as it was saddening. I had known Kishan for almost 30 years starting from the early 90s when he came to NSF from GE.  I had reviewed proposals for him before I joined NSF in 1996 as the program director for the power and energy area. Between 1996 and 1999 our offices were next to each other in the NSF building in Arlington, Virginia. After returning to Virginia Tech my office was across the street from NSF, and I used to see him often.

In addition to being a dedicated NSF program director, Kishan was a passionate marathon runner. Often during lunch, he would talk about his marathon runs, which did around the country. He was also particular about highlighting his colleagues’ recognitions. I remember in 1998, when I was elevated to IEEE Fellow, Dr. Joe Bordogna was the NSF Deputy Director (the number two person at the agency). In that year he was also the IEEE President who signed my IEEE Fellow certificate. Kishan invited Dr. Bordogna to have lunch with us. With Kishan’s efforts, I felt greatly honored to have lunch with the IEEE President who signed my IEEE Fellow certificate.

Kishan routinely came to PES general meetings and spoke at the Research Subcommittee meetings. He also came to the PES ISGT meetings in Washington DC which I organized in the mid-2010s and highlighted NSF support for research on Smart Grids and Cyber-physical Systems.

I will miss Kishan very much. My condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.

Marija Ilic: Kishan was a real believer that advances in the control of dynamic systems will play a major role in modernizing electric power systems.  He put endless efforts into building the community of people working on the intersection of power systems and control.  When I served as a program director at NSF, Kishan was extremely supportive and encouraged me to organize brainstorming workshops, conference sessions, and even international collaborations, which he strongly believed were needed to define such emerging multi-disciplinary thinking.   While it wasn’t always easy to make the case for the role of control of power systems, he never gave up.  It is rewarding to recognize that today data-enabled flexible operations for sustainable, reliable, and resilient electricity services cannot be achieved without systems theory and control design, a real testimony to Kishan’s lifelong vision.  I will miss his quiet, gentle encouragement to embrace this school of thinking.

James Momoh: I served as program director from 2001 to 2004 at NSF, where Kishan was my go-to person with anything related to the job process and procedures especially in the face of rebuilding the power program from the classical to interdisciplinary program.

I spent hours with him trying to coin the named Electric Power Network Security and Efficiency (EPNES) its impact on the long-time awaited improvement to rebuild the power program to address the current needs. Another memory of Kishan is his ability to listen to other’s views to share ideas.  Kishan was more than a colleague but also a mentor and a friend that I could trust. We shared our aspiration to see our children do well and hopefully follow in our footsteps. He always gives me the impression that I can do anything if I had a passion for it and lots of encouragement. He was always on the top of books that were a must-read in program management, talent search, and seeking value in ourselves.

Kishan was the core strength of the ECCS Division and the one who can be referred to as the Ambassador who makes sure that the best came out of ECCS in all areas. Through him, we have a sustainable team spirit and support for a harmonized innovative and creative program in research and education at the Division.

Kevin Tomsovic: Many have commented on the contributions of Kishan and his support of the power community. I can only affirm those sentiments but maybe I want to say a bit more about his love of running. Kishan didn’t start running regularly until his late 40s but then worked his way up to become a competitive marathon runner. He qualified multiple times for the Boston Marathon. Some marathon experts say that your best time is about 10 years after you start training, regardless of when you begin. That was true for Kishan who ran his best time of around 3hr 20m in his late 50s.

It is a great time at that, or any, age. As he grew older, he turned to run ultra-marathons (events around 50 miles or so), until his knees finally had had enough and he cut back on the mileage. He was rightly very proud of those accomplishments and loved to talk about them.

During my two-year stay at NSF, we ran together 2-3 times every week. He used that running time to give me insights about NSF as well as training guidance. With his prodding, I trained for and completed, my only marathon. He was a joy to run with as he made it look so effortless. I will miss him and am saddened by his passing.

Dagmar Niebur: I am deeply saddened by the news of Kishan Baheti’s passing. I know Kishan as a colleague, mentor, and friend. From 2007-2009 I joined the NSF as a program director responsible for the Electric Power and Energy portfolio within the Division of Electrical, Communications, and Cyber Systems. I was one of the rookie rotators on a temporary assignment, ready to change the world, but ill-prepared for the inner workings of the NSF. Kishan quickly became my mentor, patiently helping me navigate the review and awards process. I learned from him how important it is to spend time and energy on the positive aspects of proposals, instead of over-criticizing the less competitive ones.

He also introduced me to NSF’s interdisciplinary working groups within and beyond the Engineering Directorate where roadmaps for future research initiatives were designed. I had the privilege of working with Kishan on the Cyber-physical Systems (CPS) funding initiatives, that he helped establish in 2007 and which is now in its 14th year. It is one of many areas where Kishan’s vision had a significant impact on interdisciplinary research involving power systems, control systems, and communication systems among other disciplines.

Moreover, Kishan was instrumental in establishing international collaboration opportunities for power and energy research involving international funding agencies as well as individual researchers from Japan, Germany, Norway, and other countries. As a strong advocate of students and faculty, his program supported conference travel and workshops thus fostering collaboration and mentoring. His warm and enthusiastic personality made NSF a better place. He will be thoroughly missed not only by family and friends but also by the systems engineering community at large.

Eyad H. Abed: With the passing of Dr. Kishan Baheti, our community has lost a true friend and a strong and effective supporter. I worked closely with him while serving as a rotator at NSF. Kishan always had a positive outlook and a cheerful demeanor. I witnessed daily his devotion not only to supporting quality research but also to the many individuals whom he touched through his work. Seeing the successes of his grantees was a source of happiness for him. He seemed to derive added motivation with every piece of positive news from his grantees and former grantees. He was proud of his work and the work of NSF, and rightly so, and he was proud of us, his partners in the path of advancing knowledge. May he rest in peace.

S.S. (Mani) Venkata: I am shocked and saddened by the unexpected news of the passing of Dr. Radhakisan (Kishan) Baheti. I had known him for more than three decades. He was always ready to render support to me and our community on many R&D fronts from the NSF. Though he was a control specialist, he was a champion of the power systems area and represented our community very well. I have known him to be always kind, gracious, and gentle. It is a loss, and we will all miss him. Our thoughts are with Mrs. Padma Baheti, their children, and grandchildren and we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.

Ned (Narendra) Mohan: I would like Kisan’s family to accept my sincerest condolences on the passing of my dear friend and mentor. I have known Kisan professionally for several decades since he joined NSF. I have also met him several times personally. He was always such a promoter of my efforts and always encouraged me to do better. He was responsible for many recognitions I received in my professional life. The news of his passing away was utterly devastating to me. I wish all who knew Kishan to have peace at this highly difficult time and to know that Kishan will always be with us in our hearts.”

Le Xie: Kishan has been a steadfast supporter to younger power engineering/control faculty over his long and illustrious career at NSF. At the beginning of his panels, he would break the ice by having each panelist talk about some hobbies outside their work, and share the books that he was reading at the time. He chaired panel reviews in a most thoughtful and well-organized manner. I had the honor and pleasure to invite him and Tony Kuh to Antonio in 2017 for the first IEEE Utility Big Data Workshop, and I enjoyed the time we spent together at the beautiful River Walk. Our last email correspondence was in January 2021, in which he conveyed a warm note to me thanking me for presenting an idea to the NSF EFRI pitch. The note symbolized Kishan’s personality, as an always thoughtful and encouraging fatherly figure to younger generations of power engineering faculty. I thank Kishan for having positively touched so many power engineers.

Sarika Khushalani Solanki: This is sad and shocking indeed. It was as if “yesterday” that I had met him. He was a very enthusiastic NSF program director and always had lots of questions on why, how, and what. He is always encouraged to attend interdisciplinary conferences to bring newer innovations to power systems. I am sure those who were seeing him daily in the same office for the past 30 years would miss him a lot. He has changed and touched a lot of careers during his tenure. May God rest his soul in peace.

Paul Hines: Kishan was a truly blessed soul.  I always enjoyed serving on his panels.  He had such a passion for working hard to make sure that every proposal got quality feedback and that the highest quality ideas were supported.  He was a tireless supporter of early-career power and energy researchers and was passionate about integrating education and research.  And he always sincerely listened to new ideas.  He will be truly missed.

Sairaj Dhople: Kishan bridged gaps across communities with foresight and grace. He constantly strived to bring people together to work on problems that broke disciplinary boundaries. Given my background, I can particularly attest to how Kishan brought an entire generation of power systems and control-systems engineers to the same table to address pressing problems of our time. His efforts in this direction have had (and will continue to have) immeasurable impact in guaranteeing a sustainable energy future while pushing fundamental advances in systems theory. I am sure researchers from multiple disciplines share similar sentiments about him. Kishan will be sorely missed.