Welcome to Ken Hopkinson's Web Page

What I Do

I am a doctoral student in computer science at Cornell University.

Contact Info

E-mail     hopkik@cs.cornell.edu
Office      4154 Upson Hall
                Cornell University
                Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone     (607)254-5075
Fax         (607)255-4428

Research Interests

Distributed computing, networking, and operating systems.  My current research is directed towards the management and control of the electric power grid through the use of distributed systems running over a private Utility Intranet that is based on Internet technology.  This is a fascinating area with the potential for valuable contributions both to the general area of distributed computing and to an important application at the same time.   You can find the latest version of my job interview slideset here.  It gives a good overview of my work.

Research Summary

My research is concentrated on three main areas:

First, I am the lead author of EPOCHS, a middleware platform combining electric power and communication simulators together.  As my work progressed, it became increasingly obvious that a tool like EPOCHS was necessary to pursue serious study of the impact of distributed communication protocols and strategies in electric power systems.  A case study has already been published utilizing EPOCHS to investigate the use of agents in power system relays communicating over a Utility Intranet.  Much larger and more interesting studies are currently underway.  EPOCHS is research software that is available to the public.  You download the software from the EPOCHS web page.  An article describing the EPOCHS architecture appeared in the Winter Simulation Conference in December 2003.

Hopkinson, K.M.; Birman, K.P.; Giovanini, R.; Coury, D.V.; Wang, X.; Thorp, J.S., EPOCHS: Integrated Commercial Off-The-Shelf Software for Agent-based Electric Power and Communication Simulation.  2003 Winter Simulation Conference. 7-10 of December 2003, New Orleans, USA.

The second focus of my work has been on creating realistic power system scenarios that have the clear potential to benefit from the use of a Utility Intranet.  Each of these scenarios has been modeled in the EPOCHS environment.  Experimental data has shown improvements over traditional protection and control systems in each case. 

Giovanini, R.; Coury, D.V.; Hopkinson, K.M.; Thorp, J.S., Improving Local and Backup Protection Using Area Agents. IEE Eighth International Conference on Developments in Power System Protection.  5-8 of April 2004, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Wang, X.R.; Hopkinson, K.M.; Thorp, J.S.; Giovanini, R.; Birman, K.; Coury, D., Developing an Agent-based Backup Protection System for Transmission Networks.  First International Conference on Power Systems and Communication Systems Infrastructures for the Future. 23-27 of September 2002, Beijing, China.

An additional case that examines special protection systems can be found in the book chapter that I wrote with my co-authors.

The third focal point has been examining ways to strengthen the properties of best-effort IP-based networks in order to better support applications with real-time requirements.  A first step in that direction is investigating the efficient management and control of large networks of agents within systems with disparate areas of control and varying levels of interest in information flows depending on their location, distance, and ownership.  More specifically, I have been investigating the prospect of using the DIAL communication protocol for Bilateral Load Following (aka Load Frequency Regulation).   Bilateral Load Following is the concept of allowing variable electric power contracts between loads and generators in different control areas within the electric power grid.  This is not possible today because it requires constant communication of power needs between the areas in question.  The possibility of contingencies also requires that backup entities receive communication updates as well, though at less frequent intervals.  The idea behind DIAL is that entities that wish to receive a certain fraction of message updates by a given message expiration time can do so with high probability using an appropriately weighted coin where the weights are determined using a straightforward recurrence relation.  An early effort to address the problem appeared in this ICDCS article.  This early attempt introduced the recurrence relation and gave an algorithm that could be used in static situations.  A great deal of progress has been made in the dynamic case since that time and will appear in a new article in the near future.

Jenkins, K.; Hopkinson, K.; Birman K.  Reliable Group Communication with Subgroups.  2001 IEEE International Workshop on Applied Reliable Group Communication within the International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems.  16-19 of April 2001, Pheonix, USA.

The focus of early work was on investigating the general concept of whether communication could be used to improve the operation of the electric power grid and in what ways it could do so.  We showed that backup distance relay operation could be greatly improved using network communication.  Using representative simulations of Internet measurements we also showed that the Internet could not be used for the types of scenarios that we were investigating despite the interest in the power community to do so.  We recommended a Utility Intranet as an alternative with many positive qualities.

Coury, D.V.; Thorp, J.S.; Hopkinson, K.M.; Birman, K.P.  An Agent Based Current Differential Relay for use with a Utility Intranet.  IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, January 2002.

Coury, D.V.; Thorp, J.S.; Hopkinson, K.M.; Birman, K.P.  Improving the Protection of EHV Teed Feeders Using Local Agents IEEE Seventh International Conference on Developments in Power System Protection,
9 - 12 April 2001, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Coury, D.V.; Thorp, J.S.; Hopkinson, K.M.; Birman, K.P.  Agent Technology Applied to Adaptive Relay Setting for Multi-Terminal Lines, 2000 IEEE PES Summer Meeting, 16 - 20 of July 2000, Seattle, USA.

A book chapter geared towards electric power engineers was written in March 2003 and subsequently published in July 2003.  This chapter discusses the EPOCHS platform and three sample power scenarios that demonstrate areas where significant benefits can be achieved by using a Utility Intranet to improve upon the protection and control of the electric power grid.

Thorp, J.S.; Wang, X.R.; Hopkinson, K.M.; Coury, D.; Giovanini, R., “Agent Technology Applied to the Protection of Power Systems”, Autonomous Systems and Intelligent Agents in Power System Control and Operation, July 2003.



I have also been actively involved in teaching various courses at Cornell University during my tenure as a graduate student.  I find that teaching is a great way to get new perspective through student interaction while reinforce what I know at the same time.  My responsibility has steadily increased over the years to the point where I have had the privilege of teaching an operating systems practicum using my own projects that built on previously existing course material.  In total, I have been a teaching assistant for the following courses:

Teaching Assistant CS 414 [Operating Systems] and Instructor CS 415 [OS Practicum]  Fall 2001 and Fall 2002
Teaching Assistant CS 502 [Digital Libraries]  Spring 2001
Teaching Assistant and Recitation Instructor CS 501 [Software Engineering]  Fall 2000, Spring 2003, and Spring 2004
Teaching Assistant and Recitation Instructor CS 100 [Introduction to Computer Science]  Spring 1999
Teaching Assistant and Project Supervisor CS 514 [Intermediate Distributed Systems]  Fall 1998
Teaching Assistant CS 100 [Introduction to Computer Science]  Spring 1998

More About Me

I'm working steadily on my research.  In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, theatre, movies, and campus events.

Interesting Links

  Ken Birman serves as my capable advisor.  You can click his picture to learn more about him.
Jim Thorp is a lead committee member in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

ud8.jpg (7492 bytes)This is a link to Ken's research group.  The group's current research focus is on the Spinglass project.
                                  You can click here to view general information as well as many of the group's publications.
                                 (Ensemble is used here because it is the last group project with an icon.)



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