Noel Schulz embraces new role

Schulz appointed co-director of Advanced Grid Institute; she plans to conduct outreach, create undergraduate internships



WSU Professor and First Lady Noel Schulz was appointed co-director of WSU-Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Advanced Grid Institute.

ERIN MULLINS, Evergreen reporter

When Noel Schulz was in middle school, she built a TV with her father. 

“I actually had resistor earrings when I was in middle school, earrings that had a resistor in different colors,” Schulz said. “I really always liked math and science.”

This sparked Schulz’s love for science at a young age, but she has gone far since building TVs.

Schulz, professor at WSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was appointed as co-director of WSU-Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Advanced Grid Institute. 

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, managed by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a center that specializes in scientific discovery and sustainable energy, according to its website. The Advanced Grid Institute is a research collaboration between WSU and the laboratory that focuses on improving power reliability and sustainability while making power more cost-effective. 

WSU’s involvement with the institute began in 2018 and was previously led by WSU Regents Professor Anjan Bose. In January 2020, Bose stepped down, and Schulz took over as co-interim director along with Jeffery Dagle, co-director of the institute and chief electrical engineer at the laboratory.

In the spring, Schulz decided to take on the position more permanently and she applied to be co-director. 

“I really like power engineering because it’s something you feel you can make a difference — because there are electrical utilities everywhere,” she said.

Engineering is something that Schulz loves, and she really enjoys working with people. She said she considers herself an “academic mom” to her students, whether they are undergraduates, graduates or doctorate students. 

“Teaching engineering is the best because you get to work on engineering problems, but you get to work with people,” she said. 

Mentoring is a big part of her job as a faculty member, Schulz said. She helps connect students with internships, projects and promotions. Schulz still has former students call her to catch up and give life updates.

In her new position as co-director, Schulz said she will be able to connect students from all WSU campuses with the laboratory. The laboratory offers a program where a graduate or doctorate student spends two years at WSU and then two years at the laboratory. 

Schulz is also working on developing other opportunities with the laboratory like undergraduate internships, tours to see career options and K-12 outreach to grow interest in STEM.

In partnership with her fellow co-director, Schulz put on a Zoom seminar called “AGI Day,” where researchers from the institute, laboratory and WSU came together for a day-long event. 

Dagle said he enjoyed working with Schulz on the project.

He said Schulz is well organized, detail-oriented, a good listener and an overall pleasant person to be around. 

“It’s been really good working with her because she’s got a lot of energy around these ideas of things we can do and has the commitment to follow through on action items,” he said.

Despite her love for teaching, Schulz will only be teaching one class a year at WSU because of her commitment to the institute and the laboratory. 

Before arriving at WSU, Schulz was a faculty member at Kansas State University. She has 27 years of faculty experience at six different universities. 

Along with being a professor, Schulz arrived at WSU in 2016 as first lady of the university.

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson said he sees Schulz as one part of WSU’s power couple, in all senses of the phrase. Not only is Schulz married to WSU President Kirk Schulz, but she literally teaches electrical engineering. 

“You couldn’t have asked for any better combination,” Johnson said. “And then [Schulz] is a fantastic professor and really gets things done in the college of engineering.”

Outside her big impact on the community and her new appointment with the institute, Schulz enjoys taking care of her corgi and making handmade cards. She also loves to travel. This summer, she went to Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands with her husband.

“I think this is a really great opportunity for WSU, having a federal national lab in the State of Washington,” she said. “I look forward to advancing our relationship as co-director.”