Twenty-four undergraduate students receive Slatt Fellowships to advance energy-related research at Notre Dame

Author: Barbara Villarosa


The Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (ND Energy) has announced the recipients of the 2022 Vincent P. Slatt Fellowship for Undergraduate Research in Energy Systems and Processes. Slatt fellowships support undergraduate students interested in pursuing energy-related research and education during the academic year or during summer at the University of Notre Dame.

“Our 2022 cohort of Slatt scholars are highly accomplished and eager to collaborate with faculty to advance research programs and develop sustainable energy solutions,” Peter C. Burns, Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences and director of ND Energy. “These undergraduate students are passionate about transitioning to a cleaner, more affordable and sustainable global energy future. They completely agree with the current understanding that aggressive action must be taken in order to meet global energy targets and achieve substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Slatt scholars collaborate with faculty affiliates on many aspects of their research projects and are mentored by group members throughout their research experience. Students learn unique skills in data analysis, translation of results, and using various research methods and techniques while working toward achieving their research goals. Students also gain a deeper understanding of specific energy topics and valuable leadership skills and other competencies to help shape their careers and other interests, such as attending graduate school.  

Slatt scholars who conduct summer research also gain additional benefits by working full-time on their research projects and participating in professional development and social events with students from other REU and fellowship programs on campus. These events enable students to network with peers from other departments and universities and to enrich their research experience in preparation of the annual Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium, where students present their research projects to a broader audience. 

“The Slatt family has been very generous in making research opportunities available to undergraduate students annually since 2006,” said Burns. “It is through this gift that students receive a unique research and educational experience and faculty can advance their research programs with the help of well-qualified research assistants.”  

Slatt scholars each receive a $5,000 award to support their stipend, purchase laboratory supplies, and pay for travel to present their research at a national conference. Since the Slatt program began, 221 undergraduate students have received awards totaling $932,033. This year, 24 students have received awards in the amount of $112,690. 

“We are delighted to introduce the 2022 Slatt scholars and their research projects,” said Burns. “Please join us in congratulating these outstanding undergraduate students on achieving a Slatt award and contributing to the ND Energy mission to create a more sustainable energy future for generations to come.”

Meet the Slatt scholars:

2022 Slatts

Evan Bursch (’24) is a Physics and Philosophy double major in the lab of Ryan McClarren, associate professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. His research titled, “High-Order Implicit Shock Tracking for Inertial Confinement Nuclear Fusion” aims to advance the field of inertial confinement fusion research, specifically by applying high-order implicit shock tracking (HOIST) to inertial confinement fusion modeling problems.

Caitlyn Cano (’23) is an Environmental Engineering major with a minor in Environmental Earth Sciences in the lab of Peter C. Burns, Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. Cano’s research focuses on studying natural samples collected on a recent trip to the Jackpile Mine in western New Mexico to determine the severity of radium contamination. Her project is titled, “Radium Analysis of Natural Samples from Laguna Pueblo.”

William Cheong (’23) is a Chemistry major in the lab of Emily Tsui, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research titled, “1,3,5 Trithiane as a Sulfur Source in Metal Sulfide Nanoparticle Synthesis” focuses on studying the mechanism of formation for metal sulfide nanoparticles by performing molecular studies of 1,3,5 trithiane decomposition to identify reactive species formed in situ.

Robert Crawford (’23) is an Architecture major with a minor in Sustainability in the lab of John Onyango, associate professor in the School of Architecture. Crawford is using life-cycle assessments to study the energy required to construct a building and the implications of the energy usage over the building’s entire life-cycle. His research is titled, "Life Cycle Assessments of Building Materials in Notre Dame Construction."

Vincent DiFilippo (’23) is an Aerospace Engineering major in the lab of Hirotaka Sakaue, associate professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering. His research focuses on the noise-reduction characteristics of applying a microfiber coating to a propeller blade to further advance wind power technology and is titled, "Optimization of Noise Reduction of a Propeller Using Microfiber Coating for Wind Turbine Applications."

Gavin Ealey (’24) is a Chemistry major with a minor in French in the lab of Prashant Kamat, Rev. John A. Zahm Professor of Science in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Radiation Laboratory. His research titled, "Photoinduced Charge Transfer Processes with AgInS2 Loaded in Bipolar Membrane (BPM)" focuses on the study of materials with photocatalytic properties to harness light energy and improve efficiency for use. 

Matrika Franklin (’23) is a Chemical Engineering major with a minor in Digital Marketing in the lab of Abigail Mechtenberg, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Physics. Her research titled, “Ugandan Wind Turbine” explores and analyzes factors related to scaling up the production of woven wind turbine blades made by Ugandan basket weavers for use in Lower to Middle Income Countries (LMICs).

Nathaniel Hiott (’23) is a Physics major with a minor in Energy Studies in the lab of Prashant Kamat, Rev. John A. Zahm Professor of Science in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Radiation Laboratory. His research titled, “Electron Transfer Processes in Two-Dimensional Lead-Halide Perovskites” studies the electron transfer between lead-halide perovskites and electron acceptors to improve two-dimensional lead-halide perovskites in solar cells and photocatalysis.

Grace Hsu (‘24) is an Economics and Pre-Health double major in the lab of Peter C. Burns, Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. Her research titled, “Synthesis and Characterization of Uranyl Borosulfate Compounds and U(IV)/U(VI) Oxalate Compounds” focuses on using a variety of methods such as single crystal and powder X-ray diffraction, infrared and Raman spectroscopy, and thermogravimetry analysis to investigate these compounds.

Jiaqi Lu (’24) is a Biochemistry major in the lab of  Yamil J. Colón, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Her project titled, “Automated Prediction of the Viscosity of Ionic Liquids Using Transfer Learning” aims to use machine learning to boost the efficiency of predicting the performance of rare earth elements by analyzing a large dataset of Ionic liquids used for several applications, such as clean energy and electronics.

Laura Manukyan (’25) is a Chemistry major in the lab of Emily Tsui, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Her research titled, “Synthesis of Organometallic-Functionalized ZnO and TiO2 Nanocrystals for Photocatalysis” studies the use of nanocrystals as photocatalysts to enable improved photocatalytic reactions for CO2 and N2 reduction.

Zachary Muetzel (’23) is a Chemical Engineering major in the lab of William Phillip, Rooney Family Collegiate Chair of Engineering and associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His research titled, “3D-Printed Crossflow Diafiltration Modules for the Recovery and Recycling of Critical Materials” aims to increase the separation efficiency and advance the state-of-the-art in the separation of lithium and cobalt, specifically to improve recycling of lithium-ion batteries and the raw materials they contain.

Jeff Mwathi (’25) is an Electrical Engineering major with a minor in International Development Studies in the lab of Ian Lightcap, Research and Facilities Program Director of ND Energy. He is studying the growth of Fe nanoparticles on reduced graphene oxide (RGO) to be used as a catalyst capable of replacing platinum in hydrogen fuel cells. His research is titled "Testing Sub-2 nm Fe Nanoparticles on Graphene for the Oxygen Reduction Reaction."

Gabriel Pennington (’24) is a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major with minors in Energy Studies and Engineering Corporate Practice in the lab of Ruilan Guo, Frank M. Freimann Associate Professor of Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His research titled, “B-Cyclodextrin Polymer Membranes for Adsorption of Organic Micropollutants from Contaminated Water” focuses on synthesizing functional polymers that can be used to remove perfluoroalkyl acids found in drinking water and require advanced separation methods to be removed.

Madison Pixler (’23) is a Chemical Engineering major in the lab of Ruilan Guo, Frank M. Freimann Associate Professor of Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Her research titled, “Iptycene-Based Polybenzimidazole (PBI) Membrane for High-Temperature H2/CO2 Separation” focuses on studying the use of polymer membranes for separating the H2 and CO2 in the Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) process, which is a system used to synthesize gas to produce energy.

Nicholas Poole (’22) is a Chemical Engineering major with a minor in Energy Studies in the lab of Peter C. Burns, Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. Poole’s research titled, “Humidity Effects on Metal Uranyl Peroxide Monomers during CO2 Adsorption” aims to further study the mechanism of using metal uranyl peroxide monomers to absorb CO2 from the air.

Gabriela Roman Perez is a senior Civil Engineering major with minors in Project Management and Material Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. Perez is conducting summer research in the lab of Peter C. Burns, Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, titled, “Synthesis and Characterization of Nuclear Materials,” which focuses on the synthesis and characterization of uranyl materials, ranging from natural and synthetic uranium (VI) minerals to uranyl peroxide nanoclusters.

Tomas Romero (’24) is a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major with a minor in Energy Studies in the lab of Adam Jaffe, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Romero’s research focuses on securing a cleaner energy future by developing methods to modify solid-state materials through previously unexplored means. His project is titled, “Generating Catalytic Sites Relevant for Cleaner Fuels in Solid-State Materials through Atom-Transfer Chemistry.”  

John Joel Sacris (’24) is a Chemical Engineering major in the lab of William Schneider, Dorini Family Chair in Energy Studies and department chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering. His research titled “Development of Microkinetic Models for SCR Kinetics in Cu-CHA” uses computational simulations to study nanoporous catalysts essential for applications related to energy conversion and the reduction of harmful gases like methane and nitrogen oxides.

Yan Saltar is a senior Chemical Engineering major with a minor in Applied Mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. Saltar is conducting summer research in the lab of Alexander Dowling, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, titled, “Using Superstructure Optimization Models to Analyze Case Studies for Shale Gas and Sugarcane Processing in the U.S. and Brazil,” which focuses on using superstructure optimization models to determine the best processing routes and chemical products for shale gas and sugarcane upgrading in the U.S. and Brazil.

Jeffrey Secrist (’25) is a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major in the lab of David Go, Viola D. Hank Professor and Chair in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. His research titled, "Characterization of Plasma-Catalysis Systems for Upcycling of Light Hydrocarbons" aims to develop a greater understanding of plasma and how it can be used in chemical reactions to increase efficiency and to occur more effectively in energy systems.

Benjamin Speybroeck is a junior Chemical Engineering major at the University of Dayton conducting summer research in the lab of Ruilan Guo, Frank M. Freimann Associate Professor of Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His research titled, “Microporous Polymeric Membranes for Energy-efficient Gas Separations” focuses on investigating a new design of polymeric membrane materials to enable superior gas separation performance under harsh conditions for use in many applications, including removal of CO2 and H2S.

Alex Tullman (’22) is a Finance major with a minor in Energy Studies in the lab of Ian Lightcap, Research and Facilities Program Director of ND Energy. His research titled, "Electricity Transmission Efficiency Coating" studies the materials used to coat aluminum to emit high energy particles and to modify the coating to improve the technology for commercial use.  

Christina Urrea (’23) is a Science-Business major with a minor in Anthropology in the lab of Abigail Mechtenberg, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Physics. Her research titled, “Probability Distributions for Electricity Failure - Predicting Points of Chaos” aims to create a probability distribution to predict when electrical shortages will occur in healthcare facilities in Lower to Middle Income Countries (LMICs) to decrease the potential loss of life.

For more information about the 2022 Slatt scholars and their research projects, visit https://energy.nd.edu/research/fellowships/slatt-undergraduate/. To learn more about Summer Programs for Undergraduate Students, visit https://energy.nd.edu/research/summer-research-programs/.

The Vincent P. Slatt Fellowship for Undergraduate Research in Energy Systems and Processes is made possible through the generosity of Christopher (’80) and Jeanine Slatt in honor of Vincent P. Slatt, Notre Dame Class of 1943.

About ND Energy
ND Energy is a University research center whose mission is to build a better world by creating new energy technologies and systems and educating individuals to help solve the most critical energy challenges facing our world today. For more information, please visit the ND Energy website at energy.nd.edu or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at bvillaro@nd.edu or 574-631-4776.

 

Originally published by Barbara Villarosa at energy.nd.edu on April 27, 2022.