Students Receive Competitive Fellowships to Conduct Research in Sustainable Energy


Thirteen undergraduate students from the University of Notre Dame, New Mexico State University, and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez received competitive fellowships to support their research interests in sustainable energy solutions that focus on improving energy efficiencies, reducing carbon emissions, and mitigating climate change.

The Center for Sustainable Energy (ND Energy) selected these students from a large pool of qualified applicants interested in summer and fall research through the Vincent P. Slatt Fellowship for Undergraduate Research in Energy Systems and Processes. These scholars are accomplished students with high academic honors and scholarly achievements, and demonstrate a passion for solving the grand challenges in energy through research and discovery.  

“We are delighted to have so many students interested in summer research,” said Ginger E. Sigmon, managing director of ND Energy. “The summer allows students to spend their time over a ten-week period concentrating on research results rather than juggling research with academic requirements and extracurricular activities. This enables them to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the full range of educational opportunities at Notre Dame.”

In addition to conducting research and learning the skills required to achieve impactful results in the laboratory, summer researchers engage in joint professional development workshops and social events and present their research at the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium. These opportunities are provided by Notre Dame Summer Programs to enhance summer research experiences for students and to develop a broad community of young scholars through networking and gaining additional knowledge that will last them a lifetime.  

Reinhard Bartsch ‘25

A chemistry major with a minor in theology at Notre Dame, Bartsch will conduct his research project this summer titled “Isolation of Metallocyclobutane Intermediate for Ruthenium Catalyzed Olefin Metathesis as a Means for Bringing about More Sustainable Synthesis” in the laboratory of Prof. Vlad Iluc, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Bartsch will study reaction intermediates in order to design greener, more sustainable catalysts to lower energy demand and byproduct waste for widely used synthetic methods in industry. 

Sam Chen ‘24

A chemical engineering major with a concentration in materials at Notre Dame, Chen will conduct his research project this summer titled “Polymers in Next-generation Rechargeable Batteries” in the laboratory of Prof. Jennifer Schaefer, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Chen aims to solve the safety issues of Lithium-ion batteries due to the flammability of the organic solvents in the liquid electrolyte. He will work with gel polymer electrolytes, which replace the flammable commercial electrolytes, and analyze their impact on other important battery properties. The goal is to find the perfect composition for the electrolyte that provides great battery performance and high thermal safety.

Lauren Farrell ‘26

A chemistry major with a minor in French at Notre Dame, Farrell will conduct her research project this summer titled “Gaining Access to the Reaction of the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide to a Usable Fuel” in the laboratory of Prof. Seth Brown, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Farrell aims to discover a new system for the selective reduction of carbon dioxide to a usable fuel. If attainable and energy-efficient, this will allow fuel to become a carbon-neutral carrier of energy and address the problem of carbon dioxide warming the atmosphere. The project focuses on preparing and studying an iridium complex combined with carbon dioxide at different oxidation states, in order to study the selectivity and efficacy of these reactions.

Gabe Goertz ‘24

A chemistry major with a minor in medieval studies at Notre Dame, Goertz will conduct his research project this summer titled “Nanocrystal Surface Electrostatic Effects on Tethered Catalyst Potentials” in the laboratory of Prof. Emily Tsui, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Catalysts are chemical compounds that increase the rate of a chemical reaction and allow chemical reactions that are normally unfeasible to react. Goertz aims to connect one of these catalysts to a nanocrystal via a chemical bond and investigate how the electric field generated allows for higher control of specific reactions and reaction speed. This research will have an impact on many sectors, including industrial processes facilitated by catalysis, and increase efficiency globally.

Thomas King ‘25

A mechanical engineering major with minors in engineering corporate practice and computational engineering at Notre Dame, King will conduct his research project this fall titled “Developing Metadata for Nuclear Fusion Models” in the laboratory of Prof. Ryan McClarren, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. King aims to develop an accessible, interoperable, and reusable dataset for inertial confinement nuclear fusion experiments. The dataset will increase the global impact of existing methods and models developed at Notre Dame and enable the usage of machine learning tools, facilitating collaboration and advancement in nuclear fusion research as a whole. This project is in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Lauren Martin ‘24

A chemistry major at Notre Dame, Martin will conduct her research project this summer titled “Energy Transfer in Lead Halide Perovskite-Molecular Hybrid Assemblies for Light Harvesting Applications” in the laboratory of Prof. Prashant Kamat, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory. Perovskite solar cells are environmentally safer and more economical than other solar cells but are not yet efficient enough for mass commercialization. Martin will study perovskite solar cells in order to increase light conversion efficiency and demonstrate a theoretical energy transfer to show their effectiveness as a practical source of solar energy. 

John Moore ’26

A chemical engineering major with a minor in engineering corporate practice at Notre Dame, Moore will conduct his research project this summer titled “Development of Novel Nanofiltration Membrane Functionalizations for the Specific Ion Rejection of Cobalt and Lithium” in the laboratory of Prof. William Phillip, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Moore will create copolymer membranes to filter out heavy metal ions from solution, specifically cobalt and lithium, which occurs through chemical functionalization of the membrane surface that takes a charge-based approach to the rejection of the ions as the feed solution passes through the membrane. This functionalization is ‘printed’ onto the membrane surface using inkjet printing technology to increase repeatability and consistency and to expedite the process. 

Omar Muñoz’ 24

A civil engineering major with a minor in math from New Mexico State University, Muñoz will conduct his research project this summer titled “Reinforced Concrete Designs for Large-scale Nuclear Building Structures” in the laboratory of Prof. Yahya Kurama, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. This project focuses on developing accelerated construction methods to improve building efficiencies and significantly lower the costs of building large-scale modularized reinforced concrete components for nuclear power plant structures. Muñoz aims to develop computer-based visualizations and laboratory prototyping of the construction methods investigated by the project.

Daniel O'Connor ’24

A chemical engineering major with a minor in energy studies at Notre Dame, O'Connor will conduct his research project this summer titled “Integrated CO2 Capture and Conversion” in the laboratory of Prof. Casey O’Brien, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. O’Connor will analyze the PVP-catalyzed conversion of CO2 to cyclic carbonates in order to enhance the design of catalytic membranes that can capture CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into useful compounds. This work holds the potential to increase the efficiency of carbon capture methods and assist in mitigating the impact of greenhouse gases during the shift towards cleaner energy production.

Delaney Ryan ’24

A chemical engineering major with a minor in history at Notre Dame, Ryan will conduct her research project this summer titled “Radiation Stability of Organics in the Nuclear Waste Extraction” in the laboratories of Prof. Ian Carmichael, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Director of the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory, and Aliaksandra Lisouskaya, the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory. Currently, more than 90% of the potential energy in nuclear fuel remains unused after five years in an operational nuclear reactor. Recent research has shown that the best way to maximize the energy in nuclear fuel is to separate key actinides in radioactive waste to increase the amount of fuel readily available and decrease the amount of nuclear waste produced in nuclear facilities. Ryan plans to use the rapid-flow Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to examine organic radicals formed from ligands used for the extraction of actinide isotopes. The data obtained in the proposed work will provide important missing information for future research into nuclear waste separation technologies.

Bennett Schmitt ’25

An environmental (Earth) sciences and applied and computational mathematics and statistics double major at Notre Dame, Schmitt will conduct his research project this summer titled “Investigating Rare Earth Element Mineralization within Fenite Alteration Zones” in the laboratory of Prof. Antonio Simonetti, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. Rare Earth Elements (REEs) play a critical role in the expansion of clean energy technology, specifically in the development of next-generation energy storage devices. Schmitt seeks to investigate the mechanisms underlying the extreme REE enrichment observed in fenites—rocks that have been chemically altered by the intrusion of carbonatite (carbonate-rich) magma. By juxtaposing mineralogical, chemical, and isotopic investigations of fenites and their associated carbonatites, Schmitt will provide novel insight into the elemental nature of these largely unexplored alteration zones, elucidate a path for more sustainable and efficient production of clean energy technologies, and advance energy storage capabilities.

Rubén E. Torres ’25

An electrical engineering major with a concentration in power electronics from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Torres will conduct his research project this summer titled “Simulation and Characterization of Wide Band Gap Power Devices” in the laboratory of Prof. Patrick Fay, Department of Electrical Engineering. Torres’ research focuses on the experimental characterization of high-power GaN-based devices and the numerical simulation of devices, intended for future-generation high-efficiency power conversion systems.

Evan Wood ’25

A chemical engineering major, Wood will conduct his research project this summer titled “Selective Ion Transport with Imidazole Membrane Ligands” in the laboratory of Prof. William Phillip, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Ongoing research in membrane separation processes has the potential for significant gains in the energy efficiency and environmental cost of specialized separation. A possible alternative to the harsh separation methods used in Li-Ion battery recycling processes is membrane separation of Copper, Cobalt, and other metal ions in recycling streams. Wood aims to synthesize polymer membranes that have a ligand with an imidazole or indole functional group, through Azide-Alkyne reaction pathways. Imidazole and Indole groups form complexes with transition metal ions that facilitate the transfer of specific ions across the membrane. The strength of the ligand-metal interaction will differentiate the flux of similar ions such as Copper and Cobalt across the membrane and possibly lead to more environmentally conscious recycling separations.

For more information about the Slatt Fellowship program and research projects, please visit: Slatt Undergraduate Research Fellowship and contact Barbara Villarosa. The Slatt Fellowship program was established in 2006 through the generosity of Christopher (’80) and Jeanine Slatt in honor of Vincent P. Slatt, Notre Dame Class of 1943.