Graduate Students Share Research, Network with Peers at UConn’s Sustainability Summit

Thirty graduate students shared their ongoing research during the inaugural Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2) Graduate Student Research Summit in Sustainability.

The summit, held Feb. 16 and 17 at the Innovation Partnership Building (IPB), showcased the work of students from multiple disciplines in engineering. Graduate students Alanna Gado and Leila Chebbo organized and led the event.

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Graduate students Leila Chebbo and Alanna Gado and organized the summit. Chebbo won first place with her presentation on “Modeling and Operation of Microgrids for Deep Space Habitats Under Environmental Disturbances.” (Terry Barber-Tournaud/UConn photo)

“Graduate students at C2E2 don’t have many opportunities to practice research presentations outside of conferences and Ph.D program milestones,” Gado says. “We wanted this to be a valuable experience, where graduate students would receive feedback on their presentation skills while also networking with peers.”

The event opened with an introduction and welcome from C2E2 Director Xiao-Dong Zhou, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund Professor in Sustainability and Nicholas E. Madonna Char in Sustainability and a presentation from Theo Menounos, assistant director of the of the Center for Career Development and College of Engineering career readiness lead. Menounos offered tips and advice on public speaking and how to be confident when presenting and answering questions. “Theo’s presentation was very helpful,” Chebbo says. “The notes and advice he provided will be in my mind whenever I am preparing for a presentation.”

This summit also gave students the opportunity to expand their knowledge and refine their research presentation skills, while receiving valuable feedback from peers and faculty, even engaging in some discourse. Students discussed their research and sustainability challenges with their peers, furthering their connections.

“It’s always interesting to get an overview of what research is going on outside the bubble of our lab and direct collaborators,” says chemical and biomolecular engineering graduate student Christopher Hawxhurst. “Sometimes it even results in new opportunities for collaboration or sharing knowledge.”

Ali Bazzi, the Charles H. Knapp Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering, had several of his own graduate students, including Chebbo, participate in the event. He noticed how students connected with each other and even other faculty members within the Center.

“This summit brought together students from various disciplines within C2E2 and across at least five engineering departments and schools. They were able to discuss research, and more importantly, they were able to socialize and connect to develop the community spirit in C2E2,” he says. “It not only gave students the ability to learn from their peers, but gave faculty the ability to learn more from the students and their work, especially when their topics were not directly connected with their own research/ discipline.”

Christabel Adjah-Tetteh C2E2 and c2e2 Director Xiao-Dong ZhouChristabel Adjah-Tetteh C2E2 and c2e2 Director Xiao-Dong Zhou
Christabel Adjah-Tetteh won 2nd place in the poster presentation with her research on “Praseodymium and Gadolinium Doped Ceria as Interlayer for High-Temperature Solid Oxide Cell Application.” Her advisor is C2E2 Director Xiao-Dong Zhou, pictured at right. (Terry Barber-Tournaud/UConn photo)

Research topics ranged from cultivated beef, the effectiveness of air filters, desalination, desulfurization, space exploration, and electrolyzers, to fuel cells, and membrane applications, and more. Each student was given 15 minutes to present his or her work and engage in a Q&A. A rubric, which graduate student Andres Ortiz Godoy contributed to, was used to help score each presentation. The students scored each presentation anonymously on a Google forum.

Leila Chebbo won first place with her presentation titled “Modeling and Operation of Microgrids for Deep Space Habitats Under Environmental Disturbances.” Christabel Adjah-Tetteh won second place with her presentation on “Praseodymium and Gadolinium Doped Ceria as Interlayer for High-Temperature Solid Oxide Cell Application.” And Gado, Hasnain Nisar, Yasmin Bimbatti, and Ben Cohen, won third place. Hawxhurst, Elena Ford, and Hasan Nikkah took honorable mentions.

“All the presenters did an excellent job at sharing their research work and engaging with their peers and other faculty, while furthering the goal of C2E2; building the next generation of energy technologies and tackling various areas of sustainability challenges,” Zhou says. “All the presenters are winners.”

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Graduate students and faculty advisors attended the first Graduate Student Research Summit in Sustainability. (Terry Barber-Tournaud/UConn photo)

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