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


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

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

graduate student summit
Graduate students Leila Chebbo and Alanna Gado organized the summit. Chebbo won first place with her presentation on “Modeling and operation of microgrids for deep space habitats under environmental perturbations.” (Photo by Terry Barber-Tournaud/UConn)

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

The event opened with an introduction and welcome from C2E2 Director Xiao-Dong Zhou, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and Nicholas E. Madonna Char Professor of Sustainability and a presentation from Theo Menounos, deputy director of the Center for Professional Development and Professional Preparation Leader for the Faculty of Engineering. Menounos offered tips and advice on public speaking and how to be confident when presenting and answering questions. “Theo’s presentation was very helpful,” says Chebbo. “The notes and advice he gave me will be in my mind every time I prepare for a presentation.”

This summit also provided students with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and hone their research presentation skills, while receiving valuable feedback from their peers and professors, and even participating in a speech. Students discussed their research and sustainability challenges with their peers, expanding their connections.

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

Ali Bazzi, Charles H. Knapp Associate Professor of 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 with other faculty members within the Center.

“This summit brought together students from various disciplines within C2E2 and from at least five engineering departments and schools. They were able to discuss research and, most importantly, they were able to socialize and connect to develop community spirit at C2E2,” she says. “Not only did it give students the ability to learn from their peers, but it also gave professors the ability to learn more from students and their work, especially when their topics were not directly related to their own research/discipline.” “.

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

Research topics ranged from cultured 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 her work and participate in a question and answer session. A rubric, contributed to by graduate student Andrés Ortiz Godoy, was used to help grade each presentation. Students rated each presentation anonymously on a Google forum.

Leila Chebbo won first place with her presentation titled “Modeling and operating microgrids for deep space habitats under environmental perturbations.” Christabel Adjah-Tetteh won second place with his presentation on “Gadolinium-praseodymium-doped Ceria as an interlayer for high-temperature solid oxide cell application.” And Gado, Hasnain Nisar, Yasmin Bimbatti and Ben Cohen took third place. Hawxhurst, Elena Ford and Hasan Nikkah received honorable mentions.

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

graduate students in a group
Graduate students and faculty advisors attended the first Sustainability Graduate Student Research Summit. (Photo by Terry Barber-Tournaud/UConn)


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