The US Department of Energy (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) has selected the inaugural cohort of Innovation in Buildings (IBUILD) Graduate Research Fellows.
The goal of the IBUILD Fellowship Program is to strengthen the pool of well-trained, diverse graduate student scholars who are equipped for research-intensive careers in fields supporting the larger mission of building energy efficiency. IBUILD Fellows will receive financial support to conduct innovative research at their home institution in an area with demonstrated relevance to building energy efficiency. The fellowship also provides opportunities for professional development outside the home institution, including mentoring and internships at national laboratories and networking with BTO and other IBUILD Fellows.
Meet the 2022 Cohort
Katherine Bassett is a second-year graduate student at Northeastern University. She is pursuing a master’s degree in sustainable building systems and a PhD in interdisciplinary engineering. Her research, which will focus on using occupant comfort information to inform the magnitude and timing of thermostat-enabled demand response events, aims to maximize the flexibility and reliability of residential demand-side management. Katherine is interested in understanding how the interactions between people and our energy systems can be leveraged to support the growth of renewable energy generation and the increasing rate of electrification.
Sebastian Fernandez is a third-year electrical engineering PhD student at Stanford University. Sebastian’s research aims to pioneer the inclusion of electrically insulating thermal conductors in Perovskite LED (PeLED) device architectures to improve thermal management within PeLEDs and thus enable reliable, long-lasting PeLED-based solid-state lighting. In addition to being an IBUILD fellow, he is the recipient of a P. Michael Farmwald Stanford Graduate Fellowship in Science and Engineering and a GEM PhD Engineering and Science Fellowship. Sebastian serves as the executive director of the Stanford Engineering Research Introductions Program, which supports underrepresented college students preparing to apply to engineering graduate school.
Andrew Fix is a fourth-year PhD candidate studying mechanical engineering at Purdue University. His research aims to significantly improve building air conditioning systems’ energy consumption by using water vapor–selective membranes for high-efficiency air dehumidification. Andrew’s work focuses specifically on novel thermodynamic system design and optimization, including both modeling and experimental efforts.
Gabriel Flechas is a fourth-year mechanical engineering PhD student at Colorado School of Mines. Gabriel’s research will characterize the thermal load shifting ability of cross-laminated timber (CLT) buildings for both improved grid interaction and occupant comfort. He will use building energy models based on real CLT buildings to examine operational strategies that leverage the building type’s high thermal mass and absorbent envelope.
Madison Likins-White holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University and is a licensed Professional Engineer. Her research project focuses on the connection between window durability and thermal performance, with the goal of understanding and incorporating the relationship between the two into energy simulation software to improve whole building life cycle estimations.
Claire McKenna is a second-year PhD student at the University of Michigan studying the transition to carbon-free residential heating. She has worked as a sustainable building design engineer, where her expertise in building energy systems, including heating and cooling and distributed energy resources, contributed to major new construction projects across the United States. Claire’s research focuses on developing physics-based models from data on household behavior and physical housing characteristics to estimate energy use and heating bills realized from conversion to all-electric heating from natural gas heating. She compares these results with data on income and housing values to assess the environmental justice implications of these costs. Claire’s approach will allow weatherization programs to more precisely target improvements that produce energy savings and inform policies for an equitable transition to clean heating for below-median income households.
Isabel Melendez is completing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University before beginning doctoral studies in spring 2023. Her research focuses on developing capabilities to additively manufacture latent heat thermal energy storage systems using a composite filament that contains a polymer and a phase-change material (PCM). Isabel will explore a click chemistry–based approach to fortify the bonds between the polymer and PCM, thereby significantly reducing PCM leakage during thermal cycling.
Matthew “R.T.” Williams a second-year PhD candidate in chemical engineering at the University of Utah. His research involves optimizing two counteracting challenges—sustainability and housing affordability—simultaneously. R.T.’s research directly impacts building development methods and technology through his work with the Giv Group, a Utah organization that fosters vibrant, sustainable, and balanced communities throughout the U.S. Intermountain West. He was named Grand Challenge Scholar by the National Academy of Engineering and won a Building Bonus Prize at the EnergyTech University Prize National Pitch Finals.
The IBUILD Fellowship team also selected four applicants for honorable mention who distinguished themselves during the application and interview process. Although they will not receive direct financial support, they will be able to take advantage of mentoring, networking, and internship opportunities.
Devan is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Civil Engineering department at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. For his research, Devan is leveraging multiple sources of data within the state of California and nationwide to develop a holistic Energy Poverty Index that can be used to evaluate and guide policy.
Ossie is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Mechanical Engineering department at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. His research focuses on tunable solid-state PCMs that can be integrated into building envelopes to provide thermal storage.
Rebecca is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Chemical and Material Science Engineering department at the University of Texas-Austin. Her research looks at nanocrystal synthesis for fabricating electrochromic window films.
Casey is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Mechanical Engineering department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. Casey’s research looks at using additive manufacturing to create TES modules with high charge/discharge rates.
The IBUILD team and BTO would like to congratulate the incoming cohort and to thank all the applicants in this high-quality pool.