Author: Faculty Spotlight: A Brighter Future for Clean Energy, Dr. Jankovic’s Research Leads the Way

By Margot Wentzel and Olivia Ortegon

Professor Jasna Jankovic is one of the distinguished faculty members here at the Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2). Her experience in the industry, as well as academia, make her work unique and pivotal. Dr. Jankovic started her career in a petroleum refinery and achieved her master’s degree in Chemical Engineering with a project on heavy oil upgrading at the University of British Columbia (UBC).  When asked what inspired her change from the oil industry to clean energy, Dr. Jankovic states “the exposure to the oil industry inspired my change in interest to fuel cells and to focus on clean energy to contribute to society and give back to future generations.”

She completed her Ph.D. in fuel cell research in collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada and the University of British Columbia. Specifically, the focus was proton conductive ceramics for intermediate temperature fuel cells. After graduation, she was awarded an Industrial R&D Fellowship by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to complete her postdoctoral research in industry, at the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation, a joint venture between Ford (U.S.) and Daimler (Germany), where she was later employed as a senior research scientist. After the company closure, Dr. Jankovic decided to move to academia and joined UConn as an Assistant Professor.

Dr. Jankovic credits UConn for the cutting-edge technology and facilities that aid her research. She comments, “UConn enables the incredible research by providing testing facilities at the Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2), analytical equipment in the Institute of Material Science (IMS), and high tech equipment at the Innovation Partnership Building (IPB). The powerful collaboration with industry and government labs at UConn is an integral part of research success. “

(left to right: Prof. Jasna Jankovic, Amir Peyman Soleymani, Sara Pedram, Andres Godoy, Aubrey Tang)

Her research group focuses on fuel cells and batteries and more definitively, the development of materials and characterization using microscopy as well as bio-inspired designs. Under her supervision, graduate students Amir, Sara, Andres and Aubrey are focusing their research on highly challenging projects.  These project include in-situ, identical-location  and 3D microscopy characterization of degradation mechanisms in clean energy systems, fabrication of nature-inspired fuel cells, and use of additive manufacturing for sustainable energy applications. She goes on to say “right now, the industry is lacking advanced characterization techniques and the knowledge gained from thorough research.”  Dr. Jankovic’s niche understanding of both these issues has led to many industry collaborations and successful projects.

She aims to continue developing characterization techniques and focus on biomimicry and the role it can play for engineering. One project that will soon be visible on the UConn campus is the STEAM tree powered by solar and using clean energy production. This project is a unique collaboration between 5 different UConn departments.  Dr. Jankovic and Assistant Professor Christopher Sancomb from Dept of Art & Art History are the Principal Investigators, and Assistant Professor in Research Cynthia Jones from Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Associate Professor Sung Yeul Park from Electrical and Computer Engineering and Professor Stacy Maddern from Urban and Community Studies are the Key Collaborators. This project truly highlights how inter-disciplinary clean energy can be.

When asked what advice Dr. Jankovic would give to young students wishing to pursue engineering, she notes “if you are passionate about science and engineering, or anything else for that matter – just go for it. Nothing can stop you. Don’t be shy to ask for help and do help others along the way.” 

This drive and determination gave rise to Dr. Jankovic’s involvement with Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) and Research Experience for Teachers (RET) which provides lab experience to undergraduate students and high school teachers to burgeon interest in Clean Energy.  She is also thinking of starting a tri-mentoring program with hopes that it will bring professors and industry partners together to mentor graduate students and undergraduate students with a goal to offer guidance in clean energy technologies to students at different levels of their education and training.  She explains “this work in clean energy is very important to society and the environmental longevity everyone should be striving for.”

 Dr. Jankovic’s work truly showcases the bright future for Clean Energy and she thanks her graduate and undergraduate students and the staff at C2E2, IMS and IPB who greatly help her research efforts.

Author: UConn’s AMES Program – Education Plays a Big Role in Workforce Development

Students from UConn’s Master of Science in Advanced Manufacturing in Energy Systems (AMES) presented their research work to representatives from industry, community colleges, faculty, and students.  The symposium was a culmination of the AMES students’ hard work and research during their time in the program.  This is an annual event to commemorate each student’s accomplishments in their field of energy research. Subject matter covered fuel cell technologies, hydrogen separation, lithium-ion batteries, sulfur adsorption, spectroscopy of nuclear materials, and fabrication for electro-chemical devices.  This Master’s program, sponsored by a traineeship grant by US Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (DOE-AMO), is designed to train a new generation of advanced manufacturing engineers to fill workforce needs across industry, national laboratories, and universities.

UConn's AMES Students (back row left to right: Jeff Page, Sean Small, Ethan D'Orio, Nathan Hoffman, Elena Ford, Bailey Fryer; middle row: Jakob Field, Ben Tuffy; front row: Jack Kissane)

The event was attended by guests from industry, community colleges, faculty, and current and recent graduates of the program.  UConn welcomed guests from NEL Hydrogen, Physical Sciences, Inc, Electric Boat, FM Global, Precision Combustion, Inc., Giner, Manchester Community College, Tunxis Community College, and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, Inc.

Following the student’s presentations, a panel consisting of industry leaders, Dr. Hui Xu (Giner, Inc), Chris Capuano (Nel Hydrogen), Mehrdäd Fäézi (Manchester Community College), Mathew Spinelli (Tunxis Community College), Dan Burkey (UConn School of Engineering), and Julia Valla (UConn School of Engineering) had an in-depth discussion on what the industry expects to see from their future employees and how education plays a big role in meeting those needs.

UConn AMES is an interdisciplinary Masters program aimed to train engineers in response to long-term workforce and technology needs for advanced energy systems. Currently in its fourth year, UConn has built an AMES curriculum that is supported by courses designed to build cross-cutting skills and multiple tracks that target challenges in advanced manufacturing for energy systems. AMES focuses on industry relevant research and training; AMES fellows conduct their thesis research on industrially relevant topics under the supervision of academic and industrial advisors.

Financial support through Advanced Manufacturing for Energy Systems (AMES) fellowship at the University of Connecticut is acknowledged. AMES is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office traineeship program. This initiative aims to address workforce training needs in the early-stage technology area of advanced materials and process technologies in energy-related manufacturing.

Audience discussion on workforce needs in the field of energy


Guests: Chris Capuano, Kathy Ayers from NEL Hydrogen, and UConn's Prof. Jasna Jankovic

Author: True Potential Found at the World Fuel Cell Conference, Mariah Batool Achieves 2nd Place

By Ben Donohue & Olivia Ortegon

Sparked by her interest from working for an oil and gas refinery in Pakistan, her home country, Mariah Batool says “fuel cells have always amazed me. I believe they are the next big thing”. 

Mariah came to UConn on a Fulbright scholarship to focus on her research on advanced image processing methods for fuel cell applications which is a specialty of Dr. Jasna Jankovic, Assistant Professor in Materials Science & Engineering Dept. who conducts research at UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering. 

“I was presented with an opportunity to give a 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) at the World Fuel Cell Conference (WFCC) in Canada where I shared and explained my research in less than three minutes. The biggest challenge of a 3MT is being concise and choosing non-technical words for a non-technical audience to understand the research” said Mariah. 

The WFCC is organized by the International Association of Hydrogen Energy (IAHE) as well as the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) in Canada. The conference features academia and industry and allows for people to share or gain knowledge of the fuel cell industry.

When asked about her experience at the conference, Mariah explained “Originally, I wasn’t planning on participating in the conference since I had just had a baby, but when it was moved to a virtual format, I reconsidered.”  The process of the event consisted of making a video, presenting to a panel who down selected to the final 20 participants. Those participants then presented their research in a live session followed by a two-minute question and answer session.

Mariah explained that she wasn’t expecting second place at all. She tried her best to simplify her research by not using complex words but explained that it’s harder to express research in a simpler way for people who don’t know about the research, as it may be harder for them to find a purpose in it. Mariah was pleasantly surprised when she was awarded 2nd place.  She mentions that it would not have been possible without Professor Jankovic.  She goes on to say, “she’s an amazing mentor and professor. I’m so fortunate to have her”.

“I was a person who used to think that I am not good at expressing my thoughts and communicating”, Mariah explains. “This led me to believe I was underestimating myself and my potential”. Besides the prize, Mariah expressed that the most important part of the experience was discovering her potential. Since becoming a mother, Mariah quickly had to figure out how to return to her research. This opportunity led her to believe that nothing has changed and that she could, “go on to do wonders”.

“Be very concise and clear. Remember that not everyone knows your research and its implication on the world, so try to relate that research to what we see in the world”, Mariah advises students who are interested in participating in future events.

We congratulate Mariah on her prestigious award, on becoming a mother, and her journey onwards to do “wonders”.

Author: UConn, a ‘Powerhouse in Research,’ Participates in NSF Roundtable

Maric - Photo

The value of UConn’s research in driving economic development and transforming lives was highlighted Friday in an event led by the National Science Foundation, which supports many of the University’s most critical projects through significant grant funding.

Radenka Maric, UConn’s vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship, was an invited participant in an experts’ roundtable at Yale University to discuss ways in which NSF supports innovation in Connecticut and strategies to leverage universities’ research for economic development.

The event comes as UConn is reaching records in grant funding and making its mark in entrepreneurship and innovation, both through new discoveries among its own researchers and through its support of startups at its incubators at Storrs, Stamford, and UConn Health.

“UConn has made significant strides in becoming a powerhouse in research,” Maric said, adding that investments in its faculty and students have created what she calls an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” at Storrs, UConn Health, and the University’s regional campuses.

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Author: Dr. Ali Bazzi receives ONR DURIP Award to Build a Unique Testbed for Naval Propulsion Drives Research

By Ben Donohue & Olivia Ortegon 

Each year, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) awards funds for research in higher education through its Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP). In 2018, Dr. Ali Bazzi, from UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering department, received a DURIP award for his project, “High-voltage High-frequency Power Electronic Testbed for Naval Propulsion Drives Research.” He has since been working in his DURIP lab in UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering, where he has created his own unique testbed, a platform used for testing electric machines, insulation material, cables, control methods, and health monitoring techniques.

What makes this an exciting project is this new testbed features an inverter that has never been created before. It is able to convert 7.2 kilovolts DC to AC at any desired voltage, within a certain range. It can also handle up to 100 kilowatts of power using SiC semiconductor technology.

Part of the DURIP testbed

No one has developed an inverter with the same qualifications, and it has proved to be a monumental task. When asked about any challenges he had faced over the past three years, Dr. Bazzi mentioned that finding the right people willing to build this special equipment was the biggest difficulty. He and his team reached out to five different industry leaders with experience building medium-voltage converters, but none of them were up for the challenge due to extremely high engineering costs. However, Dr. Bazzi finally found his match: Cougar electronics, a Connecticut company that specializes in high-power electronics, was able to design and ship out the equipment using the help of its parent company in France, ARCEL. Another challenge was dealing with the pandemic. DURIP projects tend to take about one year, but due to delays in shipping and reduced lab capacities, this project has taken three years to come to fruition.

Despite the challenges, Dr. Bazzi has seen great success. He mentions that his biggest accomplishment over the past three years was bringing this setup to UConn where he can conduct research to help enhance power electronics and motor drives in a variety of applications. Furthermore, Dr. Bazzi is excited how this project can benefit the Department of Defense (DoD) and how it can be used to evaluate and improve propulsion drives, which can be then utilized in naval applications. In evaluating propulsion drives, this project can be a game changer for designing and evaluating electric motor drives as well as increasing UConn’s visibility and capability in high end power research.

Regarding the role Dr. Bazzi’s research plays in educating students about the DoD, he explained how his students in his power electronics, electric machines, and drives courses can apply this knowledge and experience to aerospace, marine, and automotive applications as examples of the importance of machine drives and power electronics. Dr. Bazzi introduces his students to the evolution of transportation systems such as Navy ships and submarines, the aviation industry slowly switching to air taxis and more-electric aircraft, and the automotive industry shifting towards electric and hybrid cars. By doing this, Dr. Bazzi teaches his students to understand the benefits, challenges, and future of power electronics and how they can apply this knowledge in their careers outside of UConn.

Arshiah Mizra, Ph.D. student working in Dr. Bazzi’s Lab, is setting up controls for the DURIP program

Author: Former Graduate Student, now Asst. Professor at Bangladesh Univ., Returns to the Center for Clean Energy Engineering at UConn

By Ben Donohue & Olivia Ortegon

Now working as an Assistant Professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Dr. Uddin is enthusiastic about working in-person with his students where he teaches mechanical engineering and thermodynamics. However, due to Bangladesh’s low vaccination rate, research and classes continue to remain online. He looks forward to interacting with his students once the vaccine becomes more readily available and it is safe to return to campus.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, classes and work at BUET were conducted online which limited research opportunities. This prompted Dr. Uddin to return to UConn, his self-deemed “second home”, where he knows the area and the people, and has many opportunities to continue his research.

When asked about how UConn prepared him for his career as a professor at BUET, Dr. Uddin highlighted the opportunities the university provides and the courses in chemical engineering, material science, along with mechanical engineering which helped broadened his knowledge in the field of engineering. UConn’s cutting-edge research opportunities were a big contributor toward preparing him as a researcher. UConn, as well as the other destinations along his journey, increased his knowledge and made him a well-rounded person for his next steps in his career.

While Dr. Uddin plans to return home to Bangladesh, he will continue to collaborate with the University of Connecticut to connect both his home in Bangladesh and his home in Storrs.




Author: UConn Marks 10th Straight Year Among Nation’s Top 25 Public Universities

UConn is marking its 10th straight year among the nation’s Top 25 public universities, safeguarding and building on its strengths over the last decade as a pacesetter in student success and academic excellence.

U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings place UConn as No. 23 among the nation’s public institutions, the same ranking it held last year and a spot that it shares this year with two peer institutions. The rankings were released Monday.

This year’s assessment shows UConn continues to retain and graduate its students at strong rates, to have a strong academic reputation in the U.S. higher education landscape, ensure that low-income students have access and tools for success, and help keep graduates’ indebtedness below state and national averages.

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Author: UConn Among Sierra Club’s Top 10 “Cool Schools”

UConn has once again been rated among the nation’s greenest schools in the Sierra Club’s annual “Cool Schools” rankings, which evaluate universities for their environmental sustainability. This year, UConn ranks #8, and maintains prominence as one of the world’s most sustainable campuses.

The Sierra Club rankings are determined using data collected by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) STARS self-reporting tool. Those results are reported in the 2020 Sustainable Campus Index. The Sierra Club then applies additional environmental criteria to arrive at its final rankings.

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Author: Assistant Research Professor, Dr. Naba Karan leads by “Curiosity Coupled with Determination”

By:  Olivia Ortegon and Ben Donohue

     Dr. Naba Karan recently joined UConn as an Assistant Research Professor at the Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2). Dr. Karan previously worked at alpha-En Corporation, a lithium metal battery start-up company in Yonkers, New York until February 2021. There, he focused on the development of process parameters optimization and scalability of lithium metal thin film (electro) deposition for the next generation of lithium batteries. Dr. Karan is excited to have joined C2E2 as it gives him an opportunity to start learning about C2E2’s research activities on fuel cells as well as to expand his research work on lithium (ion) batteries.

            When asked why he joined UConn, Dr. Karan explained, “UConn is a great school and C2E2 is a renowned place for cutting edge energy research”.  He also shared that his wife, Dr. Menka Jain, is an Associate Professor of Physics at UConn, and she assisted him with the transition into his new position. Additionally, Dr. Karan’s previous experiences make him a good fit for C2E2’s research objectives. His focus, in the long term, will be to expand on the existing electrochemical energy storage related to R&D activities at C2E2. He will spend his initial months learning as much about fuel cell-related projects aiming to maintain a collaborative experience while at C2E2.

Dr. Karan received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry at the University of Calcutta and later a PhD in Material Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science. Being able to solve problems from a multitude of different angles and avenues as well as applying different principles to them highlights what made Dr. Karan interested in the field of science and engineering. The need to come up with better designs and allocation of energy transition is what drives his research. Dr. Karan believes that this is inevitable in the future, and this field of research has the potential to address future global energy demand issues in a sustainable way.

The global energy landscape is still dominated by fossil fuels. Arguably, the only way forward, to simultaneously meet consistently increasing global energy demand and to mitigate the adverse environmental issues of burning fossil fuels, will be mass scale adoption of renewable sources. Advancement in energy storage technologies is critically important for a successful transition to a sustainable-renewable energy future. Through his research, Dr. Karan aims to contribute toward the advancements of various electrochemical energy storage technologies to address the sustainability issue for mass scale adoption of renewable sources.

Dr. Karan’s research interests lie in mechanistic understanding of various components’ structural evolution in batteries with an aim to establish a synthesis-structure-property-performance relationship that will eventually lead to the designs for better batteries. His advice to the potential pursuers of energy/clean energy engineering is to be curious. Curiosity coupled with determination puts you in a good position to succeed.

Dr. Karan shares his advice to students interested in clean energy research “Be curious about everything. People can guide you, but you must take the initiative to be curious and learn new things.  If you have the drive and determination as well as the curiosity, you are good to go.”

  Prof. Naba Karan conducting research on Lithium Ion batteries in a glovebox compartment.


Author: UConn Joins Forces with University of New Haven to Help Local Manufacturers Adopt Sustainable Practices

UConn is participating in a massive national research effort to help local manufacturers reduce their carbon footprint.

Associate professor in the School of Engineering, Liang Zhang, will lead the team, in collaboration with the University of New Haven. This work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“We are excited to bring a DOE IAC to Connecticut for the first time in the history of the IAC program,” Zhang says. “This is long overdue for Connecticut, and we believe that it will bring significant benefits to the state’s environment and economic development efforts through its service to the large number of small and medium manufacturers in the area.”

The project’s $3.4 million budget is part of the $60 million effort dispersed across 32 universities in 28 states. This is the largest-ever cohort of university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs). These centers are tasked with helping small and medium-sized manufacturers reduce their carbon emissions, lower energy costs, and train the next generation of energy-efficient workers.

The project’s $3.4 million budget is part of the $60 million effort dispersed across 32 universities in 28 states. This is the largest-ever cohort of university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs). These centers are tasked with helping small and medium-sized manufacturers reduce their carbon emissions, lower energy costs, and train the next generation of energy-efficient workers.

“This is great news for Connecticut’s environment and economy,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said following the DOE announcement. “UConn’s work as one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Centers will help local manufacturers cut emissions and energy costs while training the future generation of engineers, and I’m glad to see Connecticut as part of this major investment in clean energy.”

There are nine faculty from UConn and the University of New Haven on this project. Other UConn personnel are Amy Thompson, associate professor-in-residence of systems engineering and associate director for the UTC Institute for Advanced Systems Engineering; Ugur Pasaogullari, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Clean Energy Engineering; Baikun Li, professor of environmental engineering; and Haitham Ghalwash, assistant professor-in-residence of computer science and Engineering.

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Author: UConn Professor Earns Prestigious DoD Award

By:  Olivia Ortegon

Dr. Yupeng Chen, a professor in UConn’s Department of Biomedical Engineering as well as faculty at the Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2) in the School of Engineering, has recently earned an impressive $312,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Dr. Chen joined UConn in 2018, but before this he worked as an Assistant Professor at Brown University Medical School. He earned his Master and Ph.D. degrees in biomedical engineering and chemistry at Brown University with Professor Thomas Webster. As early as in Dr. Chen’s graduate study, he began working on the design and development of what he has coined ‘Janus’ base nanotubes (JBNTs).

JBNTs are a family of DNA-mimicking nanomaterials. While working on them, Dr. Chen serendipitously discovered that when he modified the sizes and surface charges of the Janus base nanopieces, he was able to use them as delivery vehicles to enter different tissues in the body. He thought about how he could use this discovery in the medical field, such as targeting specific joint tissues to treat joint diseases and decided he would apply for the grant in order to further explore this discovery.

Arthritis is a common disease that can be caused by physical trauma. Thus, the Department of Defense was interested in funding the project because many soldiers suffer muscular and skeletal injuries that can lead to arthritis. By creating a targeted delivery platform relying on DNA nanotechnology, Dr. Chen can use nanopieces as delivery devices to target specific cells and tissues in our joints in order to treat arthritis and relieve joint pain. The joint is a system with a complex environment where different tissues have different responses to the disease, so it is very important to target the correct tissues to both inhibit disease progression and reduce side effects.

With the money from the grant, Dr. Chen plans to develop his delivery technology and lay down a solid foundation for a clinically-approved treatment to inhibit arthritis and promote cartilage regeneration. Currently, there are some medical devices such as hyaluronan hydrogels that can be injected in the knee and relieve some of the pain from arthritis. However, there is no FDA-approved treatment that will actually modify disease progression. Dr. Chen aims to change this by developing a treatment that can inhibit the disease gene by targeting specific tissues. With the support of this grant, Dr. Chen will conduct pre-clinical studies in animal models with a destabilized meniscus, test the therapeutic potential and outcome of the technology, and evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment. At the moment, Dr. Chen is focusing on treating meniscus injuries, as these are common and can lead to osteoarthritis at a young age.

One unique challenge of Dr. Chen’s research is that he is making Janus base nanomaterials based on non-covalent bonds. His work involves engineering biomolecules into different structures, but these elegant, 3D DNA-mimicking structures are difficult to manipulate and do not link together easily. Polymer or carbon nanotubes are covalent structures and are easier to work with, but there is a big advantage to using DNA-mimicking materials: covalent structures usually present poor biodegradability and higher toxicity to cells. For example, carbon nanotubes, a Nobel Prize discovery, can be used for drug delivery, but none of their products can be approved by FDA because they are too stable and cannot be broken down by our cells and tissues. Thus, these carbon nanotube delivery vehicles could lead to long-term toxicity in the human body. JBNTs have a similar size and morphology as carbon-based nanotubes but have easily digestible bonds and biomimetic structures. Thus, they serve as a safer alternative that has excellent compatibility with our bodies.

Future applications for this kind of treatment include using it for different joint and musculoskeletal diseases, as well as using this delivery technology to target other diseases such as cancer or diseases in the central nervous system. Dr. Chen hopes that the tissue-specific treatment will help not only soldiers, but also athletes and other high-risk groups in order to prevent arthritis from developing from joint injuries.

Yupeng Chen

Author: Five Engineering Faculty Receive NSF CAREER Awards

NSF CAREER Awards support early-career faculty in establishing their research programs while also reaching out to students and community members.

Eight UConn researchers across six disciplines have received CAREER awards for 2021.  The National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (NSF CAREER) Program awards competitive grants to support the research programs of early-career faculty who demonstrate remarkable potential to become leaders in their field.

In addition to advancing research, these projects work to actively engage students and the community. This broadens the impact of the research and encourages students on all levels and community members to take an interest in STEM researcher.

2021 is the second-highest number of CAREER awards for the university, second only to when UConn faculty received nine in 2019.

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Author: C2E2 Faculty Inducted into the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE)

Two prestigious faculty members of the Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2) were inducted into the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) during the virtual 46th Annual CASE Meeting held on May 27, 2021. 

Dr. Jeffrey R. McCutcheon is a faculty member in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at UConn.  He joined the UConn School of Engineering in 2008, after receiving his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2007. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Dupont Young Professor, FRI/John G. Kunesh Award, the 3M Nontenured Faculty Award, the Global Water Summit Water Technology Idol, and was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Made Challenges Solar Desalination Prize from the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2019, as an internationally recognized expert in membrane technologies for water treatment, Dr. McCutcheon was chosen to lead UConn’s participation in the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI), a research consortium awarded a five-year, $100-million Energy-Water Desalination Hub to address water security issues in the United States. During the pandemic, McCutcheon engaged in COVID relief activities including the development of an emergency ventilator for fast deployment, the compounding and distribution of 2500 bottles of hand sanitizers to retirement communities, food pantries, soup kitchens, and first responders, and established a mask testing capability for PPE performance evaluation.

Dr. Tianfeng Lu is a professor in Mechanical Engineering and member of C2E2.  Dr. Lu joined UConn as an Assistant Professor in 2008 after receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton University in Mechanical and Aerospace engineering.  His research focus is on computational combustion with special interests in reduced chemical kinetics, stiff chemical solvers, and computational diagnostics of laminar and turbulent flames. Dr. Lu was most recently recognized as one of the 2021 Class of Fellows for The Combustion Institute for his work on “The development of computationally efficient and accurate methods for the systematic, efficient and massive reduction of large reaction mechanisms.”

Maric - Photo

Dr. Radenka Maric, also of UConn, delivered the keynote address at the 46th Annual CASE Meeting.  Dr. Maric, a CASE member, is an entrepreneur and leading scientist at the University of Connecticut with experience in academia, industry, national labs, and federal agencies in the US, Japan, and Canada. Dr. Maric serves as the Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship across all UConn campuses, including UConn Health. She is responsible for overseeing the University’s $280+ million annual research enterprise and its Technology Incubation Program. She presented on the “Connection between Nature and Scientific Discoveries”.

Election to CASE is on the basis of scientific and engineering distinction achieved through significant contributions in theory or applications, as demonstrated by original published books and papers, patents, the pioneering of new and developing fields and innovative products, outstanding leadership of nationally recognized technical teams, and external professional awards in recognition of scientific and engineering excellence. CASE was chartered by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1976 to provide expert guidance on science and technology to the people and to the state of Connecticut, and to promote the application of science and technology to human welfare and economic well-being. For more information about the Academy, please visit

Author: Novel Techniques in 3D Printing at UConn’s Tech Park

UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering’s faculty, Drs. SeungYeon Kang and Anson Ma, along with their colleagues, recently authored an article titled “Additive Manufacturing of Embedded Carbon Nanocomposite Structures with Multi-Material Digital Light Processing (MMDLP)".  The article will be published in an upcoming issue in the Journal of Materials Research.

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CNT-filled Heterogeneous 4-layer Structure/ CNT-filled embedded rod in a simple cubic lattice

Author: Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon Advances to 3rd Competition Phase in the National Solar Desalination Contest

As reported by the Department of Energy in April 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $5 million in new funding for the second round of the American-Made Challenge: Solar Desalination Prize, a competition designed to accelerate the development of systems that use solar-thermal energy to purify water with very high salt content. Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon was one of eight semifinalists that will advance to the third competition phase.

Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon advanced to the third competition phate

Dr. McCutcheon’s team will integrate a newly developed ceramic membrane technology with a solar collector system to treat high-salinity or chemically complex brines. The ceramic membranes provide thermal and chemical stability that enable them to process challenging saline waters, operate at higher temperatures than existing polymeric membranes, and be more aggressively cleaned when fouled by scaling salts and organics. The team will be developing their pilot for deployment at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Water Treatment Plant in El Paso, Texas.

The teams selected to advance to the third phase will receive $250,000 in cash and a $100,000 voucher that can be redeemed at a National Laboratory and/or qualified partner facilities to design their systems.

We support and look forward to the next phase of this competition and wish Jeff and his team much success.  Should Jeff and his team advance to the fourth and final phase of the competition, he will be awarded a cash prize of $750,000 and another $100,000 voucher. The final phase teams will then build their systems, demonstrate their operation, and validate key performance metrics. At the end of the competition, DOE will determine the winner, who will receive a $1 million cash prize.

As reported by the Department of Energy in April 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $5 million in new funding for the second round of the American-Made Challenge: Solar Desalination Prize, a competition designed to accelerate the development of systems that use solar-thermal energy to purify water with very high salt content. Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon was one of eight semifinalists that will advance to the third competition phase.

Dr. McCutcheon’s team will integrate a newly developed ceramic membrane technology with a solar collector system to treat high-salinity or chemically complex brines. The ceramic membranes provide thermal and chemical stability that enable them to process challenging saline waters, operate at higher temperatures than existing polymeric membranes, and be more aggressively cleaned when fouled by scaling salts and organics. The team will be developing their pilot for deployment at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Water Treatment Plant in El Paso, Texas.

The teams selected to advance to the third phase will receive $250,000 in cash and a $100,000 voucher that can be redeemed at a National Laboratory and/or qualified partner facilities to design their systems.

We support and look forward to the next phase of this competition and wish Jeff and his team much success.  Should Jeff and his team advance to the fourth and final phase of the competition, he will be awarded a cash prize of $750,000 and another $100,000 voucher. The final phase teams will then build their systems, demonstrate their operation, and validate key performance metrics. At the end of the competition, DOE will determine the winner, who will receive a $1 million cash prize.

Author: C2E2 Hosts Seminar on “Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC)”

In April 2021, UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering hosted Dr. Reza Javaherdashti who presented an enriching seminar titled, “Management of Corrosion and Microbial Adhesion on Solar Panels” for UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering. Dr. Javaherdashti has more than 20 years of industrial and academic experience, and he has spent more than 5,000 hours teaching others about corrosion management and microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC).

Dr. Javaherdashti’s seminar served as a training course to introduce the audience about corrosion and microbial adhesion on solar panels. He explained how corrosion and microbial adhesion build up over time, and how this negatively effects the efficiency of solar panels. Bacterial settlements is a serious issue and can cause up to an 11% decrease in efficiency in just 18 months. Furthermore, the annual costs of corrosion impacts all industries more than the annual costs of natural disasters, and estimated cost of losses due to soiling is $4 billion by 2022.

Thankfully, researchers such as Dr. Javaherdashti have been working to find solutions, such as anti-soiling coatings for the solar panels. There are several different kinds of coatings, and they can increase energy efficiency and help mitigate the effects of corrosion and microbial adhesion.

Author: PEARL Laboratory at the University of Connecticut

Dr. Ali Bazzi’s Power Electronics & Drives Advanced Research Laboratory (PEARL) is part of the Center for Clean Energy Engineering and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Connecticut.

The main research focus is on power electronics applications in electric motor drives, renewable energy systems, micro-grids, and the smart grid. Electric drives investigated cover a wide range of applications including plug-in, hybrid, and electric vehicles, and electric propulsion. Renewable energy integration is mainly focused on solar photovoltaics but covers several other areas. Efficiency, control, optimization, reliability, and real-time operation of most power electronic systems are of main interest. The lab has a very dynamic environment with several active research projects. New equipment is already up and running for various experiments.

Author: UConn STEAM Tree Project Featured at NSF’s Conference

UConn’s STEAM team’s project was featured as part of the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator Conference.  During her “Lightning Talk,” Dr. Jasna Jankovic, one of the members of the team, discusses the project and showcases the STEAM team in action.

For more information about the conference, visit


Author: Advanced Manufacturing in Energy Systems (AMES) Symposium – Inciting Change Through Research


In January of this year, students from the Advanced Manufacturing in Energy Systems Masters program (AMES) presented their research work to representatives from the Department of Energy’s Advance Manufacturing Office (DOE-AMO) as well as industrial partners who attended the AMES Symposium.  The symposium was a culmination of the AMES students’ hard work and research during their time in the program.  This was a special event to commemorate each student’s accomplishments in their field of energy research. Subject matter largely surrounded fuel cell technologies with sub-topics such as biomimicry and catalytic layering.  This program sponsored by a grant received from the DOE-AMO is designed to train a new generation of advanced manufacturing engineers to fill workforce needs across industry, national laboratories, and universities.

The guests from the Department of Energy were impressed by the student’s presentations with one DOE guest stating the symposium was “wonderful” and they “appreciate the opportunity to hear from the students and their amazing work”.  Another guest stated as being “thoroughly impressed and enjoyed seeing what the students are doing”.

The event was a true testament to the cutting-edge research that is being conducted at UConn’s Center for Clean Energy in the AMES Masters program. It was a rewarding experience for DOE and our industry partners to see how students’ research work is advancing new technologies and developing new ideas that impact the energy and manufacturing sectors.

Author: STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Margot Wentzel – Life after UConn

Margot Wentzel worked as an Administrative Specialist at UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2) up until graduation in May.  Margot has a very interesting background and found C2E2 through research with Professor Jasna Jankovic. She helped with the grant accounts and marketing but previously was an undergraduate researcher with a deep interest in biomimetic modelling in fuel cells.

Margot spent much of her childhood moving between South Africa and the United States until she and her family settled in Cape Town, South Africa when she was 11 years old. Margot then lived in Cape Town until she was 18 years old, at which point her family moved to the U.S. again and settled in Connecticut. Margot always knew that she wanted a tertiary education in the US where the learning opportunities are so vast and applied to UConn. Moving around so much made her want to be a part of a community and UConn provided just that.

Even though Margot speaks fondly of Cape Town and everything it means to her she also highlights how limited her education opportunities were. She attributes her major change to “not really knowing what was out there.” She enrolled as a Biomedical Engineering major but later realized that even though she loved research, she wanted to do equity research in the Finance industry.

Margot has always had a passion for the preservation of the environment and the different ways that could be achieved. Clean energy is something that Margot really emphasizes and believes that the clean energy revolution is what will save the environment. After being mentored by Professor Jankovic and learning so much about what clean energy technology is, Margot made her way to Wall Street for an Asset Management internship where she learned how powerful clean energy is on a corporate level. This truly served as a unifying turning point for Margot where all her interests truly meshed and she felt that she was where she was meant to be. Margot believes that through investment and Environmental, Social, and Governance, clean energy will become unstoppable and Wall Street thinks so too.

Margot’s technical background coupled with her investment knowledge helped her land her job at the investment company 337 Frontier Capital, where she will build financial models and valuations in order to pitch stocks based on growth over the next 10 years.

Margot has also recently adopted two puppies, pictured below. They have helped brighten her days during the busy school year. C2E2 wishes Margot good luck with all of her future endeavors!

Author: 9th World Hydrogen Technologies Convention and f-cell+HFC Event “Digital Edition” – June 20-24, 2021


Dear colleagues,

On behalf of the WHTC | f-cell+HFC organizing committee, I would like to personally invite you to join us at the 9th World Hydrogen Technologies Convention and f-cell+HFC Event “Digital Edition” from June 20-24, 2021. WHTC and f-cell+HFC feature innovative technologies and international markets – through three days of plenaries, keynotes, sessions, workshops, e-poster sessions and an international networking hub.

Please take a moment to review the attached documents: the Event Backgrounder and the Participation Opportunities.

The event website can be found here:

The program is online and Speakers can be seen on the website as well. You can subscribe to the Newsletters to receive weekly updates.

We hope that you will join us for this exciting event,

Jasna Jankovic|
On behalf of the WHTC Organizing Committee
Assistant Professor
Materials Science and Engineering Department

Follow the event on Social Media: Linkedin | Twitter @Hyfcell_Canada
and be part of the conversation with #WHTC2021.

Author: Five UConn Faculty Honored as Board of Trustees Distinguished Professors

The University of Connecticut has selected five of its most renowned scholars to honor with its most prestigious faculty title, the Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor.

Each year, the Office of the Provost seeks nominations from across UConn for the newest cohort of Board of Trustees Distinguished Professors. Candidates must excel in all three areas of research, teaching, and public engagement. A committee of faculty is charged by the Provost’s Office to review and select each year’s honorees from among a competitive pool of nominees.

Honorees retain the title of Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor throughout their career at UConn and also receive a $2,500 one-year stipend to be used by each recipient to further their professional activities. The number of available professorships each year is determined by the University by-laws. The Board of Trustees approved the latest cohort of honorees at its April 28 meeting.

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Author: UConn, School of Engineering Senior Design Demonstration Day – 2021


Great efforts by UConn’s School of Engineering – Class of 2021 on their capstone design projects.  Each year, more than 200 leading manufacturing companies, pharmaceutical and medical firms, consulting practices, utilities as well as local, state and federal government agencies partner with the UConn School of Engineering through Senior Design Projects.

These projects represent an entire year of intense academic and professional work and we are proud of the accomplishments they have made over the course of their programs.  Explore the amazing projects our seniors have worked on this year by visiting School of Engineering, Senior Design Demonstration Day – 2021Congratulations to all the teams!


Author: Assistant Professor SeungYeon Kang Joins UConn and C2E2

Dr. SeungYeon (Sally) Kang recently joined UConn as a tenure-track professor in Mechanical Engineering, as well as a faculty member at UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering. Dr. Kang is an accomplished scholar and valuable member of C2E2’s team. She grew up in Seoul, South Korea and moved to the United States to attend Cornell University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 2008. She moved on to graduate with her PhD in Applied Physics at Harvard University in 2014. She worked at Samsung in South Korea for 3 years but decided to return to academia and continue her postdoctoral research at Princeton University in 2017, after which she joined the University of Connecticut.

As a child, Dr. Kang was very curious and always asking questions to understand how things worked. She attended Gyeonggi Science High School in Korea, where she further curated her interest and went on to pursue an academic career in science and engineering.

Out of all of her options, Dr. Kang joined UConn as an Assistant Professor because Storrs provides a great balance between rural and city life, and she is used to the environment of New England from her time at Harvard University. Dr. Kang was also impressed by the UConn faculty being friendly and open, making her transition as a faculty member of the Center for Clean Energy Engineering and the Mechanical Engineering department easier.

When asked about her interest in clean energy research, Dr. Kang shared that clean energy is important, especially with issues such as global warming becoming more serious every day. “It is important to make more efficient use of energy, which eventually leads to reducing carbon emissions,” she says. “There is so much energy being wasted due to inefficient engineering processes and there also exists so much ambient energy around us that we are not making good use of, so research on various methods for energy efficient processes and energy harvesting becomes very interesting.”

Dr. Kang’s research is on two main topics: advanced laser materials processing and energy harvesting. For advanced laser materials processing, she is especially interested in utilizing ultrafast lasers to increase efficiency in laser micromachining processes and fabricating new types of 3D structures. “While regular lasers you may be familiar with are low in energy density and are continuous, these ultrafast lasers come out in very short pulses and have very high energy densities.” explains Dr. Kang. “Since the time duration of these pulses are so short, you can get very high energy density that’s even higher than the sun’s surface to cut metals, tissues, or other materials in a more effective manner without damaging the surrounding areas.”

The method of creating 3D structures through ultrafast laser nanofabrication is also different from anything done before because the resolution is so small. The scale of components that go into sensors or microchips must be minute, so nanofabrication is a good method to use. One particular application of this process is photonic devices including optical metamaterials which align well with the research Dr. Kang is looking to work on. With such a laser, very small structures can be designed in specific patterns to obtain engineered structures with new light propagating properties. This engineered path for light can help gather solar energy more effectively and enable unique light propagation that may even be recognized as invisible to the human eye.

Dr. Kang is also exploring a new phenomenon known as piezoelectrochemistry for energy harvesting, which when simply put, involves applying mechanical energy and getting an electrochemical response such as voltage out of it. Lithium-ion battery materials are known to undergo significant mechanical deformation during charging and discharging and therefore are good candidates for studying this effect. Her previous research in lithium-ion batteries at Samsung helped her to explore the effect further. “Understanding the coupling relationship between mechanical and electrochemical energy allows us to harvest otherwise wasted forms of mechanical energy via piezoelectrochemical materials,” says Dr. Kang. She feels that while these materials can be applied to microsensors as a source of small scale clean energy in a practical sense, in the future there could be ways to have these materials embedded in wearable devices and even possibly heavy machineries with repeating motions to harvest mechanical energy and store it more efficiently.

This year, she is looking forward to setting up her lab, which will be challenging with COVID-19 and equipment being delayed. She is looking forward to establishing a good research program for students to join and be able to collaborate with their peers. For Dr. Kang, the best part of performing research is that she can work with students, see them develop new ideas, and mentor them as they work on their research.

When asked what advice she would give to those interested in clean energy research, Dr. Kang recommended that “since there are so many new clean-energy related researches going on, following up with news on various technologies and understanding the clean energy industry is important to set up research goals.” She went on to emphasize the importance of keeping up to date with research articles, media and other interesting news updates in the industry to maintain fresh research content.

Author: UConn’s STEAM Team: Solar Trees and the Power of Community

By: Olivia Ortegon and Margot Wentzel

When one imagines solar power, the image that typically comes to mind is one of industrial, black or blue panels arranged in a formulaic, geometric pattern. Words that do not normally come to mind are those such as organic, natural, or even beautiful. But there is one team at UConn looking to change that.

Meet the “STEAM Team,” a team of individuals from departments of engineering, industrial design, biology and sociology.  Their goal is to build a solar powered tree that is both functional and engaging. Dr. Jasna Jankovic, who works in the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering as well as at the Center for Clean Energy Engineering, conceived the idea of putting a solar tree in the middle of campus, but it was put off as a passion project for some time—that is, until the opportunity arose for funding and a chance to pursue her idea. Dr. Jankovic met with Dr. Leslie Shor, the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, who suggested that she should apply for a UConn STEAM grant to fund her project (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Dr. Jankovic then partnered with Professor Chris Sancomb from Department of Art and Art History and recruited several other faculty at UConn including Dr. Cynthia Jones, Dr. Sung Yeul Park, and Dr. Stacy Maddern to write the project proposal and assemble the rest of their team.

Members of the STEAM team gather during a meeting in fall 2020.


The project officially started in May 2020, and began with more questions than answers. The team had to find ways to bring together all of their disciplines and visions to create a tangible structure. They began by asking, “How can art inform science, and vice versa?” The STEAM Team involves graduate, undergraduate and high school students of very diverse backgrounds.

“We all agree that we want to make the world a better place and that we can use technology to do it,” says Michelle Skowronek, one of the Urban and Community Studies members of the team. “We agree on the foundational aspect of the project—we want to make a nice place for people to enjoy their lives at.”

Elliot Romo Kurek, an undergraduate student working on the design side of the project, shared his thoughts on the team’s goal. “We hope to accomplish integration of sustainable energy into something beautiful, not brutish or ugly but rather making it a nice thing to be around. A lot of solar [energy] is not about that.”

The tree will be created with environmentally sensitive materials and have a unique organic design while still maintaining functionality and efficiency. It will have solar panels on its leaves that will directly power a battery within the tree. There will be power outlets for students to charge their phones and laptops, and there will also be lights underneath the tree’s leaves. The tree is intended to be over 12 feet tall, and will provide a convenient meeting place for students to sit outside and recharge. Ideally, there will be modular seating around the tree to create an atmosphere of relaxation mixed with learning. The team hopes to have a small solar-powered kiosk with an interactive technological tool to learn about the tree. The tree will be portable so that it can be moved to different areas on campus, effectively creating a dynamic environment and giving UConn students and faculty something exciting to look forward to as they look for where the tree moves next.

The main goal of this project is to raise awareness for clean energy sources and to teach others more about solar energy, as well as encourage a dialogue about our interactions with nature. The project epitomizes interdisciplinary learning among students and faculty alike. Professors and students from various disciplines can also use the tree for research and would be able to collaborate and perform their research together.

Dr. Cynthia Jones, advising the biology behind the tree, shared her perspective. “We want to add research potential to the project, including modules with different capacities for biological mimicry that can address questions about how sizes and shapes of leaves influence their function. We want there to be an educational aspect to the tree so that it is not just a static object in space, and we want to provide interpretation of the data output.”

Members of the team meet virtually once a week to discuss their ideas and share progress reports.

Members of the team meet virtually once a week to discuss their ideas and share progress reports.


Some challenges the team faced during their project included the obvious challenge of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, Dr. Jankovic and Professor Sancomb had envisioned everyone working closely together on an in-person collaboration. A pivot to virtual meetings made producing progress reports and actually building the tree challenging. The team meets once a week on line to discuss their progress and ideas, and they are still able to work together and contribute all of their ideas equally.

A digital model of what the tree could look like once it is on campus.

The essence of STEAM Tree is to bring people together across diverse disciplines and backgrounds, including students, professionals, general public and families, to learn and experience science and art in a holistic and natural way. This tree is the perfect tool to do so. Not only is it created through collaboration, but it can also continue to foster learning across many subjects at UConn, such as art & design, biology, engineering, and social sciences. The team hopes that the project will expand beyond just a few prototype trees to become a group of even larger trees—their end goal is to create an oasis on campus where people can get together and have lectures or hang out with friends. “We want to use this as a tool to find new approaches in education,” says Dr. Jankovic. “It’s important to have a space where people can get together and be immersed in learning, science, discussion, and diversity. We can all be present and in the moment together.” “Another goal is to develop a deeper understanding of interdisciplinary collaboration, and think of new way of facilitating that work in future endeavors, and teaching others how to do that in the future as well,” says CoPI Professor Christopher Sancomb, who works on the design and fabrication of the project. To this point, the project is also unique due to its application of sociological and collaborative artistic design ideas in the process of teaching others about scientific and technological aspects of solar power

There has already been a great deal of learning achieved among the members of the STEAM team, from the high school level to the faculty and professors. Kai Vestergaard, a senior in high school working on the design team states, “It’s a new experience. I haven’t been on this type of team before where there’s professionals from all different types of departments and we work on making prototypes, doing research, and the actual fabrication [of the project].” 

Dar Jankovic, another high school student on the team, shares, “Being on the team opens up a lot of opportunities. You get to learn a lot of new experiences including what to study in college if you decide to go. Participating in this project provides a lot for you.” 

Dr. Stacy Maddern, professor of Urban and Community Studies, shared his thoughts about the future impact of the project. “It’s a great service learning model. I think that when you have a way in which people can learn from each other, learning through doing is the future of education. When you can create a model with a focus on STEM but then include humanities in it as well, this is an excellent model for how service learning can go on. It tears down the walls of the classroom. Everybody’s glass is half full here, and it demonstrates what possibilities can come from communities.”

See below for bios of the STEAM Team.

Dr. Jasna Jankovic is an Assistant Professor at the Materials Science and Engineering Department, and is part of C2E2 faculty focusing on clean energy solutions. She initiated the idea of the STEAM Tree to attract faculty and students of interdisciplinary backgrounds to clean energy and sustainable solutions.

Professor Chris Sancomb is an Assistant Professor in the new Industrial Design program in the School of Fine Arts with a research focus of designing socially interactive exhibits and environments. He joined the STEAM Tree project as Co-PI to explore ways design could facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, and to develop an artistic clean energy installation that is accessible to the public.

Dr. Cynthia Jones is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology who studies leaf shapes and plant architectures from an evolutionary and functional perspective. 

Dr. Sung Yeul Park is an Associate Professor at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and is part of C2E2 faculty focusing on renewable energy integrations. He joined the STEAM Tree as senior personnel, and his role is to consult electrical design and interface solutions.

Dr. Stacy W. M​​​addern began teaching at UConn as an adjunct professor in 2014 and has recently joined the full-time faculty in Urban and Community Studies. He has previously taught at New York University, the University of Hartford, and Central Connecticut State University. His scholarly interests include community theory, social capital, citizen engagement, organizational theory, urban social movements, and the history of education Dr. Maddern will focus on studying the social interactions around the STEAM Tree. 

Members of the STEAM team social distance on campus to draft their first design ideas for the project.

Andela Stefanovic is a junior majoring in Computer Science and Engineering with minors in Astrophysics and Human Rights. She works under Materials Science and Engineering Department on this project, on modelling solar cells, while also being part of the design work group and social media team.

Clayton Ehasz is an alumnus of the University of Connecticut, and graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering in December 2020. He participated in the design of the STEAM Tree, focusing primarily on the electrical systems.


Dar Jankovic is a student at Edwin O. Smith Highschool. He works with the Design Team in the STEAM Tree project and helps with contributing ideas to the group.

Elliot Romo Kurek is a fourth-year BFA Student with a focus in Sculpture and Ceramics. His background lies in fabrication and small batch production in materials including Wood, Ceramics, and Metal. 

Kai Vestergaard is a senior high school student at Glastonbury High School. He is part of the design team and is interested in finding ways to make solar energy more appealing.

Kevin Knowles is a junior in electrical engineering with interests in PCB design, RF, and the internet of things. When he’s not working on electronics for school, he enjoys amateur radio, camping, astronomy, and photography.

Michelle Skowronek is an Urban & Community Studies Major who is currently in the fast track program for a Master in Public Administration with a focus on Urban Planning. Michelle examines the design process of the STEAM tree so that It fosters inclusivity, equality and sustainability within the community. Michelle uses biomimetic, circular city and new urbanist principles as a basis for her approach.

Naime Gilani is a second-year undergraduate student studying Biological Sciences. Her goal is to one day work as a Public Health professional. In working on the STEAM Tree, she hopes to establish a more forward-thinking and environmentally conscious culture at UConn that emphasizes the importance of the environment on our health.

Noorpreet Kaur is a PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department and a member of the Arboretum Committee at UConn. She enjoys walking in nature and is interested in developing clean energy resources to mitigate the climate change.

Pablo Zarama is a Materials Science and Engineering Major from the class of 2023, and is passionate about all things STEM related. Pablo is working under Dr. Jankovic in the STEAM Tree project.

Raisa Vazquez is a junior in the school of Fine Arts’ individualized major program with a focus on industrial design. She is one of the students on the design team for the STEAM Tree. 

Vuk Jankovic is a student at the University of Connecticut in his freshman year. He is working towards his undergraduate degree in Psychological Sciences. He joined the STEAM tree group because he became interested in clean energy and it is a great educational experience.

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