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Announcing the Inaugural Cohort of Innovation in Buildings (IBUILD) Graduate Research Fellows

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) is excited to introduce the inaugural cohort of Innovation in Buildings (IBUILD) Graduate Research Fellows.

Launched in September 2020, the IBUILD Fellowship Program works to strengthen the pool of well-trained, diverse graduate students who are equipped for research-intensive careers in fields supporting energy efficiency in buildings. IBUILD Fellows 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 labs and networking with BTO and other IBUILD Fellows.

The 2021 IBUILD Fellowship class received 85 excellent applications. From these, the IBUILD Fellowship program management team selected a cohort of nine:

  • Jaime Ayala is a first year chemistry Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University. His research focuses on using nanostructured Vanadium Oxides to “retrofit” thermochromic switching capability onto existing windows, allowing them to selectively control solar heat gains.
  • Katherine (Katy) Bradford has a master’s degree in architectural engineering from Arizona State University and will be entering a Ph.D. program in the fall. Her proposed research will develop 3D printing techniques for turning cellulose fibers into construction-ready wood products.
  • Jill Ferguson will also be starting a doctoral program in the fall. She proposes to develop utility resource planning models that use tariff-on-bill financing mechanisms—in which homeowners share the costs and benefits of energy-efficiency projects—to support widespread residential decarbonization. Jill has a bachelor’s degree in materials science engineering from the University of Virginia.
  • Jasmine Garland is a first year architectural engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado–Boulder. Her research project will look at thermal energy storage applications of materials with high moisture-buffering capacity.
  • Kathryn (Katy) Hinkelman is a fellow architectural engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado-Boulder, currently in her third year. Her research looks at integrated community-scale energy systems—systems that integrate buildings, electric vehicles, distributed generation and storage, and even shared thermal systems—and specifically at control algorithms for these systems that are inspired by natural ecosystems.
  • Jordan Kocher is a second year mechanical engineering Ph.D. student at the Georgia Institute of Technology. For his project, Jordan is looking at a novel non-vapor compression air-conditioning technology that uses thermo-responsive polymers that absorb moisture at certain temperatures and expel it at higher temperatures. This behavior can be managed in a cycle to dehumidify air.
  • Rawand Rasheed is a second year Ph.D. student at Rice University. Rawand also works on the important problem of dehumidification. His research looks at removing moisture from the air using hygroscopic (moisture absorbing) aerosol mists and then separating the water and regenerating the hygroscopic material using inertial filtering.
  • Kate Rivera is an undergraduate senior in mechanical engineering at the University of California-Davis and will be starting her doctoral studies in the fall. Her proposed research looks at integrating thermochemical energy storage (TCES)—chemical storage that is charged by and discharges heat—into multifamily residential HVAC applications.
  • James Zhang is currently completing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and will be starting his Ph.D. work in the fall. James is also focused on the critical problem of dehumidification, his particular approach looks to develop super-moisture adsorbent gels (SMAGs) using combinations of hygroscopic and thermally active polymers.

The IBUILD Fellowship team also selected five applicants who distinguished themselves during the application and interview process for honorable mention. Although they will not receive direct financial support, they will be able to take advantage of mentoring, networking, and internship opportunities.

  • Cory Dinkle is completing his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University and starting his Ph.D. work in the fall. His research looks at integrating TCES into domestic water heating systems.
  • Andrew Fix is a second year Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Purdue University. Another student working on the dehumidification problem—it’s a very important problem!—he is investigating the use of vapor-selective membranes for this application.
  • Matthew Jungclaus is a first year architectural engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado–Boulder. His research looks at developing a technical benchmarking methodology for embodied carbon use in U.S. buildings.
  • Benjamin (Ben) Marshall is currently completing his master’s degree in architectural engineering at the University of Texas–Austin and will be starting his Ph.D. work in the fall. His proposed research looks at—surprise!—dehumidification membranes that rely on geometrical and electrochemical properties to extract water rather than on temperature-controlled properties.
  • Habilou Ouro-Koura is a second year mechanical engineering Ph.D. student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research looks at using phase change materials (PCMs) in a combined thermal-electrical cycle for on-site electricity generation.

The IBUILD team and BTO would like to congratulate the incoming cohort and to thank all of the applicants for creating such a high-quality pool and so many difficult choices.

The IBUILD Fellowship program is managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office (BTO).