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Undergraduate Student Spotlights

Constant Learning: Continuing Results

Many people have to wait years to realize their dreams. A few, a fortunate few, are able to explore their dreams earlier in life. Kyle Cowdrick is one of those lucky souls. A senior studying chemical and biomolecular engineering, Cowdrick has successfully blended his love of science and technology with his dedication to theology and ministry. Most recently, he worked as a research intern at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) studying translational regenerative medicine, in essence “fighting to build a world with more birthdays.”

As a WFIRM  biomedical engineering intern under the guidance of Dr. Frank C. Marini, Cowdrick worked as a team leader developing advanced multiphoton microscopy and image processing methodologies to be used for evaluating the regeneration of normal and tissue-engineered organs. His team imaged organs on the cellular level, using biological fluorescence microscopy, to gain new insights into the mechanisms governing how stem cells reconstruct human tissue. Their work will help provide fundamental knowledge to accelerate stem cell therapies from the bench to the bedside.

He has also been working with Dr. Siyuan Zhang, the Nancy Dee Professor of Cancer Research at the Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI) at Notre Dame. In fact, he is in his third year as an HCRI team member, where he has been focusing on exploring the impact that the tumor microenvironment has on early-stage metastatic breast cancer evolution in the brain. Often, by the time a primary tumor has been detected, cancerous cells have already disseminated from the primary site throughout the body.  When a cancer stem cell migrates from primary tissue and integrates itself inside distant organs such as the brain, there is generally a period of dormancy spanning anywhere from one to ten years before an overt metastasis is detected. This is long after initial treatment should occur. The goal of his work at HCRI is to understand the mechanisms governing early metastatic movement and identify potential therapeutic targets in order to exploit this window of dormancy, ultimately preventing the development of the cancer.

As excited as he is about the research, and living his dream, Cowdrick emphasizes that his journey has not been a solitary one. “I would not have been able to take advantage of these opportunities without the support from my faculty mentor or the other tools here at Notre Dame. Research is about learning, constantly learning. Coursework is part of that, but so are library resources, the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, and funded research opportunities,” he says. Cowdrick also stresses that, as with many research avenues today, an interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and physicians will be needed to ultimately design a clinically translatable solution that meets the complex physiological needs of today’s breast cancer patients in a real and life-changing way. To that end, when he graduates from Notre Dame, he will be pursuing a doctorate in biomedical engineering, blending his foundation in chemical engineering principles with cutting-edge medical research and a passion to serve the common good. “It is,” according to Cowdrick, “a dream worth fighting for.”

3+2 Program Yields Results

George Georgaklis ('14) and Hannah Fitch ('15) outside of Notre Dame's Cushing Hall of Engineering
As Brandon Dunham ’13 listened to the University of Notre Dame dean talk about transferring to the university, one comment stood out.

“She said it’s normal for your GPA to drop when you transfer there,” he says. But rather than unnerving him, it inspired him. “I took it as a challenge.” And he ultimately ended his Notre Dame career with a higher GPA than at Stonehill.

The Stonehill chemistry major was one of five students in the Class of 2013 preparing to attend the university through the Notre Dame Dual-Degree Engineering program. Many students have followed the same path and currently 46 freshmen, sophomores and juniors have declared engineering as their major. The five-year program lets students earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, computer science, environmental science or physics from Stonehill, and then earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Notre Dame. The students spend their first three years at Stonehill then transfer to Notre Dame for their final two years. They even get to return to Stonehill after their first year at Notre Dame to walk across the graduation stage with their Stonehill class.

Five Years, Two Degrees
The program was originally launched in the mid 1970s and now boasts well over 100 active participants and alumni. After a brief hiatus in the mid 1990s, the program was relaunched for computer engineers, and recently expanded for students to study aerospace, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental or mechanical engineering. It is now more popular than ever. For the incoming class of 2018 there were 272 applications, making it the fourth most popular major behind Business, Biology and Education, and last fall Stonehill welcomed a class of 30 engineers. Brandon’s class – the first since the program was again expanded to have access to a broadened range of concentrations – graduated from Notre Dame in May.

The 3+2 program has always been demanding. To remain eligible to apply to Notre Dame junior year, Stonehill students must maintain a GPA of 3.3, earn 60-plus transferrable credit hours, and receive a recommendation from the relevant program director.

Cathy Pieronek, associate dean for Academic Affairs at Notre Dame’s College of Engineering, says she makes her GPA comment only to prepare students for the changes that can accompany their transfer. “Sometimes there are bumps in the road, but every Stonehill student who has come to Notre Dame has graduated,” she says. “For some, this is an excellent way to transfer to a larger institution – at Stonehill they develop the confidence and skills to succeed here.”

Hannah Fitch ’15, currently in her first year at Notre Dame, agrees. “It would have been more difficult going straight to Notre Dame, with large numbers of students, right off the bat,” she says.

Complementary Curricula
Among students seeking a well-rounded science education, the 3+2 program has much to offer.

“It’s the best of both worlds: a first class New England college and a top research university,” says Stonehill Professor and 3+2 Program Director Ralph Bravaco, chair of the computer science and math departments. “With this combination, students are in a position to compete for positions at top companies in many industries.”

Students say they find Stonehill’s liberal arts focus a good balance to Notre Dame’s more technical emphasis. “It’s a great outlet to have religion, philosophy and literature classes,” says Brandon, now pursuing a PhD at UMass Amherst. “They teach you critical thinking and how to present information.”

For Eliseo Miranda ’13, the program allowed him to pursue two passions: physics and engineering. “I got to take deep intellectual science courses, then go on to do practical engineering,” he says. Eliseo is now working in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ engineering leadership development program; the company is also paying for him to earn a master’s at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Though students in the program uniformly mention Notre Dame’s academic rigor, they find that Stonehill offers solid preparation for the world-renowned university’s competitive environment.

“I was worried about keeping up, but Stonehill prepared me well,” adds George Georgaklis ’14, who is studying computer engineering. He and fellow Stonehill student, Nikita Amelchenko ’14, recently won a mobile app-creation contest through their joint Notre Dame course.

New Social Frontiers
Stonehill students also find that the move to Notre Dame’s Midwest campus, where fall football is a way of life and political philosophies diverse, enhances their perspectives beyond an East Coast point of view.

“As an engineer, you need to work with people from different backgrounds,” says Eliseo. “This gets you out of your bubble to learn more about the world.”

Although the move often brings some culture shock, students find their initial concerns over being able to keep up, fit in and join activities like sports are unfounded. George even earned a spot on the Notre Dame track team.

In some cases, students see more common ground than uncommon. “Both schools have that catholic identity, and it interests me how similar the personalities of its students are,” says Katie Bernazzani ’13, whose father Robert ’83 is also an alumnus of the Stonehill/Notre Dame program.

Dual Degree Sets Students Apart
Recent graduates of the program have found employers and graduate schools interested in their enhanced educational backgrounds. In addition to Eliseo’s position at Chrysler and Katie’s new role at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Volpe Center, alumni from last year’s class found positions at Meditech and Nestlé Waters North America – and one even started a consultancy.

“This program sets our students apart – they can view complex situations from a variety of perspectives based on the range of courses they’ve taken,” says Stonehill Career Services Director Heather Heerman.

Stonehill Trustee Patrick Burke ’84 leveraged the program into a career outside of engineering. A partner in Pennsylvania-based firm Waverly Partners, which invests in manufacturing businesses, Patrick says his dual degree has been an advantage.

“It prepared me for so much more than engineering” he says. “Program alumni have been very successful not only as engineers but also as patent attorneys, researchers, business consultants and many as entrepreneurs.”

— Stonehill College, Oct. 2014, "Stonehill's Affilliation with the University of Notre Dame Gives Students Two Degrees in Five Years and a Valuable Advantage"


NDConnect 2014 Winners Announced

The Center for Nano Science and Technology at the University of Notre Dame has announced the winners for the fourth annual NDConnect undergraduate nanotechnology research prize, a national competition that recognizes outstanding undergraduates in nanoscience and nanoengineering. A total of 16 finalists representing universities across the U.S. and Canada were selected from the large pool of applicants. Each student gave a short presentation of their research and answered industry judges in-depth questions during the final phase of the competition on October 17.

Left to right: Ram Chelakara, Raytheon; Archana Venugopal, Texas Instruments; Kezi Cheng, MIT; Peter Santos, Northwestern; Carl Vess, GE; Michael Chatzidakis, McMaster; and Tyler Morgas, Thorlabs. Stairs: Max Zhang, HP Labs; Erik Probstfield, International Rectifier; and Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, IBM. Not pictured: Mike Desmond, BP.
The winner is Peter Santos, a senior at Northwestern University. Directed by Prof Samuel Stupp, Santos’ project, “Self-assembly of a DPP tripod donor for organic photovoltaics,” focused on creating more efficient, low-cost solar cells to provide a clean source of energy. During his presentation to judges, Santos explained that his research used the supramolecular assembly of small molecule donors to minimize trap sites within the active layer of an organic solar cell. He designed a donor molecule with a straight alkyl chain as a solubilizing group so as to promote its self-assembly. When the molecules packed together they formed nanowires, which resulted in greater interconnectivity of donor domains in the active layer. This minimized the recombination sites formed due to isolated donor domains, and increased the efficiency of the solar cell from 2.9 percent to 4.4 percent.

“Peter was working on materials for inexpensive solar cells and had the idea of synthesizing a novel molecule,” said Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, the director of corporate technology evaluation at IBM. McGroddy-Goetz represented IBM on the judges panel. “He showed a huge amount of initiative by pitching his idea to his adviser, performing simulation to justify further investigation, synthesizing the molecule, and doing lab bench chemistry and a lot of characterization to demonstrate significant meaningful results. He is also one of the students who used a food analogy — something we can all relate to — to make their complex concept more consumable to non-experts.”

Second place was awarded to Michael Chatzidakis, a senior in materials science and engineering from McMaster University. His research project, “Phase separation in immiscible bimetallic nanoparticles,” was directed by Prof. Jeffrey Hoyt and Prof. Gianluigi Botton.

“The theoretical calculation in Michael’s project was very complex, and he did a great job of marrying the theory to his experimental results,” said Ram Chelakara of Raytheon. “In addition, his year-long project reflected favorably on his perseverance and future potential for graduate research.”

Chelakara added, “This is my second year as a judge at NDConnect, and I continue to be amazed at the quality, sincerity, and passion the finalists have for science and technology.”

Kezi Cheng, a senior in materials science and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claimed third place. The title of her research was “Processing approaches for thin-film energy storage devices: Increase energy density of high power density graphene-based supercapacitors through C60 fullerenes.” Kezi’s adviser during her summer of research at Oxford University was Prof. Patrick Grant.

“Kezi was the judges’ choice for third place based in no small part on her determination to pursue research interests that she had a passion for,” said Erik Probstfield from International Rectifier. “She found a topic of her own after reading various papers and convinced her supervising professor to allow her to pursue the project. With relatively minimal facilities and resources for the project, she was able to develop significant understanding of the materials system in question as well as deliver significant results in just three months.”

Event sponsors were Thorlabs, HP Labs, IBM, Texas Instruments, Seagate, Raytheon, International Rectifier, GE Global Research, and BP.

The other finalists were:

    •    Christian Bottenfield, a junior in engineering physics at the University of Pittsburgh. Christian’s research with Prof. Guangyong Li is “Investigation of printing-based bulk heterojunction organic solar cells.”


•    Rose Doerfler, a senior studying chemical engineering and Chinese at the University of Notre Dame. Rose’s research on “Thermal stability of DNA origami” is directed by Prof. Marya Lieberman.

    •    David Heydari, a junior in physics and electrical engineering at Northwestern University, is conducting research on “Quantum cascade lasers with parallelogram-shaped resonators” with Prof. Manijeh Razeghi.

    •    Ibrahim Iskender Kushan, a junior majoring in electrical engineering at Stanford University. Iskender’s research with Prof. H.-S. Philip Wong is “Six-terminal carbon nanotube nano-electro-mechanical relays.”


 •    Robin Lawler, a junior in chemical/biomolecular engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Her research, “Low-cost, portable platform for pathogen detection,” is directed by Prof. Hsueh-Chia Chang.

    •    Irving Martinez, a senior in applied mathematics and physics at the Univeristy of Texas at El Paso. Prof. Xiaoqin (Elaine) Li (University of Texas at Austin) directs Irving’s research on “Shaping electromagnetic response far below the optical diffraction limit.”

    •    Connor McClellan, a senior studying electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. His research with Prof. Sanjay Banerjee is “Semiconducting behavior in ultrathin rhenium disulfide.”

    •    Alexander Munoz, a senior in physics at Arizona State University. Alex’s work on “Metrology for nanoscale manufacturing” is directed by Prof. Steven Brueck (University of New Mexico).

    •    Monica Ohnsorg, a junior majoring in chemistry at Hope College. Monica’s project is “Fundamental layer-by-layer formation of surface anchored metal-organic frameworks.” Prof. Mary Anderson is her faculty adviser.

    •    Nanetta Pon, a junior in chemistry-materials science at UCLA. Nanetta’s research on “Growth and transfer of multilayer graphene for use as a nanoporous membrane” is directed by Prof. Richard Kaner.

    •    Leila Sloman, a junior studying math and physics at McGill University. Leila’s research on “Graphene nanopores for protein sequencing” is directed by Prof. Aleksei Aksimentiev (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).

    •    Dixiong Wang, a senior in materials science at Pennsylvania State University. Dixiong’s project, “CVD graphene: Growth and transfer,” is directed by Prof. Joshua Robinson.

    •    Hansheng Ye, a senior in materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Her work with Prof. Roman Engel-Herbert is “Growth of vanadium dioxide on sapphire by hybrid molecular beam epitaxy.”

The finalists were selected from applicants who submitted research proposals in the spring, then followed up with a report in August documenting their research findings.

Finalists will be provided travel support to Notre Dame for the event on October 17 and compete for first-, second-, and third-place prizes of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.

“This year the contestants and topics were stronger and better than ever,” said event organizer Alan Seabaugh, professor of electrical engineering at Notre Dame and director of the Center for Low Energy Systems Technology, “which is why we expanded the number of finalists to sixteen.”

Undergraduate Fellows Spend Summer in Ireland

Undergraduates in STEM disciplines are spending summer 2014 in Ireland as Naughton and Clark Undergraduate Fellows program conducting research. Shown here are (left to right) Laura Shute, Rebecca Shute, Sean Howard, Jack Olding, and Kathleen Krah.  Shutes, Howard, and Olding are Naughton Fellows, and they will spend 10 weeks at one of four participating Irish universities: Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, or University College Cork. Krah, a Clark Fellow, is spending her summer in Ireland, working at a local university on a cutting-edge STEM based project.

Each student is part of the host university’s research community, which offers the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities. At the conclusion of the summer, each student is required to prepare a summary of his/her project accomplishments and give a presentation on the research.

Engineering a Future for Cancer Research

Accurate mammography is crucial for early detection of breast cancer, which can greatly increase survival rates. Lisa Cole, a bioengineering Ph.D. candidate, has developed an x-ray contrast agent that can detect microcalcifications more accurately. Working alongside Ryan Roeder, associate professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Cole has previously experimented this new technology using in vitro and mouse models.

What’s the next step for Cole’s project? The x-ray contrast agent needs to be tested using a model that mimics actual human tissue.

That’s where undergraduate Tony Stedge, a junior mechanical engineering student, comes in. Stedge is working in Professor Roeder’s lab to create an anatomically correct model for Cole's project, research which is funded by the Harper Cancer Research Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (HCRI-SURF). 

“[Cole] did a lot of modeling with gels and matrices. She then went to mouse models; the next step before human clinical trials is experimenting on anatomically correct models,” Stedge said.

He is working on creating a model that is both relatively inexpensive and realistic for modeling human characteristics. Researchers use phantoms, which are substitutes of actual human tissue. Stedge’s project is to create a phantom currently unavailable on the market.

“Commercial phantoms only account for adipose tissue. We want to model both the adipose and the fibroglandular parts of the tissue,” Stedge said.

How does he do this exactly?

“I work with a x-ray micro-CT, which allows us to see what materials accurately mimic tissue. I’ve worked with polyvinyl alcohol mixtures with ethanol or just agarose gels and water to test and see if they mimic human tissue,” Stedge said.
Because models that mimic adipose tissue already exist on the market, Stedge is focused on finding a material sufficient to model the fibroglandular part of the tissue.

“We have a lot of things that would pretty closely mimic the fatty part of the tissue, so that is where my research comes in: trying to find that fibroglandular tissue,” Stedge said.

Stedge is one of many examples of how an engineering background can contribute to the fight against cancer.

“That’s what interested me. Of course, every kid grows up wanting to cure cancer. To say that I’m working toward that end goal of cancer, at least in some form is pretty cool. I never thought I’d get that opportunity,” Stedge said.

Story provided by the Harper Cancer Institute.

2014 Steiner Honorees

An 1899 civil engineering graduate of Notre Dame, Father Thomas Steiner, C.S.C., was dean of the College of Engineering from 1928 to 1938. He made a great impact on the course of the College of Engineering, but he made an even greater impact on the lives of his students. In 1948 former students of “Pops” Steiner established the Reverend Thomas A. Steiner Prize in his memory. Since that time seniors in each disciplined are recognized for their all-around excellence, their commitment to engineering, and to the common good.

This year’s recipients are shown, from left to right, with Peter Kilpatrick, the McCloskey Dean of Engineering. They are: Kevin DiPasquale, chemical and biomolecular engineering; Daniel Rish, civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences; Julia Concelman, mechanical engineering; Taryn Green, computer science and engineering; Jane McGuinness, electrical engineering; and Patrick McFarlane, aerospace engineering.

Immersing. Engaging. Engineering. In China

Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Summer Program in China

This summer the third class of engineering students will be participating in the Summer Engineering Program in China, a study abroad-internship opportunity. Like the other students before them they will spend seven weeks working closely with students at Tsinghua University in Beijing on a real-world design issue supplied by a multinational U.S. corporation.  Here’s what two of the students from the second class shared about their experience:

Mechanical engineering junior Jack Keller had already been to Europe, studying German, but he had not participated in a study-internship program quite like this. He and Ted Wagner were paired with two Tsinghua University students on a project for the Timken Company — designing a new method and device to consistently measure ribbed cylindrical roller bearings. One of the largest producers of precision bearings, Timken was not able to guarantee the consistency of this type of bearing.

“It really wasn’t a typical study-abroad experience,” Keller said. “We were working and acting as an independent team, for our project and our travel and entertainment.” Relying on his Notre Dame training and his teammates, Keller found that the best solution was a combination of ideas from the team, looking at the issues from a variety of perspectives.

For Jacob Hook, a senior aerospace engineering student, this was basically his first trip outside the United States. He and his teammates, three Chinese students, were tasked by Johnson Controls to reduce the weight of a car seat (an actual seat, not a baby carrier) by at least 20 percent while still maintaining safety standards. The team managed to reduce the weight of a seat by 32 percent, but at a higher cost than the current method. Hook considers the project, and the program a good experience: “I got a lot more insight into some of the more specialized applications of the classes I had been taking,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to do something unique and improve both my technical and cultural knowledge.”

For more information about the Summer China Program, contact Associate Professor Bill Goodwine  or visit

Notre Dame Junior Wins Schurz Prize

Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Mobile Application Development

Sean Fitzgerald, a junior in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, won first place in the Notre Dame-Schurz Prize competition for innovation. His project, Buses, which was among 10 finalists, is an app that provides real-time monitoring for public transportation riders. It uses remote notifications and advanced sensor statistics to recognize when users embark and debark a scheduled bus. That way, underfunded transportation systems can have advanced GPS tracking. This is useful for systems with little funding such as school buses, which provide children with 50,000,000 rides daily, yet do not have a centralized tracking service. The app also provides users with information and promotions from businesses near bus stops. This allows advertisers to save money because they can offer promotions only to people nearby.

Sponsored by Schurz Communications Inc., the parent company of the South Bend Tribune and WSBT TV and radio stations, the goal of the competition is to encourage students to develop digital solutions everyday life.

“This is the third Notre Dame Schurz Innovation Prize contest, so we’re building a history of innovation together,” said Todd Schurz Schurz Communications Inc. president and chief executive officer.

Junior Jonathan Cobian placed second with his app Around the BeND app, which is designed to provide ND/SMC/HC students with a one-stop shop for fun experiences and places to explore in the Notre Dame and South Bend area. Students can find out about weekly specials for local restaurants and bars, as well as information about upcoming events, such as sports and dorm functions.

HelpHub, an app developed by juniors Nikita Amelchenko and George Georgaklis, captured third place. The app pairs campus residents who have tasks that need to be performed with others who are willing to help them accomplish those tasks.

All of the applications were developed as part of a mobile application development course taught by Patrick Flynn, professor of computer science and engineering and concurrent professor of electrical engineering.

Other students who participated in the competition were:
Stuart Colianni, a junior

Confession Aggregator

An application that aggregates information on “confessions” pages for students at specific American universities

Elise Elden and Christine Gerardi, seniors


A safety-oriented mobile navigator based on crime statistics

John Mapelli, senior


An app that turns a phone’s music player into a jukebox that nearby users can control

Rachael Purta, Ph.D. candidate

A continuously running iOS
 app that records audio and supports the NetSense project, which captures the phone usage patterns of consenting subjects

Esteban Rojas, junior


An app that evaluates school cafeterias

Ryan Wheeler, junior


An app that helps new drivers with learning permit log hours, including night hour driving details and routes driven, determine the remaining requirements needed to obtain their driver’s license in their respective state

Alex Yurkowski, senior, and Andrew Bartolini, Ph.D. candidate


A cloud based natural disaster damage logging tool

"When It Rains, It Pours" in Mod Quad

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
Campus RainWorks Challenge

The group of Notre Dame undergrads who participated in the EPA’s 2014 Campus RainWorks Challenge — students from civil & environmental engineering & earth sciences, architecture, and political science — were not talking about Morton Salt® when they proposed an innovative solution to an important storm water issue on campus.

Mod Quad, a green space on the northeast edge of campus, sits between the Pasquerilla East and Pasquerilla West dormitories. Drainage is poor, and — as one student put it — when a large storm occurs, “a small lake forms.” Since this is the main pathway for students living in these dorms, or for those walking onto campus from a nearby parking lot, the flooding can be a significant inconvenience.

Storm water run-off and flooding are common issues on university campuses and in many urban areas where added impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, roofs, and sidewalks, can overload the storm sewer systems. To solve this problem, the Mod Quad team used a “green design” approach: they proposed adding a rain garden. Actually, their solution encompasses not one but four gardens, new sidewalks with permeable concrete, additional vegetation on the edges of the buildings surrounding the garden sites, and new lighting.

Traditionally, rain gardens are excavated and then “rebuilt” with specific soil and plants to help catch contaminants from run-off, remove the pollutants, relieve stress on storm sewers, and enhance groundwater infiltration. That’s a lot of pressure for a space that also needs to be beautiful, especially when you pair that with the educational benefit of informing the public about the importance of sustainable storm water and water resource management (something the students also want to do). The new Mod Quad Rain Garden, as designed by students, would contain soils and plants native to northern Indiana, provide a habitat for wildlife such as birds and butterflies, increase natural filtration of the storm water in this area, and provide a community green space for students.

Shown, from left to right are Paul Hurley, Robert Nerenberg, Will Connors, Matt Matasci, Claire Sieradzki, and Charles Farrell. Not pictured are Elizabeth Andruszkiewicz, Madison Braman, Julie Cleveland, Alison Collins, William Gorman, Teresa Muldoon, Delma Palma, and Jesus Perez.
Mod Quad Rain Garden team members Elizabeth Andruszkiewicz, Madison Braman, Julie Cleveland, Alison Collins, Will Connors, William Gorman, Paul Hurley, Matthew Matasci, Teresa Muldoon, Delma Palma, Jesus Perez, and Claire Sieradzki took responsibility for all aspects of the project, with guidance from faculty adviser Robert Nerenberg, associate professor of civil & environmental engineering & earth sciences, and facilities advisor Charles Farrell, P.E., senior environmental & safety specialist at Notre Dame. The students are hoping that their design will be approved by University planners and included as part of the construction of two new dormitories in the area.

Fighting iBots

Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Game Day for Engineers

Go Irish! On Friday, April, 11, 2014, mechanical engineering students from Notre Dame and Ohio Northern University (ONU) competed in the annual Robotic Football Game.

The Polar Bears defeated the Irish, 29-7, and captured the Brian Hederman  Memorial Robotic Competition Award. A Notre Dame student, Hederman suffered an untimely death after his freshman year in 1995. A drawing he left behind inspired the trophy and the competition.

The mechatronic game consisted of two 15-minute halves with normal football rules modified for mechanical play. The “players” were semi-autonomous and controlled by the student designers with remote controllers. According to Associate Professor Jim Schmiedeler, the experience of designing and building the football devices acquaints students with important principles used in intelligent prosthetics and other innovative robot-related research, such as biomedical devices and electromechanical systems, being conducted by Notre Dame researchers.

Engineering Peer Mentors

Peer mentors are among the best resources available to engineering students. Representing different departments in the College of Engineering, this group of dedicated juniors and seniors offers a valuable perspective: They have been where the first- and second-year students are. Many of them are peer mentors today because of their own experiences with peer mentors as a first-year student.

In addition to sharing important information, including study and exam tips, peer mentors are key in helping incoming high school students transition into the engineering program and second-year students adjust to the core program. They are vital in developing communities within engineering.

Peer mentors plan and coordinate social activities (ice skating, whiffle ball, and game nights); study sEngineering Peer Mentorsessions; career events (like “Résumé and Research,” “Engineering & Business,” and “Majors” nights); and service opportunities like blanket-making for local cancer patients, the Center for the Homeless toiletry drive, the Christmas giving tree, and Habitat for Humanity efforts.


For more information about peer mentors, visit

Service Abroad: ND SEED

Siix students in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences seeking to make a difference in the world combined their academic interests with their desire to serve their fellow man. They formed Notre Dame Students Empowering through Engineering Development (ND SEED), a registered and approved 501(c)3 corporation.

The students solicited sponsors and teamed with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a not-for-profit organization that fuels positive change by helping impoverished rural communities around the world construct reliable footbridges, which provide access to schools, clinics, jobs, and markets. After identifying a Honduran community that needed help (the village of Pena Blanca), the team began additional fund raising and explored design options.

ND SEED group photographPena Blanca was chosen because the existing bridge was very old and, as the students put it, very scary. The supporting cable, which was tied to a tree on one bank, was barbed wire. One bank was also much steeper than the other. This meant that the team needed to build more massive piers than originally thought to ensure structural integrity and safety. They designed and constructed the bridge alongside Pena Blanca residents.

The ND SEED TEAM focused on building a suspended footbridge in Palquí, Guatemala. Because of the topography of the area, the streams and tributaries flowing through the area can flood quickly and without warning. Another factor was that the village is divided into two parts, most of the children have to cross the river to get to school. The existing bridge was a rickety plank at the bottom of a steep gully. When the river is impassable, students have to walk an hour out of the way to attend school. Typically, attendance drops by half during the rainy season.

Working again with B2P, the Notre Dame students conducted a site survey and designed the bridge. They built the bridge (the anchors, cable placement, approaches, and decking).

For more information about ND SEED, visit

Introduction to Engineering Summer Program (IEP)

IEP- Introduction to Engineering ProgramSince its inception, the interactive Introduction to Engineering summer program has been a hit with high school students across the country. For three weeks every summer rising juniors get a taste of college life.

They learn what it means to be an engineer, tour state-of-the-art facilities on campus and at nearby industries and manufacturing facilities, meet professional engineers, and are introduced to the different engineering disciplines offered at Notre Dame. There are “classes,” but a majority of the work is hands-on, requiring students to design and test their projects.

For information about IEP, click here.

Sink or "Swim"...

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
Concrete Canoe Competition

Sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this annual competition challenges civil engineering students’ knowledge and creativity, not to mention their stamina as they design and build a concrete canoe. Winners of 18 regional competitions proceed to national finals, where students put to practical application what they have learned in the classroom.

Sixteen Notre Dame students prepared a canoe for the event, which requires the team to give an oral presentation, write a design paper, create a final product (following the competition’s aesthetics, durability, and design constraints), and participate in racing events such as men’s sprint, women’s sprint, women’s endurance, men’s endurance, and overall.