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Graduate Student Spotlights

Ryan RossRyan Ross

Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Graduate Student

Stress fractures are common in people undergoing intense physical activity such as military recruits, manual laborers, and athletes. Graduate student Ryan Ross is working with Associate Professor Ryan K. Roeder as part of a team developing an X-ray contrast agent to more easily identify the microdamage in bone, which causes these fractures.

Ross has been designing methods to track nanoparticles in bone, selectively attaching those particles to damaged sites within bone, and then following the effects of the contrast agents (nanoparticles) in medical images. Funded by the U.S. Army, the development of such a non-destructive technique for detecting microdamage could translate into more accurate tests for assessing bone quality and fracture risk.

For more information about this and other projects in biomechanics and biomaterials, click here.

Kyle Butler

Kyle Butler

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
Graduate Student

Every year thunderstorms sweeping across the United States account for approximately $6 billion in property damage; they also cause an average of 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries. Graduate student Kyle Butler has been studying thunderstorm winds, which flow around structures in a much different way than other types of winds, creating severe pressures on the walls and roofs of buildings.

Working in laboratory facilities and wind tunnels on campus (and in collaboration with researchers in Japan), Butler and his adviser, Ahsan Kareem, the Robert M. Moran Professor of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences, have developed simulation techniques and computational models of thunderstorm and hurricane wind flows around buildings, in particular the impact of winds from Hurricane Ike that hit the downtown Houston area in 2008. These models will help Butler, Kareem, and other researchers better understand the fundamental
aerodynamics of thunderstorms and severe frontal weather systems as they work to develop improvements for the structural performance of buildings subject to these types of natural hazards, protecting lives and property.

Butler Research Buildings

Research: Butler

Dunn & Dickens
Brian Dunn & Michael Dickens

Department of Electrical Engineering
Graduate Students

A highly reconfigurable wireless system that can communicate using almost any protocol, RFware was designed by Notre Dame faculty and graduate students to help first responders in emergency situations communicate more effectively via reliable wireless interfaces.

A team led by J. Nicholas Laneman, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, and graduate students Brian Dunn and Michael Dickens uses software radio technology for experimental research and for developing solutions to national problems.

One such challenge involves police officers and other first responders whose ability to communicate could mean the difference between life and death. Because of the nature and scope of different situations, emergency personnel rarely have the opportunity to plan and setup their radios to address specific needs prior to an event. Even radios that conform to national standards for interoperability don’t always communicate with each other consistently. Software-defined radio technology could immediately benefit police, fire, and other emergency management departments that have struggled for decades with incompatible communication devices.

RFware has received contracts from the U.S. Navy and Indiana’s 21st Century Fund in order to continue developing this technology for commercialization.

Zachary R. Gagnon

Zachary R. Gagnon

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
2010 Ph.D. Recipient

Zachary R. Gagnon was one of the four top graduating doctoral students honored with the Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Award. Named for a Notre Dame alumnus and his wife, the award recognizes graduate students for their superior ability as exhibited by grades, research, publication records, and fellowships and other awards received during the course of study at Notre Dame, as well as their teaching ability.

Gagnon is a chemical engineer who, during his time in Notre Dame’s Center for Microfluidics and Medical Diagnostics, has invented multiple technologies involving pathogen detection for use in the biotech industry. Specifically, his research has focused on engineering microfluidic technologies for portable diagnostics, including genetic and protein identification.

His immediate plans involve a postdoctoral position in cell biology at The Johns Hopkins University where he will assume a position as assistant professor in 2011.

Will McLeod

Will McLeod

Graduate Student

When Will McLeod graduated from Notre Dame in 2009 with dual degrees in mechanical engineering and industrial design, he enrolled in the new Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Master’s (ESTEEM) program. “I chose to pursue an advanced degree, but I wanted more than a traditional master’s,” he says. “The ESTEEM program was a good fit because it lets me build on my engineering expertise while also focusing on business development skills.”

By the time McLeod received his bachelor’s degrees, he had already won the Mendoza College of Business’ McCloskey Business Plan Competition, the Four Horseman Idea Plan Competition, and the TechPoint Indiana Venture Idol Statewide Competition for a “smart” window technology he and a team of undergraduates developed. The team also formed a company to continue developing their product.

Comparable to a technically oriented M.B.A., the 12-month long ESTEEM program pairs graduate students with faculty mentors from throughout the University to develop the cross-disciplinary skills needed to take technological innovations and translate them into commercial ventures.

A patent is currently pending for the McLeod and team’s original idea, SmarterShade, and several sister technologies. They are also completing an application for a Small Business Innovation Research grant to be able to develop each of their concepts into a market-ready device. When McLeod graduates from the ESTEEM program later this year, he (along with the other ESTEEM graduates) will be able to run his own start-up or create new opportunities in a larger corporation.

Karsten Steinhaeuser

Karsten Steinhaeuser

Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Graduate Student

Karsten Steinhaeuser, whose research interests include high-performance data mining, learning from datasets, and parallel and distributed learning algorithms, is scheduled to complete his third degree, a doctorate, from Notre Dame this fall.

Steinhaeuser already holds a bachelor’s (2005) and a master’s degree (2007) in computer science and engineering from the University. Since July 2008, he has worked as an intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is developing computational analysis methods for climate data to gain a better understanding of climate change and how it could impact the environment, population, and human health.

His most recent research centers on data mining, and more specifically on the analysis of complex networks and on studying the relationships within groups such as social networks, disease interactions, and the global climate system.