Engineering Sustainable Systems

Current Students

Below are profiles of current ESS students. Please also check out our alumni page!

Spencer Checkoway
ESS Sustainable Energy Systems—Sustainable Systems/Environmental Engineering
Spencer graduated from Bard College in spring of 2022 with a B.A. in Physics and Architecture. His undergraduate thesis was on using optical physics to improve the efficiency of solar films on photobioreactors, as well as also how urban planning can better incorporate standalone energy systems to decentralize production and development. Some previous research was in materials engineering of mirrors used to measure gravitational waves from black holes as part of the LIGO collaboration. His  interests are in sustainable building design, decentralized systems, and biofuel generation. Other interests include: playing baseball, hiking, and painting.

Lanzhao Cheng
ESS Sustainable Energy Systems—Sustainable Systems/Mechanical Engineering
Lanzhao graduated from Smith College in Spring 2022 with a B.S. in Engineering Science. For her undergraduate capstone project, she worked with her lovely teammates on designing and assessing the feasibility of a Sewage Heat Exchange System for Smith College. She is interested in (renewable)energy systems in the aspects of designing them sustainably and assessing them.  She enjoys listening to classical music, doing sports, and playing computer games.

Antara Das
ESS Sustainable Energy Systems—Sustainable Systems/Mechanical Engineering
Antara graduated from Pittsburg State University in 2019, with a Bachelor of Engineering Technology in Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technology (EET). She then worked as a process engineer for an aviation-grade ducts manufacturer. Before starting graduate school at the University of Michigan, Antara also spent time developing a prototype of a low-cost robust wind sensor at the University of California Davis. Her research interest centers around sustainable transportation, energy storage, energy justice, and life cycle assessment. When not studying or working, Antara enjoys traveling, hiking, and learning about different kinds of coffee-making processes across the globe. Her hobbies also include photography and reading.

Peggy Ferguson

ESS Sustainable Design & Manufacturing – Sustainable Systems/Mechanical Engineering
Peggy is pursuing an MS in Sustainable Systems and an MSE in Mechanical Engineering. She graduated from Quest University Canada in 2021 with a BASc in Applied Environmental Sciences with a concentration on microplastic pollution in aquatic environments. In undergrad, she worked with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on an accessible way to detect and quantify microplastics. She also worked with the Azimuth Consulting group on a plastic pollution framework commissioned by the Canadian Government (ECCC). Following graduation, Peggy worked for two years at SeaBird Scientific where she specialized in calibrating and measuring performance of oceanographic sensors. She had the opportunity to be part of a team focused on the testing of cutting-edge instruments (pH stem ISFETs and REFs). Her interests include green infrastructure & design, removal of plastic pollution, and using engineering to mitigate many of the world’s sustainability problems. In her free time, Peggy enjoys gardening, baking, art, music, and playing video games.

Brianna Fogal
ESS Sustainable Design & Manufacturing—Sustainable Systems/Mechanical Engineering
Brianna has worked for the past 6 years as a manufacturing engineer in the gas power and aerospace industries after graduating with her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2017. With a previous focus on process development, lean manufacturing, and CNC machining, she is transitioning her career to focus on decarbonizing industrial processes. She is interested in applying circular economy concepts to manufacturing renewable energy technologies and other sustainable products. Brianna enjoys crafting, reading, and hiking in her free time.

Graham Fordice
ESS Sustainable Energy Systems—Sustainable Systems/Environmental Engineering
Graham is a Master’s student at the School for Environment & Sustainability, specializing in sustainable systems. His research focus is on quantifying residential energy burdens from climate change that has already occurred and on projecting future energy burdens under different climate change scenarios. He is also interested in understanding the benefits and challenges of different methods in moving towards a carbon neutral economy. Graham grew up in Saline, Michigan, just south of the University of Michigan. Here, he also obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Climate Science and Impacts engineering. Graham has felt passionate about climate and the environment since a young age, and he is excited to play some role in helping find solutions to the current crisis.

Maia Gallagher
ESS Sustainable Transportation Systems – Sustainable Systems/Civil Engineering
Maia is pursuing an M.S. in Sustainable Systems and an M.S.E. in Civil Engineering (NGTS). She graduated with her B.S. in Civil Engineering (Minor in Physics) from Case Western Reserve University in 2020. For two years after graduation, she worked with a private Civil Engineering consulting firm on a variety of interstate, interchange, local road, and bikeway infrastructure design projects. With a passion for sustainable transportation systems, she is interested in examining how this can be driven from the industry side. Her other interests include green cities, sustainable infrastructure development, water quality and protection, and equity issues — especially those related to mobility and access. In her free time, Maia enjoys kayaking, hiking, and perusing estate sales.

Elizabeth Healy
ESS Sustainable Energy Systems – Sustainable Systems/Mechanical Engineering
Elizabeth is pursuing an M.S. in Sustainable Systems and an M.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering. She graduated from Brown University in 2021 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate career, she has conducted research on next-generation battery materials. Her interests include grid decarbonization and energy justice. She also enjoys hiking, reading, and running in her free time.

Chun-Cheng Lee
ESS Sustainable Energy Systems—Sustainable Systems/Chemical Engineering

Stephen Lipshaw
ESS Sustainable Manufacturing Systems – Sustainable Systems/Manufacturing Engineering
Stephen is pursuing an M.S. in Sustainable Systems and an M.Eng. in Manufacturing Engineering. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2018 with a B.S. in Applied Engineering Sciences and a concentration in Supply Chain Management. For almost three years he worked at Stellantis where he continuously improved their raw material purchasing system. He also co-led an international team to globally align the raw material processes. In 2021, Stephen helped form an environmental group called the Michigan Electric Vehicle Alliance (MEVA). MEVA focuses on advocating for equitable legislation and programs to increase electric vehicle accessibility and utilization in Michigan. He is interested in the circular economy, electric vehicles, and creating more sustainable manufacturing processes. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball, meditating, and hiking.

Jeffrey Manner
ESS Sustainable Water Systems – Aquatic Science/Environmental Engineering
Jeff is currently pursuing a dual master degree (MS/MSE), studying at the School for Environment and Sustainability and the College of Engineering. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Earth Science from the University of Pennsylvania along with an Associates in Mathematics and Natural Science. During his undergraduate studies, Jeff worked in the fluvial geomorphology laboratory at the Stroud Water Research Institute where he found an interest in stream restoration. Jeff’s research centers around geomorphological and ecological change and organismal response within rivers and streams. He believes that anthropogenic influences are greatly reshaping aquatic ecosystems and is interested in mitigating these effects through river restoration projects.

Sara Murphy
ESS Sustainable Energy Systems – Sustainable Systems/Energy Systems Engineering
Sara graduated from the University of Idaho in May 2022 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Political Science. During her undergraduate career, she worked on several research projects including topics such as aviation biofuels and lead-acid battery efficiency. Besides her work in the laboratory, Sara has been involved in energy and environmental policy at the state and federal levels, through her work with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Her research interests include value-added products from waste streams, aviation biofuels, and environmental and energy justice. Sara enjoys alpine skiing, cooking, or binging a true-crime documentary in her free time.

Emma Noraian
ESS Sustainable Water Systems – Sustainable Systems/ Civil Engineering
Emma is pursuing an M.S. in Sustainable Systems and an M.S.E. in Civil Engineering at the University of Michigan. She graduated in 2022 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she majored in Civil & Environmental Engineering and Environmental Studies with certificates (minors) in Leadership and International Engineering. In undergrad, she worked in the Loheide Hydroecology Lab studying the appearance of new lakes and increasing lake areas in South Central Wisconsin. Emma is currently pursuing ESS part-time while working as a civil engineer at SmithGroup, an interdisciplinary sustainability-minded architecture and engineering design firm in Ann Arbor, MI. She is passionate about water resources engineering, green infrastructure, renewable energy, and using engineering to make the world a better and more sustainable place. She feels there can be a positive  relationship between the built environment and nature if designed thoughtfully and sustainably! She enjoys thrift shopping, outdoor activities, and traveling.

Shagun Parekh
ESS Sustainable Energy Systems – Sustainable Systems, Mechanical Engineering
Shagun is pursuing an M.S. in Sustainable Systems and an M.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2022 with a B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering with a Concentration in Energy. During his undergrad, he worked on energy modeling (both in the residential and power system sectors), energy efficiency retrofits for College of Engineering buildings, and quantifying geothermal heating/cooling potential for a new building being constructed on North Campus. His current work as a research assistant revolves around decarbonization of residential heating via heat pumps and the associated socio-economic and equity considerations. He is interested in decarbonization pathways, renewable energy, negative emission technologies, and corporate sustainability. He enjoys listening to music, playing soccer, and hiking.

Caleb Wegener

Caleb Wegener
ESS Sustainable Water Systems-Aquatic Sciences/ Environmental Engineering
My name is Caleb Wegener and I am working to increase the sustainability of natural resources management. My undergraduate degree was in Environmental Resources Engineering from Humboldt State University in California. I came to SEAS because of it’s mix of ecology, biology, and natural resources management courses. After completing my masters, I plan to work towards my professional engineers license and work with water.

Teddy Wood
ESS Sustainable Water Systems-Aquatic Sciences/ Environmental Engineering
Ted is pursuing an M.S. in Sustainable Systems and an M.S.E. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan. He graduated in 2021 from the University of Michigan where he majored in Environmental Engineering.  After graduating, he worked as an environmental engineering consultant, where his main role was to model the flow of groundwater and pollutants in the subsurface.  His interests include hydrological modeling, water quality, and anything related to the Great Lakes.

Yaqi (Vien) Zhang
Energy Systems Engineering – Sustainable Systems/Mechanical Engineering
Yaqi(Vien) is pursuing an M.S. in Sustainable Systems and an M.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering. He earned his bachelor’s degree in New Energy Science and Engineering from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen(CUHKSZ) in 2022. During his final one and half-undergraduate year, he joined the CUHKSZ-Institute of Urban Underground Space and Energy Studies as a research assistant and worked on the modeling, mechanism analysis, and optimization for combined Thermoelectric Generation – Organic Rankine Cycle(TEG-ORC). Expanding on this research, he penned his undergraduate thesis titled Design of a Power Generation System Based on the Coupling of Organic Rankine Cycle and Thermoelectric Generator. Yaqi (Vien) research interests include decarbonization of grid, power systems, and energy economics. During his free time, he enjoys music, movies, and playing basketball.

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