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Student Advisory Council

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The Student Advisory Council (SAC) meets periodically with the Bredesen Center staff. A primary goal of the Bredesen Center is to help students feel at home. In this effort, the Council exists to listen to students and help to foster this community by providing an additional channel of communication within the Bredesen Center.

There are many ways to get in contact with the SAC. To submit an anonymous question or comment, please use the form located here. Also feel free to send an email to any of the current members and they will be happy to talk and help. In the fall and spring semesters, the SAC also hosts a town hall for all BC students to come together as a community for discussion and to voice questions or comments.

Current members of the Student Advisory Council and their introductions are listed below.

Damilola Akamo

Isis Fukai

My name is Isis Fukai and I joined the Bredesen Center in Fall 2019. I’m an ESE student with a focus on Environmental and Climate Sciences. I’m interested in all things geochemistry and mineralogy, and I’m warming up to microbiology. Before joining the Bredesen Center, I was an intern and research fellow at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and then spent some time working as a geoscientist/researcher on CO2 capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) projects at Battelle. In my free time I like to dote on my two dogs, pretend to garden, and deny my preoccupation with interior decorating. I’m happy to chat about any of these experiences and to share whatever information and resources I have at my disposal to help other graduate students.

Dustin Gilmer

Hello! My name is Dustin Gilmer. I joined the Energy Science and Engineering program in Fall 2018 to study additive manufacturing of advanced materials at UTK and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I received a B.Sc. in Physics from East Tennessee State University and prior to coming to UTK I performed research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in polymer chemistry/additive manufacturing. Beyond research I am interested in science policy, outreach and entrepreneurship which has made the Bredesen Center a great fit for me! Feel free to contact me about anything, both technical and professional, I’m happy to chat about any of the experiences I have had in the program and to share whatever information and resources I have at my disposal to help other students.

Paul Kairys

Hello! My name is Paul Kairys. I joined the Energy Science and Engineering program in Fall 2018 to study quantum computational science at UTK and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I received a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering at the University of South Florida and prior to coming to UTK I performed research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in computational chemistry/biology. Beyond research I am interested in science education and outreach and am lucky to be a recipient of the Student Mentoring and Research Training Fellowship from the Science Alliance at UTK. Feel free to contact me about anything, both technical and professional!



Previous Members

Megan Lilly

Hi! My name is Megan Lilly and I am a 4th year in the ESE program. I am a physicist working on research in benchmarking quantum computers. I joined the Bredesen Center in 2016 because I was drawn to its unique research opportunities and the variety of experiences it offers. I’m an advocate for science outreach and communication, and have worked with the Bredesen Center in helping develop the outreach track. I’m passionate about building an environment in which graduate students are taken care of and supported, and by being a part of the SAC I aim to help make sure that Bredesen Center students have a great experience in graduate school.

Teerth Brahmbhatt

Hi, my name is Teerth Brahmbhatt I joined the Bredesen Center on the ESE track in Fall 2018. My research interest and focus is on energy conversion and storage, in particular, I work on research interfaces within solid-state batteries. My favorite activities are playing basketball, going for a run around greenways and parks here in Knoxville, and reading. I was drawn to the Bredesen Center due to its ability to enable students to study topics related to climate change and energy issues while also being able to supplement this education with areas outside of these main points of focus, compared to a traditional departmental Ph.D. this was a big selling point. Some things I am really interested in with regards to the student experience are expanding resources for entrepreneurship and science communication related educational opportunities both inside and outside of the official curriculum. I am also interested on getting more resources for incoming students to help them get up to speed faster with regards to finding a research mentor and topic, being prepared for high-level engineering and science courses regardless of your background, and training to help folks find jobs in a number of different contexts after graduating.

William Halsey

I am a PhD student in Data Science and Engineering studying Advanced Manufacturing. For the past two years I have been researching how data science principles may be leveraged for metal additive manufacturing throughout the entire toolchain – modeling and simulations, process optimization, data management, in-situ monitoring, defect detection, and post-build analysis.

Additionally, I am interested in studying and developing policies for data collection, data management and algorithms as these tools become more pervasive and consequential in our society.


Jasmine Kreig

Hello! My name is Jasmine Kreig and I am currently a 4th year in ESE at the Bredesen Center. I graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2014 with degrees in environmental science and math. After graduating, I took a job as a post-bachelor researcher at Oak Ridge National Lab. During my two years at ORNL, I learned of the Bredesen Center and began my graduate studies at UTK in 2016. I graduated with my masters in mathematics from UTK in 2019 which I had been working on concurrently with my PhD. My research interests lie in environmental modeling. I have been involved with climate modeling, hydrology modeling, land use modeling and optimization, and am currently working on ecological modeling for my dissertation work.
I think it is important for graduate students to be supported and advocated for while they are in graduate school. So often the focus is put on academics, and as a result, the students non-academic needs (like good mental health or a strong support system) fall by the wayside. I want all students to feel like they have a great system that will take care of their needs and other people to rely on when needed. My hope is that the SAC can address any issues that may come up for students and help them have the best possible graduate experience.

Philip Barnett

I’m a fourth year student studying carbon fiber composites for vehicle lightweighting. My work primarily focuses on the characterization of discontinuous recycled carbon fiber composites utilizing a thermoplastic matrix. These materials can be used to reduce vehicle weight to improve fuel efficiency, while also providing reduced cycle time and enhanced end-of-life waste management. The Bredesen Center has enabled me to pursue education in entrepreneurship to better understand how my research can translate into solving real-world problems. Outside of the lab, I enjoy hosting board game nights with friends, exploring local restaurants, and everything baseball. I am also one of the founding members of the UT chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering, where I lead multidisciplinary teams of undergraduate students in the annual Student Bridge Competition against universities across the world. Our SAMPE chapter has also hosted multiple professional events with a variety of key composites industry leaders, as well as led workforce development programs for the Knoxville community. I am passionate about equipping people with the skills necessary to succeed in an ever-competitive workforce by mentoring undergraduate students and sharing practical knowledge with those in the surrounding community. The Bredesen Center is a unique program in that it fosters such interactions and encourages a holistic approach to graduate education.

Sam Evans

Hey everyone, my name is Sam Evans. I’m a third-year Bredesen Center Student with a bachelor’s and master’s background in chemistry. The role of the SAC is hugely important for student advocacy, advancement, and well-being. The SAC provides a space for student voices to be heard and acted on, so we can take care of one another through any graduate school hardships. We are all here for you and will advocate on your behalf so that your graduate student experience is as smooth as possible.

Stephen Fatokun

Stephen joined the Energy Science and Engineering program at the Bredesen Center during the Spring of 2017 because of his interest in energy generation and distribution. He has background in physics, nuclear engineering and electrical engineering. He currently does his research at the Center for Ultra-Wide-Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT). His research interests include Energy Market, Power Systems Modeling and Frequency Control, Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) and Demand Response.

As a member of the SAC, his objective is to make the Ph.D. experience as smooth as can be for his colleagues. He is working to achieve this by learning from previous experiences and improving on these.

Outside of academics, Stephen loves playing soccer and watching sport shows. He also loves listening to music and singing.

Jesse Piburn

Zach Sims

I am honored to serve on the Student Advisory Council, as I am passionate about making the experiences of our students better every day. I have many outside work hobbies, but I mostly find myself outside in the mountains or using my skills with carpentry to make something for fun. I am always interested in sitting down over a coffee and discussing goals, interests, and plans with anyone who wants to be heard.