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Student Advocacy Council

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The Student Advocacy 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 Advocacy Council and their biographies are listed below.


Fady Anees

I am a Ph.D. student in Energy Science and Technology. My research is in energy grid flow analysis and optimization, and integrating renewable energy resources into the grid. Before I joined the Bredesen Center, I worked in academia for two years at the Coventry University branch in Egypt and I also worked as a solar energy engineer. I received a master’s degree in Energy Systems from Northeastern University and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the British University in Egypt. I will be serving as an SAC senator. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns that you want to be discussed in future meetings.


Nick Furth

Hey everyone! My name is Nick Furth, I joined the Bredesen Center as a Data Science and Engineering student in Fall 2022. I received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. My previous research involved federated machine learning as part of New Jersey Institute of Technology’s intelligent and secure networking systems lab. I participated in the Student Mentoring and Research Training (SMaRT) program in the summers of 2021 and 2022 as part of the UT Oak Ridge Innovation Institute. During my previous degrees I held leadership roles in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) student branch, the Residence Hall Association (RHA), President of the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) Highlander Chapter and as a member of the Central Atlantic Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls regional board of directors, and I current server as a member of the South Atlantic Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls regional board of directors, I am also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). My current research is focused on utilizing graph neural networks with molecular data for use in fuel cells and other energy storage/conversion devices. Feel free to reach out with any questions!


Ark Ifeanyi

Ark is an engineer passionate about applying artificial intelligence (AI) to solve complex problems in the energy sector. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Benin in Nigeria. During his undergraduate studies, Ark was involved in several research projects related to renewable energy and power systems while contributing to the growth of the university’s IEEE student body. After completing his undergraduate studies, Ark pursued a Master’s degree in Renewable Energy Systems Technology from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. During his time at Loughborough, he focused on the development and implementation of sustainable energy systems. He was actively involved in leadership roles in student organizations such as Engineers without Borders (EwB) while acting as a Chevening Scholarship Ambassador. Ark joined the Bredesen Centre in the Spring of 2021 and is pursuing a PhD in Energy Science and Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His current research is focused on the application of artificial intelligence to the Prognostics and Health Management (PHM) of nuclear plants including small modular reactors (SMRs). Specifically, Ark is developing advanced machine learning algorithms to detect and diagnose faults in nuclear power plants, with the ultimate goal of improving the safety, reliability, and efficiency of nuclear energy production. Aside from research, Ark is interested in engineering management and entrepreneurship and is currently an Admin Chair at the SAC. Outside work, Ark enjoys playing video games and watching movies. Please do not hesitate to contact Ark if you have any problems with your Bredesen Center experience.


Holland Hysmith

Hey everyone! My name is Holland Hysmith. I joined the Energy Science and Engineering Program in Fall 2020 to study perovskite solar cells for memristor devices. I received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Tennessee Tech with a distinction of major in undergraduate research. I was fortunate to participate in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) and Higher Education Research Experience (HERE) experiences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for four consecutive summers. Additionally, I joined the Physics and Materials Science Research Experience Undergraduate (REU) at Penn State in 2018. Prior to joining the Fall 2020 cohort, I worked as an intern at Electro-Active Technologies Inc., a start-up company formulated by a former Bredesen Center student. I am happy to serve on the SAC council and always willing to share my experiences, information, and support with others. Feel free to reach out!


Joseph Kingsley

Hello everyone! My name is Joseph Kingsley, and I joined the Energy Science and Engineering Program in the Bredesen Center in Fall 2022. My research is in electrochemical energy storage and conversion systems. Specifically, I am working on electrolyzer materials for hydrogen production. In addition, through the Bredesen Center’s focus on interdisciplinary research, I am learning about energy policy. I graduated with a B.S. in chemical engineering with honors from UT, Knoxville in May 2022. Outside of school and research, I love running, any outdoor activities, and spending time with family and friends. I am honored to serve on the Bredesen Center SAC! If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me!


Kevin Lopart

As a Graduate Research Assistant at the Bredesen center, I want to investigate effective solutions toward industrial-scale sustainable energy production, for instance by designing higher specific energy batteries, improving their cycle life and safety, and minimizing the use of materials causing severe social and environmental effects. Physics encompasses every aspect of the world’s wonderful mechanics, and my appreciation of this led me to major in theoretical physics and mathematics as an undergraduate in Classe Préparatoire, in France. In every Classe Préparatoire, the broad and demanding curriculum is standardized by the French Ministry of Education, ending with national competitive examinations to enter the Grandes Ecoles — renowned engineering schools— ; and the grading system is notoriously harsh. After successfully entering the Institut Mines-Télécom Atlantique in 2011, I developed a passion for framing and modeling physics problems. Upon graduation in 2014, I decided to teach in primary schools to share what others helped me foster in my own development and what I believe will serve the common good. My time as a teacher has honed many skills including organization, communication, observation skills, creativity, empathy, and dedication. I worked at the International School of Los Angeles from 2020 to 2022. Although it is finding elegant solutions that originally attracted me, I chose to return to academia and research in 2022 because I have an understanding for the speed with which we need to solve the energy problems. This understanding, as well as my enthusiasm for renewable sources and reducing social inequalities, led me to volunteer as a technical coordinator for the French NGO Synergie Solaire over the past few years.


Iyanu Oduwole

My name is Iyanu Oduwole. I joined the GST program in Spring 2021. My research involves exploring extremophiles from extraterrestrial analog environments and deep biosphere using Bioinformatics, metadata analysis and Machine Learning approaches. I received a MSc in Biotechnology from the American University In Cairo(AUC)  where I also worked as a archivist at the school library. I also received a B.Sc in Biochemistry from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria. I have served as an academic tutor during my undergraduate and a scholarship mentor for my juniors. Currently, I am a 2023 tnAchieves mentor for Knox County and I care about international students welfarism. I am representing the GST program in the Bredesen Center. I love reading, watching movies and playing table tennis during my free time.


Roo Walker

Roo graduated with her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Clemson University in 2020. She is currently a 3rd year Ph.D. student in the Energy Science and Engineering program. Her research focuses on characterizing recycled thermoplastic composite materials for extrusion processes and circular economy for advanced Manufacturing. Her interdisciplinary focus is on energy policy. Roo is currently the Budget Director for iSTEMmed, a graduate student organization dedicated to building a diverse and equitable STEM community at the University of Tennessee. Roo enjoys spending her weekends learning to cook new recipes, reading fantasy books, and spending quality time with her family and cats.

Roo’s Linktree:


Adedasola ‘Das’ Ademola

Adedasola Ademola, a.k.a ‘Das’, joined the Energy Science and Engineering doctoral program at the Bredesen Centre of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville (UTK) in the Fall of 2019. His research interests are in the study of high-impact, low-frequency events in the electric power system, electric grid integration of renewable energy, and deployment of artificial intelligence in power systems.
He received a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where he was also a leader in the student branches of IEEE and Engineers Without Borders. He obtained an M.Sc. in Sustainable Energy Systems from the University of Edinburgh, UK, and was also a Commonwealth Scholars Ambassador. Prior to joining UTK, he worked as a Project Engineer and Data Analyst at an electric distribution company in Nigeria. He has since completed two summer internships with Dominion Energy and he is proudly a Dominion Energy research fellow. His interests beyond research are in engineering management and entrepreneurship, and he is currently a Graduate Student Senator and a member of the Bredesen Centre SAC.

Meenambika (Meena) Gowrishankar

Hello! My name is Meena Gowrishankar. I joined the energy science and engineering program in Fall 2019. I study quantum error correction as part of the quantum computing research group within the Quantum Science Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I received my BS in Chemistry and Biology from Colorado State University-Pueblo and MS in Chemistry from the University of Oregon. I worked as a research professional for a few years at a startup making quantum dots for a living before deciding to come back to school to start my Ph.D. In addition to a traditional Ph.D., I wanted to explore how I could contribute to public policy as a scientist without giving up my passion for science research and the Bredesen Center was the perfect place for me to explore that possibility. Please feel free to reach out to me to learn more about my experience in the program or about the Ph.D. experience in general.

Pragya Kandel

Hello, my name is Pragya Kandel. I joined the Data Science and Engineering program in the fall of 2021. I am currently working on computational earth science focusing on the impacts of Climate Change. Before joining Bredesen Center, I did my master’s at Purdue University. Working as a member of SAC allows me to interact with the department, and fellow students and advocate for the problems students are facing. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions as an international student, on graduate student hardships, or even when you want to know places to do outdoor activities around the Knoxville area.

Saurabh Pethe

Saurabh Pethe joined the Bredesen Center in the Fall of 2021. His research focus is recycling of lithium-ion batteries. The meaning of energy independence will be redefined from an oil-based to critical elements-based economy in the coming decades. Critical elements needed to make batteries and EV’s will be very scarce and innovative ways to extract and reuse them are needed. Prior to joining the Bredesen center Saurabh got a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee. His research during the masters was focused on thermoplastic impregnation of textile-grade carbon fiber. Prior to that he worked in the composite pressure vessel and hazardous area electrical equipment industries for 3.5 years. In his free time, Saurabh loves to read, hike, and explore breweries and restaurants around town.

Vanshika Singh

Hello! I am Vanshika Singh. I joined Bredesen Center in Fall 2019 in the Energy Science and Engineering Department. As part of my research, I work on developing novel structural designs via metal Additive Manufacturing for gas turbines and power plant applications. I received my Bachelor of Technology in Mechanical and Automation Engineering from the Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology, New Delhi, India, in 2016. Afterward, I worked at General Electric Aerospace, Bengaluru, for three years, finishing a leadership program called “Edison Engineering Development Program.” Outside work, I enjoy cooking, listening to music, meeting friends over coffee, and playing sports. As part of SAC, I would like to contribute to easing the life of Bredesen Center students by listening to their concerns, communicating the same to the senior leadership, and strengthening the bond among the students. Please feel free to reach out to me via e-mail.

Sara Sultan

I am Sara Sultan, a 4th year ESE student. I am working with Building equipment group at ORNL. My research is focused on developing thermal storage for demand response and decarbonization in residential buildings. I joined the program in 2018 and being an international student from Pakistan, I can relate strongly to international students on F1 visa. I am happy to answer any questions regarding taxes and visa status, or just share my experiences in general. I am an empath and understand the struggles of graduate students. You should definitely reach out to me if you have concerns regarding communication with your advisor, I am all for healthy mentor-mentee relationships and want to empower students so that they know their rights.

I love reading, traveling, and photography; hit me up if you want to discuss your favorite reads, or need an opinion on ideal photo and video gear for beginners. I can give you great tips on things to do in Knoxville/Great smoky mountains area.

Kyle Weiss

Hello, my name is Kyle Weiss, and I joined the Bredesen Centers Energy Science and Engineering program in the Fall of 2021. My research at UTK and Oak Ridge National Lab revolves around renewable energy and more specifically hydropower. Prior to moving to Tennessee in 2021, I received my B.Sc. in Environmental Engineering from Northern Arizona University. Between graduating from undergrad and starting at the Bredesen Center I lived in Phoenix, AZ, Washington State, and Oregon State working as a Civil Engineer, and Territory Manager for a chemical water treatment company. Beyond school, I compete in triathlons and am always up for a beautiful hike or camping trip. Feel free to reach out to me with questions and I will do what I can to answer them.

Damilola Akamo

Damilola currently works at the Material Science and Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop a stable, low-cost, high thermal conductivity phase change material (PCM), based on a novel fabrication method for a composite comprised of salt hydrate and compressed expanded natural graphite (CENG). The work comprises the synthesis of composite (salt hydrate and graphite) and the use of several advanced material characterization techniques such as neutron diffraction, x-ray diffraction, electron microscopy to explore their characteristics and determine their performance in energy systems. During his graduate education, Damilola wants to leverage expertise from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and The University of Tennessee in Material Chemistry, Neutron Science and Computational Science towards the understanding of the processing-structure-property-performance relationship of complex materials for energy applications.

Technology, health, national security and other aspects of daily life are affected by the policy choices and decisions made by those in authority. Damilola is interested in learning public policy creation and the influence on the populace. He is also interested in technology commercialization and science communication as crucial ingredients in bridging the gap between the ‘science world’ and the general, non-scientist public.

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!

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.