Graduate Students Win Engineering Dissertation Fellowships

June 12, 2020 – The UC Irvine Graduate Division recently awarded dissertation fellowships to four engineering doctoral students for the 2020-21 academic year.

Maryam Asghari was granted the Provost’s Dissertation Year Fellowship, which is intended for students in their final year of graduate study who are planning to pursue teaching and research appointments as university faculty.

Anteater engineers Jawad Fayaz, Mounika Kodali and Anirudh Krishna were awarded the Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship. This award is for doctoral or master’s degree students in their final year of graduate education, allowing them to forgo non-research related employment and to concentrate on completing their dissertation or thesis.

Asghari, a mechanical and aerospace engineering doctoral candidate, is affiliated with UCI’s Advanced Power and Energy Program. She is evaluating a proposed integrated solid oxide fuel cell with liquid desiccant cooling and dehumidification system for providing data centers' power and cooling. This system offers high energy efficiency, environmental and economic benefits to data center applications, reducing both greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions. “I am extremely honored to receive this prestigious award,” Asghari said. “This fellowship will provide me an outstanding opportunity to focus on my academic activities and career planning while seeking new opportunities for mentoring and engaging in campus organizations.”

Fayaz, a civil and environmental engineering student whose research focuses on structural and earthquake engineering, is working toward enhancing the probabilistic methods of analysis and design of bridge and building structures undergoing seismic loads. He focuses on “site-specific” analysis in order to minimize the assumptions and generalizations for designing earthquake-resistant infrastructure and proposes statistical frameworks to exercise the concept on a network of bridges in California. “Receiving this competitive award is a major positive reinforcement in my journey of making meaningful contributions to the community. I am highly thankful for this opportunity, and I hope I can continue to substantially contribute to the field of earthquake engineering and represent UCI in future endeavors,” he said.

Chemical engineering student Kodali is developing electrocatalysts for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) for generating electricity without any greenhouse gas emissions. A PEMFC is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, with only water and heat as byproducts. To improve the stability and durability of PEMFCs, her research focuses on developing a stable electrocatalyst material that can be used inside this technology. “Almost 30% of the energy generated in the U.S. today is going toward the transportation sector and it is one of the leading greenhouse gas emitters,” Kodali said. “We expect the metal oxide-supported electrocatalysts will have higher stability compared to the conventional commercial carbon-supported electrocatalysts and can be used effectively in fuel cell vehicles.”

Krishna, a student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, aims to provide low-cost alternatives for heating and cooling by learning how to tune radiative thermal properties utilizing nano-/microstructures. This approach could allow surfaces to be fabricated to heat up or cool down with none-to-minimal resource usage, making thermal management more beneficial in financially disadvantaged communities, especially in light of changing environment and climate. “I look forward to making use of this fellowship to finish my graduate studies at UCI and continue my academic and research work for the betterment of society,” said Krishna.

– Megan Lohre

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