2013 - 2014

Megan Schilling

Megan Schilling, completing a service learning project in Guatemala City

"With a Service-Learning grant from CUSE, I had the opportunity to spend Fall break serving at Esperanza Juvenil, in Guatemala City. Esperanza Juvenil is a tuition-free boarding school sponsored by Boys Hope Girls Hope and dedicated to students from low-income families who are unable to support their child's basic needs, including education. My work spanned from working in the classroom, to assisting with the upcoming cultural performance and graduation ceremony, to simply playing with the students. During the week, I had the opportunity to talk with Paul Minorini, President and CEO of Boys Hope Girls Hope. He explained how Esperanza Juvenil grew from an idea to the successful program it is today. While a week of service abroad can often feel brief, I will never forget what Mr. Minorini said – 'I like to measure time not in minutes or days, but in joy units.' As I continue to explore a future in education and service, I will remember to find joy in each experience."


Keaton Bloom

Keaton Bloom, with his faculty mentor Prof. Thomas Smith

“My research focused on the study of historic American Colleges in Virginia and North Carolina. I was able to analyze the architectural elements and master planning techniques that make these historic colleges places of great beauty and significance. As a fifth year architecture major, my research will be applied to my design thesis. The design is for a small college in Michigan, which will explore my interests in historic American architecture and educational architecture. My future plans include becoming a licensed architect and teaching design and history to the next generation of architects.”


Christine Gregory

Christine Gregory, with faculty mentors Dr. CW Westfall and Professor Luis Trelles

"I'm a fifth year architecture student with a concentration in Architectural Practice and Enterprise (business-focus). I'm interest in Real Estate investing and Development. This fall break, I traveled to Florida to work on my senior thesis of turning a “dead-mall” that had fallen out of use due to Hurricane Wilma into a useful community center. I plan on developing this thesis to the best of my abilities and offer it to the city as a counter-proposal to others the city has received. This expansive site had been empty for almost 10 years now. I should find out next semester what my post-graduation plans for my career are. I would like to be in a big city, especially London."


Kyle Cowdrick

Kyle Cowdrick, with his faculty mentor Dr. Siyuan Zhang

"I am a junior Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering student serving as an interdisciplinary researcher with Dr. Siyuan Zhang. Our exciting work intersects fields of cancer biology and biomedical engineering by developing methods for medical imaging of the HER2 breast cancer tumor microenvironment that will ultimately aid in our society’s fight for developing effective drug therapies against metastatic disease. There was a pivotal series of moments in my early Notre Dame career in which I came to believe in the value of applying my engineering studies to the medical field as a means of embodying our University’s mission, namely to be an optimal, positive force for good in a world broken and in need of healing. The generosity of CUSE to support my research interests is allowing my inspired vision to become a reality. I am now realizing that my love for both exercising my faith through ministry to other souls as well as exercising my mind through innovative scientific discovery do not have to be mutually exclusive. Rather, I have confirmed that the desire for uniting my greatest joys can be realized by pursuing this call through graduate studies in biomedical engineering."


Joel Ostdiek

Joel Ostdiek, with his faculty mentor, Dr. Eileen Hunt Botting

"My name is Joel Ostdiek, and I am a sophomore studying Economics and Theatre. Thanks to generous support from CUSE, I spent this past summer in Jinja, Uganda exploring the economic justification for arts education, particularly at the primary school level. This project was spurred by my own interest in arts education and its future in school systems like America or Uganda which are heavily invested in standardized testing and are therefore quick to cut arts programs whose effects are difficult to quantify. I spent my time in Uganda interviewing arts educators, school board members, and community leaders about why or why not Uganda's scarce resources should be directed to arts education. I was also able to engage with students and gain first hand experience with the topic by teaching Music, Drama, and Dance (titled MDD in Uganda's national curriculum) at St. Jude primary school and observing music classes and choir rehearsals at the area schools in Jinja. This experience allowed me to explore my interest in how economic outcomes are shaped by culture, and I plan to consider investigating the role that culture plays in economic outcomes."


Madison Hagen

Madison Hagen, with faculty mentor Prof. Douglas Duany

"Before going into my fifth and final year of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, CUSE provided me with the indispensable opportunity to study ecumenical architecture at the Community of Taize over the summer. The ecumenical nature of Taize is very important to me, so I wanted to focus on how the ecumenical monastic architecture as a separate building type differs from traditional monastic architecture. Brother Roger, the founder of Taize, devoted his life to the reconciliation of Christian churches. In step with the Second Vatican Council, he promoted peace, especially within religion, and encouraged young people to actively participate in their faith (Taize welcomes 100,000 young people every year). With such a simple but profound mission, the architecture of ecumenical monasteries cannot be overlooked or undervalued. With my research, I marked the distinctions between ecumenical and traditional monasteries, as well as their similarities. This is an important step to developing an architectural character that is unique to Taize and to ecumenical monasteries everywhere. After graduation, I hope to work for an architectural firm that specializes in urbanism, which focuses on the interaction of towns and cities with their built environment, and an understanding of community is essential for this line of work. The research opportunity granted by CUSE has not only allowed me to invest in my future but also facilitate a better understanding of an important, but currently unrecognized, building type."


Jack Keller

Jack Keller, with his faculty mentor Professor Bill Goodwine

"I am currently a junior mechanical engineering major from Nashville, TN. This past summer I travelled to Tsinghua University in Beijing to work on a research project concerning cylindrical roller bearings (CRBs) sponsored by the Timken Company. My team consisted of two students from Tsinghua and another student from Notre Dame. Because CRBs are used in environments ranging from wind turbines to heavy construction equipment, precision and structural integrity are of the utmost importance. However, the current measuring devices used cannot measure some of the new CRB designs for various reasons. My team's goal was to research and develop a new measuring mechanism that maintained the necessary precision and cost effectiveness and had enough robustness to account for various designs. This project involved knowledge of solid mechanics, thermodynamics, and a fair share of circle geometry. This project provided me with an amazing experience. Not only did I get spectacular engineering insight, but I was also given the opportunity to really dive into the Chinese culture. Because I spent almost every day with my Chinese partners, I really got a firsthand look at how different cultures view and approach problems. In an ever increasing global economy with China and America at the forefront, my summer experience will definitely prove invaluable as I move forward with my intellectual and professional career. I would like to thank CUSE and Professor Bill Goodwine for making it all possible."


Lauren Eckert

Lauren Eckert, with her faculty mentor, Dr. Michael Cramer

"As a current Environmental Science major with minors in both Anthropology and Portuguese at the University of Notre Dame, I have been granted a versatile and wonderful undergraduate experience. My exciting field research experiences are vast and include work to further Kit Fox Conservation in the deserts of Colorado, independent analysis of Forest Deer Mouse foraging in the Upper Peninsula, and demographic data collection of the Muriqui Monkeys of Southeastern Brazil. My academic and adventurous pursuits have been largely afforded by the generosity of CUSE, who most recently awarded me funding to present my independent Forest Deer Mouse research at the 20th Annual Wildlife Society Conference in Milwaukee, WI. CUSE has also been instrumental in my acquisition of the environmentally-based U’dall Scholarship and application to be an international Fulbright Scholar. My future goals include attaining a doctorate in Wildlife Ecology and integrating ecological information with more traditional knowledge patterns of indigenous cultures to further conservation attempts and preserve the dignity of ecosystems and diverse human cultures."


Jennifer Fitzpatrick

Jennifer Fitzpatrick, and her faculty mentor Professor Neil Hoyt

"My name is Jennifer Fitzpatrick and I am a fifth year architecture student here at the University of Notre Dame. Through the generosity of CUSE I was fortunate enough to travel to Jinja, Uganda this past summer to conduct research for my thesis design project. No, Jinja is not some secret architectural treasure hidden in East Africa, but I had a very specific purpose in mind. In addition to studying architecture, I am also one of the current captains of the Women's Boxing Team whose annual Baraka Bouts tournament assists in raising money through Holy Cross Missions to help two schools in Jinja, Uganda. After being involved with this program for the first time last year, I found out that the current secondary school we send money to is having major foundation issues and is in danger of becoming unusable. Holy Cross Missions, however, has purchased a new site in hopes of raising enough money to build a bigger and better school for the children. This is where I saw my opportunity. With the grant I received from CUSE I was able to make my trip to Uganda and conduct on-­‐site research of the existing and proposed sites of the school. In addition, I was fortunate enough to speak with the headmaster, teachers, and a local architect to get a better sense of everyday life in Jinja, Uganda as well as local materials for construction. I intend to utilize all of this research to create my own design for the new site of Lakeview Secondary School campus and eventually propose it to Holy Cross Missions. Whether my design is accepted in whole, in part, or not at all, the trip was a life changing experience and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity."


Erik Jensen

Erik Jensen (center), with faculty mentor Dr. Alex Taflanidis and graduate student Dustin Mix

"I spent my summer doing research with Engineering2Empower, a group which provides a methodology that advances the traditional, vulnerable techniques of home building in order to provide safe shelters that are additionally a source of pride for families. The opportunity to work on this project has provided me with a broader perspective of the world, and of the effects of how we live every single day. I spent my time on the project finalizing the designs for the construction of a prototype of the E2E housing model. I also began construction of this prototype, including the concrete formwork and steel reinforcement bars. The physical construction of the model provided an unsurpassable learning experience in which I was able to create something out of nothing using the time-honored skills of hard work and sweat. Working on this project also gave me direction and trajectory for my future, with plans to pursue graduate studies in earthquake engineering. Engineering2Empower, at the University of Notre Dame, provides a means for Haitians to rebuild their nation, beginning with their homes, as durable as the families which they shelter." - Erik Jensen

Engineering2Empower (E2E) is a team of faculty and students at the University of Notre Dame who envision a world where all families can afford a safe and dignified home. It is led by Dr. Tracy Kijewski-Correa and Dr. Alexandros Taflanidis, faculty of the College of Engineering, and graduate student Dustin Mix, and it was founded in 2010 in response to the widespread failure of urban housing after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake.


Mike Vangel

Mike Vangel, and his faculty mentor Dr. Annie Coleman

"My research looks at the connections between American foreign policy and the establishment of an international blues music scene, and how people around the world use blues as a discourse on ideas like race and class. I conducted the first part of my research in Italy, attending a festival in Rome, hosted by the creators of Rome's first blues radio program. I got a chance to talk with the directors of the festival, along with a number of the performers, who had been brought in from all over the world. The second phase of my research was carried out in and around Clarksdale, Mississippi, which hosts the annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, and which is home to the legendary crossroads of Highways 49 and 61. In Clarksdale, I was also able to interact with musicians, store owners, and festival-goers (some of whom had travelled from across the globe), as well as visiting a number of sites and venues that are highly important in the modern American blues scene. All of this research is building to my senior thesis, which is advised by Dr. Annie Coleman. I'm currently thinking about continuing on with American Studies at the graduate level, likely with a continued focus on the interplay between music, race, and political economy in America."


Michelle Mueller

Michelle Mueller, with mentor Professor Vania Smith-Oka

"While studying in Belize, I learned about examination techniques for assessing wild animals, proper husbandry for reptiles and the many diseases that affect reptilian pets. I was then able to handle, medically examine and bath iguanas that were being rereleased into the wild for conservation purposes. I also experienced Belizean food, their unique blended language and extremely happy attitudes! My current research at Notre Dame involves the ecology lab of Professor McLachlan, looking at forest composition patterns and forest conservation in the Midwest area over the last 300 years. My other interests include biological anthropology and primatology, and I just started working with Professor Fuentes on his various projects involving Macaques in Gibraltar. My goal in the future is to attend veterinary school, with a focus on wildlife medicine and zoonosis, the study of disease in animals being spread to humans. I want to learn how disease evolves to infect humans from an animal host, and how we can prevent future outbreaks of disease like Bird Flu and Swine Flu. Visiting Belize has inspired me to focus on wildlife and human interaction in my future endeavors, and I can't wait to return someday!"


Danielle Welsh

Danielle Welsh, with mentor Professor Michael Kitz

"My name is Danielle Welsh. I am a fourth year student in the Reilly Dual-Degree Program studying both Aerospace Engineering and Spanish. This summer I was given the opportunity to conduct research related to sheet-metal forming simulations involved with car manufacturing testing numerous advanced high strength steels. Research was conducted at the Polytechnic University of Valencia at Alcoy, and I worked under Professor Miguel Ángel Selles Canto. During my time, I was able to help conduct experiments, design parts for the machine using CAD/CAM, and prepare related papers for publications. I really enjoyed my research this summer, and I hope to continue researching on campus this fall."


Jenna Ahn

Jenna Ahn, with her mentor Fr. Paul Kollman

Jenna is a senior Theology and Arts and Letter Pre-Health double major from Salem, Oregon. After completing an International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP) in Kolkata, India in 2012, Jenna became particularly interested in the work and mission of the Missionaries of Charity. With the generosity of CUSE and the Center for Social Concerns, Jenna was able to return to Kolkata this past summer for nine weeks working alongside, observing, and interviewing the Missionaries of Charity as well as the vast volunteer community from all over the world. Her research focused on exploring different perceptions of mission in light of the Missionaries of Charity and their emphasis on living in solidarity with the poorest of the poor and performing corporal works of mercy often over primary evangelization through word. Jenna is also interested in the relationship between mission and development especially through the lens of accompaniment, a concept for international development inspired by the work of Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez and Paul Farmer. Her research will culminate in an Honors Theology Thesis in the spring of 2014.


Charles Xu

Charles Xu

"I am a senior studying Environmental Sciences with a minor in Chinese. This past academic year, I studied at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as an international exchange student. While there, I worked in the Simon F.S. Lee Marine Science Laboratory in the research lab of Dr. Ka Hou Chu on the genetic differentiation among populations of Echinolittorina radiata, a species of marine intertidal periwinkle snail, across East Asia. The goal of my project was to establish the baseline genetic variation due to historical processes and their effects on gene flow based on neutral expectations. This is important in order to elucidate the genetic mechanisms and regulatory networks that underlie thermal adaptation and plasticity, which will better our understanding of the effects of climate change on natural populations. Thanks to the support of CUSE, the College of Science, and the Multicultural Student Programs and Services, I was able to present the results of my research at the national Evolution conference held in Snowbird, Utah in June upon my return to the U.S. This summer, I started working on my honors thesis under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Feder on the genomics of microsympatric host plant adaptation and speciation in western apple maggot flies, Rhagoletis pomonella. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school in the ecological and evolutionary sciences with interests in adaptation, conservation, and genetics."


Matt Cook

Matthew Cook, with faculty mentor, Neil Hoyt

"I am a 4th year in the School of Architecture minoring in Italian. While studying abroad in Rome last year, I was fortunate enough to travel to Vernazza, Italy just two weeks before torrential rains and flooding destroyed much of the town's historic architectural character. As a student of both architecture and Italian, I felt that the flood presented a unique opportunity to apply what I have learned at Notre Dame to a real situation that necessitates immediate attention and care. After choosing Vernazza as the site for my thesis project, I set out a strategy and timeline for the project with the help of Prof. Neil Hoyt. A grant from CUSE allowed me to travel to Vernazza, where I met with city officials, builders, and townspeople to assess the damage and the town's greatest needs. Over the next year, I will continue to develop my thesis into a project that will address Vernazza's future from an architectural, urban, and social perspective."