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ChE Student Wins GEM Fellowship to Fund Doctoral Studies

ChE student Sofia Catalina, E’20, was awarded the GEM Fellowship for her research in renewable energy which will fund her doctoral studies.


GEM Fellows’ Research Takes Us Closer to a Greener Future

Two Northeastern University seniors, both of whom have conducted research with important implications for renewable energy, have been awarded a GEM Fellowship to fund their doctoral studies. The awardees–Sofia Catalina COE’20 and Biruk Abreha COS’20 and–share a number of other distinctions, as well: both are members of the University Scholars and Honors Programs, prior recipients of the Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowship, and also earned the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship this year. The GEM Fellowships for Science and Engineering, backed by a network of leading corporations, government laboratories, universities, and research institutions, enables qualified students from underrepresented communities to pursue graduate education in applied science and engineering.

Sofia Catalina COE’20
To achieve a truly fossil-fuel free society, we need to move beyond current battery technology with newer materials and new architectures for large-scale, dependable, affordable, and long-lasting energy storage when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. A chemical engineering major and University Scholar, Sofia has contributed to this crucial challenge through research at the Gallaway Lab at Northeastern and at Nuvera Fuel Cells, Form Energy, and Tesla. In graduate school, Sofia aims to continue her research into potential new non-Newtonian fluids to illuminate the mechanisms of action and the physical properties of materials that can be used to develop low-cost, high-density energy storage solutions. Sofia will pursue a PhD in Materials Science Engineering or Chemical Engineering to study batteries and electrochemistry and will kick off her time as a GEM Fellow with a research internship at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Biruk Abreha COS’20
Biruk, a University Scholar and chemistry major with minors in computer science and biology, uses computational tools to accelerate the discovery of renewable materials. He developed a research project to build a database of computed, ground and excited state properties of organic molecules relevant to renewable energy research. At the time, datasets of properties of computationally-screened molecules already existed; however, none of these probed the excited-state nature of organic molecules to the extent that he proposed. This project culminated in a first-author publication: “Virtual Excited State Reference for the Discovery of Electronic Materials Database: An Open-Access Resource for Ground and Excited State Properties of Organic Molecules,” in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters (DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.9b02577). Biruk will pursue his PhD in bioengineering at Stanford.


by Andrew Karas, Office of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering