ND Energy announces new leadership role in international sustainable development

Author: Barbara Villarosa

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Abigail Mechtenberg

ND Energy has taken another leap toward broadening its presence internationally and in particular with Low to Middle Income Countries (LMICs). Abigail Mechtenberg, Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Physics, will spend three months of the year during the summer engaged in international sustainable development research on behalf of ND Energy.

This position was created to support ND Energy’s goal to have a stronger presence internationally in both research and other scholarly engagements. According to ND Energy Director Peter C. Burns, “Not only will Abigail continue to develop her research program in Uganda in partnership with Ugandan stakeholders, we are excited for her to lead and actively participate in other international activities that support the University’s mission and Catholic identity, as well as ND Energy’s vision to create a more sustainable energy future for all.”

Over the past eight years, Abigail has worked side-by-side with Ugandan professionals (engineers, technicians, and local artisans) to develop energy systems that generate readily available and reliable electricity. An initial energy team includes an auto mechanic, a metal fabricator, a rewinder, and an electrician to locally design mini-grids. An advanced energy team adds an entrepreneurship business professional and registered engineer. This education, engineering design, and entrepreneurship (E3) sustainable energy program has prototyped, built, tested, and installed multiple energy systems: gravity light, hand-crank, merry-go-round generator, bicycle generator, vertical wind turbine, horizontal wind turbine, thermal electric generator on efficient new MakaStove, and biogas. Currently, this collaboration is finishing concentrating solar power generator (with Matthew Orosv, OnePower, MIT) and biodiesel from local Ugandan algae with Steven Wietstock, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Notre Dame.

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Abigail’s innovative network capability has co-created the Empowering Ugandans to Power Uganda program, which recently won a national design exhibit award. Now there are three new energy teams in Haiti, Nigeria, and Rwanda with University of Notre Dame students in this new Energy and Sustainable Development with Design (ESDD) research lab. The goal is to propagate this E3 asset-based international development program.

Abigail will continue her nine-month appointment with the Department of Physics and will devote the remaining 25% effort on international sustainable development research and will advise students in her ESDD research lab including many academic fields: physics, engineering, business, pre-professional (pre-med), and design. Although this doesn’t seem like a lot of time to spend on research, according to Abigail, “It’s not the amount of time I spend on research, it’s what I’m able to accomplish during the time that I do have, and we have already been doing what others called impossible for years.”

ND Energy is a University Research Center whose mission is to build a better world by creating new energy technologies and systems and educating individuals to help solve the most critical energy challenges facing our world today. For more information, visit the ND Energy website at energy.nd.edu or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at bvillaro@nd.edu or 574-631-4776.

Originally published by Barbara Villarosa at energy.nd.edu on November 08, 2017.