Meet our Students

Megan Daley ’11, G ’16

Earns SciComm Fellowship With LA Times

Normally you can find Megan Daley ’11, G ’16 engrossed in hydrology research in Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, but this summer she is taking a break from streams and storms to take on an unexpected role writing for the Los Angeles Times.

Daley, an environmental engineering Ph.D. student, earned the opportunity to try her hand at science journalism by being awarded an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship—a competitive national award that places students in major media organizations such as National Public Radio (NPR), Slate, and CNN.

She discovered her passion for science communication while taking a class taught by Hillary Rosner, an environmental journalist who has written for major publications including National Geographic, Wired, and Scientific American. Daley’s class assignments put her in the role of learning about other people’s research and conveying it in an accessible and interesting way. The experience excited her and inspired a desire to delve deeper into writing. She approached Rosner for advice on finding ways to explore writing about scientific topics. Rosner suggested that she apply to the AAAS Fellowship, and the rest is history.

Daley said, “It’s vital for scientists and engineers to effectively communicate the importance of the work that we do in a way that is not overwhelming or inaccessible to people who work in other fields. If we really want the average person on the street to understand why what we do is important and how it affects them, then we need to say it in a way that they are going to read and understand it.”

With that sentiment as the basis for her endeavor, and the mentorship of some of the nations’ top science communicators at the LA Times, Daley has already seen her work published. Her articles include, “Lead exposure soared after kids in Flint started drinking tainted water, CDC says “ and “Super-sticky saliva helps chameleons catch huge prey, scientists say,” with more to come throughout the summer.

When she returns to Syracuse University this fall, Daley will continue research studying how streams recede in the aftermath of storms in the Sleepers River Research Watershed in Vermont with Professor David Chandler. She’s confident that her experience at the LA Times will help her convey the importance of her own research and open the door to further work in science communication.


Anthony Cabrey ’17

Assists in Campus Renovation & Construction Projects

Between the end of the spring semester and the start of fall classes, the campus comes alive with a different kind of energy. Busy crews work to renovate, build up, and beautify the University to prepare for the return of students.

With the work compressed into just a few short months, most students get the big reveal when they return in August.

Anthony Cabrey ’17 will see the transformation unfold throughout the summer as an intern with Campus Planning, Design and Construction (CPDC).

Carey, who has been interning with CPDC for the past five months and continues as a summer intern, has found the behind-the-scenes work insightful, adding practical understanding to his classroom knowledge.

“This experience so far has opened my eyes to many other problems we can face in real-world operations,” says Cabrey, a mechanical engineering student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “I believe that I will have a more open mind to design possibilities from what I have heard and seen at this position.”

He will get a true feel for the scope of the work—and all the complexities and details of a construction project—during 40-hour weeks.

“I couldn’t think of a better place to intern than for the University that I attend,” Cabrey says. “Every day I am able to understand how buildings I have sat in for three years are running, see what needs to be fixed and see the buildings be upgraded through work that I have done—to me that is very interesting.”

Jason Plumpton, senior project engineer with CPDC, says Cabrey has been assisting on a number of CPDC projects.

“Anthony provided design assistance for the Heroy Suite 333 renovations, assisting with ductwork layouts and sizing and piping layouts and performing most of the drafting for the project,” Plumpton says. “He is also following through on construction by making sure that the equipment and products that the mechanical contractor is using complies with the project specifications and drawings.”

While helping design the new ductwork for the third floor of Heroy Hall, Cabrey says he handed in the work for approval to a CPDC engineer who came back to him with several other things to consider.

“With this internship I have learned that there are many more factors to take into account than simply solving out a formula,” Cabrey says.

Cabrey is also making daily reviews of the construction progress of the Tennity Ice Pavilion refrigeration equipment replacement. He assisted with the steam pressure reducing station insulation survey, reviewing the condition of piping insulation in many of the academic buildings to compile a report, which will be used to develop an energy-saving insulation improvement project.

The experience has made Cabrey proud to be working on projects at the University.

“I enjoy improving the wellbeing of others, and walking around campus seeing projects that I have had a part in is really cool to me,” Cabrey says. “With CPDC I am able to say that I had a part of not only benefiting others, but benefiting my University.”

Through the internship, Plumpton hopes that Cabrey gets a good introduction to the field of consulting engineering and construction and develops an understanding of the components and systems needed to make safe, comfortable buildings.

“I also hope that he takes away the positive experience of seeing a project start from a concept that develops into a design and then is fully constructed and put into operation,” Plumpton says. “To me, this is one the most rewarding parts of the profession, and I hope he will experience this with his assignment on the Heroy Suite 333 renovations project.”

CPDC has had interns in previous summers but has significantly expanded the intern program this year. It has a number of student interns this summer, including from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Cortland and Cornell.


Ryan Milcarek

Milcarek Wins NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Ryan Milcarek ’14, a mechanical and aerospace engineering Ph.D. student, has earned a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award will fund three years of his fuel cell and combustion research.

With the resources of Professor Jeongmin Ahn’s Combustion and Energy Research (COMER) lab, Milcarek is seeking to reduce the formation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in combustion processes using a recent innovation developed by Milcarek and Ahn. Their concept utilizes a two-stage combustor, also known as a rich-burn, quick-mix, lean-burn or RQL combustor, with a fuel cell integrated between the fuel-rich and fuel-lean combustion zones. This flame-assisted fuel cell, as it is called, generates electrochemical power at high efficiency, as well as heat for a range of applications including combined cycles, space heating, and jet engines. This concept builds on much of the work conducted in the COMER lab which seeks to create cleaner combustion through the combined use of fuel cell and combustion theory and technology.

Ahn says, “To earn an NSF Fellowship is a truly remarkable accomplishment and Ryan is deserving of such an honor. His commitment to learning and advancing the science of combustion continuously elevates the work that we do in the COMER lab.”

Milcarek’s NSF Fellowship will support his efforts to study NOx formation in the RQL combustor with and without the flame-assisted fuel cell. The formation of NOx has many adverse environmental and health effects including smog, acid rain, and respiratory problems. Thermal NOx, the primary NOx formation mechanism, can be reduced with the flame-assisted fuel cell concept. However, the formation of NOx in the RQL combustor is also subject to turbulence intensity, the boundary layer, and combustion equivalence ratio, among other factors. Milcarek will study these formation mechanisms and seek to reduce the amount of NOx generated during combustion.

Using resources from Professor Jianshun Zhang’s Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory, Milcarek will also conduct system modeling and analysis to better understand the potential of these flame-assisted fuel cells for enhancing the energy efficiency and resilience of building systems.

Broader impacts of research on society are an essential part of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program. Milcarek is seeking to fulfill that vision by helping high school students become more engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. In addition, he is seeking to establish greater collaborations on campus and with local industries to promote, spread awareness, and develop technologies like the flame-assisted fuel cell.

On top of the NSF Fellowship, Milcarek was recently awarded a $10,000 Grant-in-Aid from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and, as one of the top recipients of the grant, was named an ASHRAE “Life Member Club Grant Recipient.”

Chemical engineering alumnus Joshua Woods ’16 was also awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the NSF, and bioengineering alumna Alexis Peña ’16 earned an Honorable Mention.

About the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports outstanding graduate students by providing three years of funding for the completion of research-based master’s and PhD programs in supported fields at U.S. institutions. Supported fields are STEM disciplines, but also include psychology, social sciences, and STEM education. 30 Nobel Laureates and 440 members of the National Academy of Science have been past recipients. The program seeks individuals that show the potential for innovation and transformation in their chosen field.


Geoffrey Vaartstra ’17

Mechanical Engineering Senior Named Astronaut Scholar

Geoffrey Vaartstra ’17, a mechanical engineering major, has been named Syracuse University’s 2016 Astronaut Scholar. Each year, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation selects one student who is pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or math to receive the prestigious scholarship at each of it’s participating universities.

Vaartstra’s academic interests lie in the development of advanced materials for water and energy applications, specifically water purification and energy systems. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering after graduation.

As an undergraduate, Vaartsrta has been conducting nanotechnology research with Professor Shalabh Maroo in which he investigates water transport phenomena in the sub-nanometer pores of zeolites towards creating an efficient water desalination membrane, and has published and presented an American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference paper as the first author. He is planning to conduct research with Maroo in his senior year on enhanced pool boiling surfaces with nanopattering for his capstone project awarded by the Renee Crown University Honors Program.

Vaartstra was motivated to advance water purification following trips to Mexico in which he visited cities with unsafe drinking water. “Having lived my entire life in the United States, where potable water is always as close as the nearest faucet, the first-hand experience of having to pay for every sip of such a basic human necessity struck me profoundly,” he says. “I have listened to my friends from Puebla talk about the related social impacts, such as high levels of childhood obesity and a range of common health problems among poor communities in Mexico.”

This past spring, he studied abroad in Santiago, Chilé, where he evaluated the engineering challenges that local communities face. Vaartstra was also recognized as an Honorable Mention for the Goldwater Scholarship.


LaVerne Sessler ’16, G ’17

Civil Engineering & Business

It isn’t hard to see how LaVerne Sessler ’16, G’17 ended up enrolled in Syracuse University’s H. John Riley 3+2 Engineering and MBA program. He’s been around construction equipment and business his entire life.

His family owns and operates Sessler Wrecking, a company that specializes in the demolition of bridges, and industrial and commercial structures. But while his family’s expertise is in taking structures down, Sessler’s is in putting them up.

Since beginning work on his degrees, he has completed construction management internships at Hunter Roberts Construction group in NYC and the Dubai Construction Company. He also holds the distinction of being a Syracuse University Remembrance Scholar. This summer, he will work at General Electric in a transportation management internship. Each opportunity brings him closer to his goal of being a professional engineer.

Why did you choose Syracuse University?

“My uncle, Chris Shaffer, attended SU and played football. When I was younger, we’d always come to campus for games and tailgate parties because he’s always been a die-hard Syracuse fan. I really liked Syracuse and subconsciously always knew that it would be the right choice.”

“I like the culture. It’s not strictly an engineering school. You have every major you could think of on campus and it’s nice to know people from other majors. A lot of my friends are in Newhouse or Whitman.”

“It’s big enough that you don’t see the same people everyday, but small enough that you can make connections with professors. I know everyone in my civil engineering program. Professor Clemence was my ECS 101 professor and since then I’ve attended his talks and become good friends with him. He was our mentor for the Dubai internship program and he traveled with us there. He’s always willing to help. He’s a down to earth, great guy.”

Why did you choose to take on an MBA in addition to your civil engineering degree?

“I was looking to go the construction management or engineering management route and this was an opportunity presented to me in my sophomore year, so I applied. I wanted to pursue something more than my bachelor’s and this program gave me the opportunity. Since junior year I have been taking half my classes in Whitman School of Business and half in engineering.”

“Shifting my mindset back and forth from engineering and business works out well. I get a perspective from both sides. It takes a little getting used to, but I enjoy it.”

What are you a part of outside of your academics?

“I ski and play intramural sports. I’m in Delta Tau Delta. I do a lot of philanthropy with my fraternity brothers. We have a softball tourney that goes to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.”

“It adds a lot to my college experience. In addition to all my friends that I have met in classes, I have a whole group of people that I can hang out with and that I can connect with on another level.”

What do you hope to contribute to the world with your education?

“I see civil engineers as the people who hold everything together. The roads, the bridges, the buildings—all of the infrastructure that surrounds us is civil engineering. I look forward to the day I can build something and say ‘That was me. I contributed.’”

“I think my management skills will also play a huge role. With those, you can do more than just be the designer. You can manage the entire project and look at it from a higher level. Even if you aren’t leading the effort, you can understand why the company is doing what it’s doing and it gives you more insight into how things get done.”