Over the years, the Institute has become increasingly concerned with implementing sustainability principles into its business strategies and academic programs.
These efforts to encourage a more environmentally conscious campus are evident in the school’s creation of the Sustainability Next Task Force, a detailed outline of Tech’s tangible sustainability goals, and the construction of the Kendeda Building, a structure that has won many awards for its green architecture.
More recently, Tech initiated a program in tandem with Novelis — a global company primarily focused on operating recycling facilities — that highlights students performing profound research within sustainability.
According to the Institute’s research website relating to Novelis, the company “is headquartered in Atlanta with a global footprint, over 12,500 employees and recorded $17.1 billion in revenue for its 2022 fiscal year.”
Moreover, the website also states that the Novelis Scholars program launched at Tech in 2021 following the expansion of their research partnership. Their partnership exists to “collaborate on research and development, and [to] promote the education of the next generation of engineers dedicated to making better products that lead to a more sustainable world.”
In this year’s batch of recipients, seven graduate students at the Institute were designated as Novelis Scholars: Bettina Arkhurst (Ph.D. ME), Juanita Hidalgo (Ph.D. MSE), Conlain Kelly (Ph.D. CSE), Walter Parker (Ph.D. ME), Sushree Jagriti Sahoo (Ph.D. CHE), Alexandra Schueller (Ph.D. ME) and Sakshi Sharma (MS MSE).
Additionally, four undergraduate students were recognized: Daniel Johnson (fourth-year ME), Suemin Lee (third-year CE), Brandon Perry (fifth-year MSE) and Sarang Pujari (third-year CS).
Upon hearing that she had received the award, Schueller said that “[I] felt so honored and appreciative. They had so many applicants to pick from, and [I] was happy that they’d seen the value in [my] research.”
Kelly, another graduate student, expressed a similar sentiment but also recognized the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the existence of the program and partnership.
“I was thrilled and honored and am grateful to Novelis for the recognition and the support. While I am deeply appreciative of the additional funding, I think it also highlights underlying issues with how universities rely on and compensate their undergraduate and graduate students, especially as Atlanta’s cost-of-living continues to rise faster than student pay,” Kelly said.
They both went on to explain the research contributions that granted them the scholarship opportunity with Novelis.
“My current Ph.D. dissertation work involves the smart monitoring and real-time control of metal wire arc additive manufacturing processes. This is being done by processing infrared images in real time, and applying pattern recognition techniques to correlate thermal conditions with recommended changes to the process parameters, in order to improve part dimensional accuracy, decrease manufacturing time and reduce material waste,” Schueller said.
Furthermore, Schueller described how her interest in her field of research began thanks to opportunities inside and outside of Tech.
“I got into my area of research by, over time, recognizing my interests in mechanical engineering, manufacturing, programming and eventually machine learning. Some of these interests I discovered through various internships, and I got into machine learning after it was suggested to me by my GT advisor, Dr. Saldaña. I’ve loved it,” Schueller said.
Kelly’s research also explores the study of machine learning.
“My research focuses on how we can embed knowledge of physics into a machine learning program to make it more accurate and reliable … The overarching goal is to teach a computer how materials behave, so that the computer can teach us how to make new, ‘better’ materials,” Kelly said.
Like Schueller, Kelly possessed enthusiasm for a variety of research topics and ultimately fused them into one complex subject.
“It is a lovely blend of physics, applied math and computer science. I have always been unable to focus on just one thing, so being a part of the CSE Department — and studying multi-disciplinary problems — is a great fit for me. I also like studying materials because it is a very fundamental kind of research; our ability to build things has always been tied to the ingredients and processes we use to make them,” Kelly said.
Schueller expressed a clear sense of affection for her work, saying that “[I] am so passionate about this area of research because it brings together so many things that are interesting to [me] — advancing manufacturing systems, machine and sensor design, working with machines, data analysis and machine learning.”
Similarly, Kelly’s project is of great interest to him because of the lasting positive effects it presents. He tied back his research objectives to the original mission of Novelis.
“[I] am fascinated by research situations in which we need to make decisions under uncertainty based on limited or noisy information — something we all experience in the day to day world. [My] general long-term interest is how different fields can come together and improve our understanding of the world and catalyze other innovations. [I] want [my] work to support long-term well-being, such as sustainability, equity and climate stewardship, rather than short-term gain,” Kelly said.
Applications for the 2023-2024 Novelis Scholars program open in the late spring to early summer. Both students suggest that anyone interested in sustainability projects should apply for the program during the next cycle.
To learn more about the rest of the recipient’s research projects and specific affiliation with Novelis, please refer to research.gatech.edu/novelis/novelis-scholars/2022.