Current Lab Members

Research Interests: I am currently interested in low-cost alternative energy methods, though I have quite an eclectic research background. My first undergraduate research experience was in Dr. Edward Boyden’s Synthetic Neurobiology lab where I worked on a project focused on mouse virtual reality for in vivo neural recordings. Afterwards, I joined Dr. Rohit Karnik’s Microfluidics & Nanofluidics Research lab. My research there centered around quality control techniques and instrumentation for use during the manufacturing of low-cost xylem water filters. As of now, my project revolves around the creation and utilization of a probe to measure the thermal properties of molten salts for concentrated solar power plants.

Hobbies: I enjoy singing, watching movies, meeting people, learning different languages, and contemplating going on a run.

Bettina Arkhurst
PhD Student
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Research Interests: My interest in Materials Science and Engineering was actualized when I realized, through history, that human evolution depended on materials and their structure-property relationships. In a field so vast, my research interests include understanding electronic materials (organics, inorganics, and hybrids) and how they can improve energy efficiency. I graduated from the University of Florida, where I worked with inorganic semiconductors, soft elastomers, and natural polymers. At Georgia Tech, I am exploring the processing capabilities of organic semiconductors and how they can be optimized for energy applications like thermoelectric devices.

Hobbies: I have the heart of an adventurer and am always ready to explore new places, especially when music and food are involved. I like to stay active with sports and exercise. When I’ve exhausted myself, I’ll relax by reading, watching movies or streaming shows, and painting.

Co-Advised by: Prof. Natalie Stingelin

Amalie Atassi
PhD Student
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Research Interests: My research interests mainly fall within the macroscale thermodynamics field, and include renewable energy systems and thermal desalination. During my undergrad at the University of Illinois, I worked in an agricultural engineering lab that tested the effects of different thermal/chemical environments on egg production in controlled hen-houses. More recently, I worked in a pharmacology lab at the University of Pennsylvania where I tested the mechanical properties of arteries from a variety of mouse models and drug treatment protocols. Here at Tech, I’m doing a research-180 and focusing on next-generation molten salt technology for concentrating solar power systems.

Hobbies: Cooking, reading travel books, traveling, finding new cafes/hangouts around Atlanta to take my beagle Bud.

Sonja Brankovic
PhD Student
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Research Interests: My research focuses on thermal radiation and micro- and nanoscale heat transfer, especially related with applications for energy conversion and harvesting systems. I began working on energy science through my undergrad experience at Zhejiang University. During my graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University, I worked on designing and optimizing a solid state cooling device based on the thermoelectric and electrocaloric effects. My current research projects include developing models for near- and far-field radiative thermoelectric energy conversion (RTEC) devices; and experimentally realizing the design, and improving the performance of, a device with various photonic techniques

Hobbies: Expanding both the physical and mental limits of humans is interesting and meaningful to me. I am an enthusiast of wide range of sports. I have ran marathon twice and I also play soccer every week. I also love traveling and reading, and I have been practicing my photography skills since my undergrad. Recently, I am intrigued by playing drums.

Co-Advised by: Prof. Zhoumin Zhang

Dudong (Frank) Feng
PhD Student
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Research Interests:  My research interests include thermoelectric materials, electrically conducting polymers, vacuum sciences, and the general relationship between materials synthesis and processing with materials properties and performance. I am co-advised in the Losego Lab where I focus on Vapor Phase Infiltration and Atomic Layer Deposition. My most recent projects have focused on the thermoelectric properties of poly(thiophene) and chalcogenophene derivatives and the surface functionalization of lumber.

Hobbies:  Backpacking, rappelling, playing in creeks

Co-Advised by: Prof. Mark Losego

Shawn Gregory
PhD Student
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Background: Andrey Gunawan joined STEEL as Research Engineer in the spring of 2016. Andrey is currently co-leading a DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office Gen3 CSP project with Professor Yee on researching high temperature (>700 °C) thermophysical property measurements of heat transfer media and containment materials that will ultimately provide the necessary data to advance high- temperature concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. He received his BS in Aeronautics & Astronautics from Institut Teknologi Bandung, MS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California, and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Professor Patrick Phelan’s group at Arizona State University. Much of Andrey’s early PhD works focused on nanofluids-based solar thermal energy conversion. His current research interests also include thermogalvanic/thermoelectrochemical cells, sodium thermal electrochemical converter (NaTEC/AMTEC), and carbon sequestration. He is the recipient of several honors and awards including The Electrochemical Society (ECS) Joseph W. Richards Summer Fellowship (2014), Honorable Mention of the Link Foundation Energy Fellowship (2014), and together with his co-authors he received the Best Paper Award(s) in the ASME Power Division Student Paper Competition at the ASME Power & Energy 2015 (link) and 2018 (link) Conferences. Outside the lab, he has been actively contributing to ASME FutureME community through Mini-Talks and E-Fests.

Andrey Gunawan
Research Engineer
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Background: Shana joined the G2RT team in July of 2019 as the Program Support Coordinator.  In this role, Shana manages the budget, assists in planning for events, and supports the internal and external team members.  Shana started at Georgia Institute of Technology in June 2016 as an Administrative Professional III, was quickly promoted to an Administrative Professional Senior, and then again to Purchasing Associate in the finance department of Mechanical Engineering before being promoted to the G2RT team.  Previously Shana spent 20+ years in the corporate world as an Executive Assistant to the President, Vice President and General Manager of Johnson Industries, as well as serving as the point of contact for the outside sales team.  All of which, paired with an Associates Degree in Business Administration, developed communication and time management skills as well as the ability to work with varying personalities to accomplish a common goal.

Hobbies: When not in the office, Shana spends time with her husband, son, and 4 dogs.  Shana also enjoys the baseball season, attending concerts, and travels as much as possible.

Shana Hefferon
Program Support Coordinator G2RT
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Research Interests: I am very interested in researching innovative energy systems that are economically and environmentally sustainable. While pursuing my undergraduate and Master’s degrees, I had the opportunity to conduct research in Dr. Robert Wang’s group at Arizona State University. My undergraduate research involved the testing and analysis of a thermal storage device for small-scale concentrating solar power systems. During my Master’s, I researched the thermodynamic limits of a desiccant-based air conditioning system that would utilize thermo-responsive polymers in a solid desiccant dehumidifier, and I showed the benefits that this type of system could provide. I also had the opportunity to intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where I conducted computational fluid dynamics analysis on the Orion Environmental Control and Life Support System.

Hobbies: Strength training, playing and watching sports (go Sun Devils!), hiking, boating, cooking, going to concerts.

Jordan Kocher
PhD Student
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Background: Daniel Morton joined the G2RT as the Managing Director in the summer of 2019. Prior to joining the team Daniel was the Manager and central administrator for the NSF Center for Selective C–H Functionalization (CCHF), a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Center for Chemical Innovation with a budget of $40 million over 10 years (2012–2022). The CCHF consists of scientists from 22 research groups across 15 domestic institutions with an annual cohort of over 100 faculty, postdocs and students.

Before his move into research administration Daniel’s research has explored various aspects of organic chemistry. Completing his Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry in 2005 from the University of East Anglia, UK, he moved as a postdoc to the University of Leeds, UK, where he worked on both Total Synthesis and Diversity Oriented Synthesis programs. In 2008 Daniel moved to Emory University, USA, where he employed C–H Functionalization as an enabling technology to access biologically active molecules. In 2011 Daniel returned to the UK to work for Dr Reddys’ Pharmaceuticals before returning to Emory University in 2013 as the Managing Director of the CCHF.

Hobbies: When not at work you will find Daniel outside, ideally walking the dog or climbing a mountain.

Daniel Morton
Managing Director G2RT
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Background: James, originally from south Florida, received his B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. During his time there he conducted research under Dr. Kenneth Laali in the field of ionic liquids. James joined the Reynolds group at Georgia Tech in the spring 2012 and graduated with his Ph.D. in the summer of 2017. He then joined the McCulloch group at Imperial College London to continue research on electroactive polymers. He joined the STEEL lab in the spring of 2020 to continue research on electroactive materials.

Research Interests: James’ research currently is focused on atom substitution and resulting heavy atom effects for both solid-state and redox applications.

Hobbies: Reading, Weight lifting, Hiking, Coffee

James Ponder
Postdoctoral Fellow
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Research interests: Ever since my introduction to atomic physics in high school, I have been interested in understanding the intricacies of nature. During my final undergraduate years, I developed a passion for helping to solve the energy problem. I feel that this passion gives my interest a sense of purpose. In grad school, I hope to delve into thermal physics and look into various alternative techniques that can harvest waste energy. During my senior year at Texas A&M University, I briefly worked on automating a variable aperture for a solar reactor designed to thermally crack methane for hydrogen production. While I was a Masters’ student at the University of Michigan, I ventured into the alluring nanoscale regime for the first time at the Nanoscale Transport Lab. I worked on designing a novel probe based technique for thermal infrared near-field spectroscopy. At Georgia Tech, I am currently exploring a few projects that involve energy harvesting or cooling.

Hobbies: Art has been a long lasting passion since high school. I have won over a hundred national and international painting competitions. These days, it has been relegated to a doodle during my down time. I also love to read as much as I can, whenever I can. Over the past couple years, I have developed an interest in fitness. Some of my more recent hobbies include Muay Thai, badminton and learning to play the guitar.

Aravindh Rajan
PhD Student
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Research Interests: I became fascinated by polymers during my undergraduate education at Penn State University. Polymers are interesting because their properties can vary so greatly. There are soft, rubber like polymers, strong and flexible polymers like polyethylene, and rigid, engineering plastics like polycarbonates. While at Penn State, I studied ion conducting polymers under Dr. Robert Hickey and Dr. Ralph Colby. I joined the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering in the fall of 2019 and am co-advised by Dr. John Reynolds. My current research involves studying the electronic and thermal properties of conjugated polymers for thermoelectric applications.

Hobbies: Playing with my dog, video games, golf, volleyball, and other sports

Co-Advised by: Prof. John Reynolds

Josh Rinehart
PhD Student
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Research Interests: My current research interest involves engineering novel/optimizing current sustainable energy systems and stems from a desire to have a lasting positive impact on society. As an undergrad I received dual BS degrees in Mathematics and Electronic Engineering Technology from Grambling State University. During my time there I was afforded the opportunity to conduct research in various disciplines of engineering, however, my undergraduate research experience on hydrogen fuel cell membranes at Georgia Tech solidified my desire to do materials research. After graduating in December 2013, I made Georgia Tech my home and I have had the privilege of working on several ambitious projects related to investigating the nature of carbon nanotubes in metal matrices to optimizing insulating properties of composites made with hollow silica nanospheres.

Hobbies: Trying new foods and experiencing music and art from different cultures are at the top of my list, but if I had to go with a staple activity it would be playing mas in Caribbean carnivals.

Co-Advised by: Prof. Kyriaki Kalaitzidou

Daron R. Spence
PhD Student
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