Leadership Fellows 2015


Andrew Bartolini (3rd year) – Civil Engineering

The current state of structural engineering education contains gaps in the strategies used to teach the next generation of structural engineers. This need to find new approaches in how to properly educate structural engineering students was the topic of many technical sessions at the 2015 American Society of Civil Engineers Structures Congress. Furthermore, the Structural Engineers Institute is currently in the process of forming the Committee on the Reform of Structural Engineering Education. As a teaching assistant and former student, I have seen the shortcomings of the current educational system firsthand. Working with the First Year Engineering Program and using my platform as a teaching assistant, I will lead the implementation of new techniques and strategies in training civil engineering students at the University of Notre Dame.


Clyde Daly (3rd year) – Chemistry

During my practicum, I will be mentoring a first year chemistry major in physical chemistry research. Initially, I will focus on helping her become a more independent researcher by helping her to more independently analyze and present the results of simulations and guiding her to write useful computer code for extracting the data. When she has reached goals that we set together, I will begin to introduce her to the relevant scientific literature, prepare her to create her own contributions and give her the opportunity to write scientifically and give presentations on her work. The long-term goal is to help her to become independent and knowledgeable enough to both produce publishable data with very little direction and teach future students in the group, and eventually others outside the group.


Sage Davis (3rd year) – Biology

My practicum sites will be three-fold; research, teaching, and community. I aim to express the excellence of my research and the school through international conferences, where I will present my findings and improve the name of not only myself, but that also of Notre Dame. I will have opportunities to interact with many undergraduate students through TA positions and as a graduate student in the lab. Finally, I plan on utilizing my position as the Biology Graduate Student Organization president to better the environment for my fellow graduate students. Thus, I believe my role and responsibilities as a graduate student are; to carry out and present excellent research with the help of my colleagues as a student of the University of Notre Dame, to pass on my knowledge, experience, and motivation to my mentees, namely undergraduate and new graduates students, and improve the working conditions for fellow graduate students.


Keith Feldman (3rd year) – Computer Science and Engineering

For my leadership practicum, I aim to focus on the improvement of mentorship experiences for undergraduate students in computer science. As the major continues to grow at Notre Dame many students are now utilizing the resources on campus, seeking out additional research opportunities outside of their standard coursework. Through this experience I want to develop the skills needed to identify meaningful assignments for each student, helping them to build the skill sets most beneficial for them while still accomplishing the project they are assigned to work on. Learning how to create meaningful work in areas I am less familiar with is another opportunity in my practicum. Finally, some particularly advanced undergraduate students may actually work on their own research projects. As the skills required in for effective research are something we as graduate students are still developing ourselves, helping undergraduate students develop effective and reasonable research projects is the final component of undergraduate mentorship I wish to include within the programs leadership practicum.


Matt Hall (3rd year) – Physics

My leadership practicum will consist of two parts. The first is organizing the Graduate Physics Students (GPS) conference, which is to be held in either during the fall or spring semester. The GPS conference did not happen this spring, so it is important that someone heads the conference committee to make sure the required tasks are completed and that it is successful. The second part of my leadership practicum will be to mentor and lead the younger students in our research group. We will have three undergrads and a new graduate student working for us during the year that will come to me for questions, since I am the senior graduate student in the group.


Kristen Johnson (3rd year) – Chemistry

Many aspects of modern science, technology, engineering, math, and disease are misunderstood. These misconceptions stem from the gap in information transfer from scientists and scientific literature to non-scientists. The goal of my practicum site “Science Is for Everyone” is to provide a scientific seminar series designed for adult non-scientists. This series will be free and open to the public. The seminar series will feature local experts to lecture in a non-technical way to help decode popular, but misconceived science in the news. The aim of this practicum is to bridge the gap between the science community and the non-science community to inform, inspire, and educate the public about scientific subjects in the news and in everyday life. To that end, I also aim to include a family-targeted, biannual, hands-on workshop “Science in Our Everyday Lives,” featuring fun demonstrations of the science, technology, and engineering behind items we use everyday.


Julie Kessler (4th year) – Chemistry

With the goals, mission, and vision of this program in mind, I am proposing a multi-faceted practicum. The first part includes my involvement in the Society of Schmitt Fellows, whose members are selected on the basis of academic achievement, leadership and community service. As the Vice President, I hope to extend my influence within the group to encourage more involvement from new members and to continue hosting impactful events within the community. The next aspect of my practicum is to aid in the planning of the annual PINDU conference, an inorganic chemistry symposium shared by the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, and Purdue University. The highly collaborative nature of the event will require planning, organization, communication, teamwork, and time-management skills. Finally, there is the possibility of accepting an undergraduate researcher into our lab next year. If so, I would like to be her primary supervisor in order to improve my communication and mentoring abilities.


Jennifer Kolesari (3rd year) – Psychology

My practicum leadership experience will be creating a group of scholars who are on a fellowship in the humanities or social sciences. The Schmitt fellows already have a consistent group that meets and hosts various events. I would like to create a similar group of Presidential fellows from the humanities and social sciences that would meet occasionally, complete service projects together, and discuss their interests with other scholars outside of their discipline. I would like to set up a few events over the year that would draw scholars and help create a strong fellowship community.


Liz Loughran (4th year) – Integrated Biomedical Sciences

My leadership practicum will focus on mentoring undergraduate researchers in the laboratory setting. In the context of leadership training, I will further develop a craft of effectively inviting undergraduate students into research. I am passionate about learning and I will seek to lead my students into authentic learning in the lab setting. In graduate school, there is a focus on educating students to think independently. I think this process can begin at the undergraduate level and I want to empower undergraduates to become critical and creative thinkers. Welcoming their ideas, I will invite them into the collaborative environment of science research and will guide them as they pursue their research goals. I will ask my students for feedback on my mentorship skills and will use their input to improve my craft.


Amanda Marra (3rd year) – Biology

For my leadership practicum, I would like to work with the College of Science at Notre Dame, namely the DNA Learning Center and Expand Your Horizons programs. My research focuses on using the embryonic zebrafish kidney to study cell fate decisions in nephron development, and both the DNA Learning Center and Expand Your Horizons programs can be an avenue to share my graduate research with the community in a way that will shed light on numerous aspects of biology and raise excitement for STEM fields in general. This includes highlighting the usefulness of model organisms to gain insight into human development and allowing young students to associate themselves with scientists. I want to ultimately develop a workshop where students can come in and interactively learn about cell biology, including handling zebrafish and collecting embryos, looking through the microscope at stained tissues, and outlining the similarities between the zebrafish kidney and the mammalian kidney.


Mike McConnell (3rd year) – Electrical Engineering

Increasingly, we live in a computer driven world where more and more tasks are completed electronically. This evolution has been revolutionary but it also brings its own unique set of challenges to the economically disadvantaged, especially the homeless, who may not have the experience or familiarity with computers required by many jobs now. The South Bend Center For the Homeless (CFH) is an excellent local organization that helps homeless individuals get their GED and achieve computer literacy, and my leadership practicum will be to expand this training to include not just computer literacy, but basic computer programming. I hope to construct and teach an introductory programming course at the CFH that will teach guests of the Center how to program in Java, which is the language used to develop Android apps. Programming, and even just a basic understanding of how computers work, is a very marketable job skill and one that could benefit guests at the CFH immensely. I am hoping to start the course this summer or fall and plan to continue to teach it as much as time allows over the following semesters.


Cristal Reyna (3rd year) – Biology

For my practicum, I will be working on introducing Paradigm Shift, a STEM outreach program targeted for middle school aged children from low- to middle-income families, to the University of Notre Dame. Paradigm Shift is a six-week program that involves project-based learning in small groups. Students participating in a Paradigm Shift session will be in 4-6 person groups and will choose a science topic to explore. The group leader will be an undergraduate or graduate student who will be responsible for teaching concepts related to this topic. The students will design a presentation/poster/activity to present at the Paradigm Shift Showcase at the end of the program, which their parents, teachers, and fellow students will attend. The goal of Paradigm Shift is to foster an environment of support and mentorship in STEM and increase STEM enrollment and retention of diverse students at the University of Notre Dame.


McKay Rytting (3rd year) – Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

My practicum experience will be acting as president of the Society of Schmitt Fellows. This year I will be looking for ways to meet the academic and research needs of the Schmitt Fellows, as well as opportunities for the Society to positively impact the community. I would like us to develop a more in-depth mentoring program for incoming graduate students that begins earlier and persists longer, meet for meals more often to develop community among the fellows, increase the amount of funding available for travel, and organize at least one additional community outreach or service event. I personally will be working on improving my relationships with individual fellows, so that they know who I am and are comfortable coming to me with ideas, suggestions, questions, and problems. Ultimately, I want the Society of Schmitt Fellows to become an integral part of fellows’ graduate school experiences, rather than just a fellowship on a resume.


Kasey Stanton (4th year) – Psychology

My research lab is in the initial phases of conducting a large-scale study that will involve collecting data from roughly 600 community members using a battery of questionnaires and clinical interviews. In particular, we are interested in studying how personality traits are related to psychological symptoms (e.g., are introverts more likely to be depressed than extraverts). As can be imagined, completing this study will require a team effort from all lab members. This will involve me taking the initiative to motivate and organize the members of our lab to recruit participants, conduct sessions and pay participants, and eventually prepare the data we collect for publication. I see this study as an excellent opportunity to take a leadership role by mentoring undergraduate students in our lab (we will have roughly 10 undergraduates assisting with this study), and I plan to work closely with them to help them identify their own training goals as they assist with the study operations. Examples of training goals that I envision for our undergraduates include them becoming proficient in clinical interviewing, learning more about psychological disorders, and learning to organize and present data.


Dana Townsend (3rd year) – Psychology

For the 2015-16 leadership practicum, I plan to organize a reading group on “The Moral Psychology of Peace and Justice” for faculty and students in the Moral and Adolescent Psychology lab. The purpose of the reading group is to explore the intersection of moral psychology and peace studies and to identify the constructs, methods, and tensions relevant to this area of research. My role in this project is to invite participants, organize meeting times, select readings, and lead discussion. I hope to strengthen my engagement with undergraduate students, encouraging them to share their ideas and insights while also helping them think through the concepts and issues related to peace studies. With funding support from the Kroc Institute and the Department of Psychology, I will conclude this project by inviting key scholars in moral psychology and peace studies to give a lecture at Notre Dame and participate in a discussion on emerging questions and new directions.


Yuanxing Wang (4th year) – Chemistry

Since I am a junior chemistry graduate student, I plan to lead a group working on related project in my lab for the practice of STEM leadership program. This related project is about synthesis and characterization of two-dimensional (2D) nanomaterials. In this project, attenders will try to do synthesis of 2D nanomaterials, and then do measurements of synthesized materials to understand their properties under my guidance. During this process, attenders will get senses about basic science and how to do research. Besides, this project will provide me an opportunity to further develop my leadership strengths and decision-making, and to positively impact the community.