For over four decades, the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation has played an important role in the advancement of graduate studies and research in engineering and the sciences at the University of Notre Dame.
Arthur J. Schmitt was an inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist: he held thirteen patents during his lifetime, founded the Amphenol Company, and donated large sums of money to charities in and around the Chicago area. He set up a foundation to continue and expand his philanthropic vision. Included in this vision is a commitment to the fostering of graduate studies at select Catholic universities.
Recipients of Schmitt fellowships at Notre Dame represent the crème de la crème of graduate students in engineering and science. Among entering doctoral students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, approximately 15% are named as Schmitt Fellows. Fellows receive full tuition scholarships and 12-month, high-end stipends that are guaranteed for four years as long as they are making satisfactory progress toward their degrees. In addition, the University pays the full student health insurance premium during tenure of the fellowship. (Learn more.)
At a luncheon December 2nd honoring the University’s current Schmitt fellows, Dean Gregory E. Sterling said: “We share Mr. Schmitt’s vision of graduate education: it should be holistic. It should not only prepare exceptional minds to conduct ground-breaking research, it should help these same individuals prepare for a life of serving humanity. Universities exist to prepare individuals to address the most pressing needs and issues that confront us. We are honored to be partners with the Schmitt Foundation in developing individuals who will not only gain their own patents, but will remember the reason why such discoveries are important and serve their communities just as Mr. Schmitt did his and continues to do so through his foundation.”
Meet Two Current Schmitt Fellows
A second-year Schmitt fellow, Ashley Baldridge works in the area of aquatic ecology, with a focus on invasive species. Under the direction of Prof. David Lodge, she is using both field and lab experiments to investigate how food web interactions between an invasive crayfish and predatory fish in the northern lakes of Michigan and Wisconsin influence crayfish population density. Her goal: “I want to better understand the natural dynamics of invaded ecosystems so that we can develop more effective and sustainable management plans.”
Much of Baldridge’s work has been conducted at Notre Dame’s own 8,000-acre Environmental Research Center, known as UNDERC — an area of hardwood forests, lakes, and wetlands straddling the Wisconsin-Michigan border. In Spring 2008, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) selected UNDERC as a core site in its national network for discovering and understanding the impacts of climate change, land-use change, and invasive species on ecology to better manage the nation’s ecological challenges.
Dan Van Ness is a Schmitt Fellow at an advanced stage of his degree program. Under the direction of Prof. Thomas Corke, his research aims at improving aerodynamic flow control devices in gas turbine engines. Van Ness explains: “With even small efficiency increases, there is a potential for a large reduction in fuel usage … U.S. commercial carriers use approximately 24 billion gallons of fuel annually. With a 1% improvement in engine efficiency, the reduction in fuel usage for commercial aircraft would be on the order of 30%, which would provide a cost savings of approximately $175 million.”
Van Ness’ research has ecological implications as well—both by reducing the amount of crude oil needed for airline travel and the quantity of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere.