Panelist Biographies

Prof. Thomas Degnan (University of Notre Dame)

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Tom Degnan is currently the Anthony and Sarah Earley Professor of Energy and the Environment in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Prior to joining Notre Dame, Tom worked for ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company for 15 years and for its predecessor, Mobil Technology Company for 19 years. He was responsible for managing and leading Mobil's and then ExxonMobil's catalyst technology programs for 15 years. For the last 6 years of his career at ExxonMobil, Tom led the company's downstream breakthrough R&D program. Tom was a member of AIChE's Board of Directors and sits on several university advisory committees. He is member of the National Academy of Engineering, and has won numerous awards from AIChE and ACS. Tom received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Notre Dame, his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and an MBA from the University of Minnesota.


Dr. Nicholas McNamara (Johnson Matthey)

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Nicholas McNamara attained a B.S. (2009) and M.S. (2011) from the University of Dayton where he carried out research on the synthesis and characterization of carbon-supported metal nanoparticles via sonochemical methods. His graduate study was supported by the Patrick and Jana Eilers Graduate Student Fellowship for Energy Related Research at the University of Notre Dame where he earned his PhD (2015) under the direction of Prof. Jason Hicks. His graduate research was focused on synthesis, characterization, and utilization of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and MOF-templated materials as oxidative desulfurization catalysts. He began his industrial research career in 2016 as a staff scientist in the Clean Air division of Johnson Matthey. His current research interests lie in the design of new materials for targeted applications and the determination of structure-property relationships.


Dr. Michael Penninger (Honeywell UOP)

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Michael W. Penninger received the B.S. in chemical engineering from Western Michigan University. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the University of Notre Dame working in the group of Prof. William Schneider. Mike currently works as a Process Modeling Specialist with UOP Honeywell, Des Plaines, IL. He has also previously held internships at Bosch, Pfizer, and General Motors. Mike was also president of the organizing committee for the first CBE Graduate Research Symposium.


Prof. Jindal Shah (Oklahoma State University)

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Dr. Jindal Shah is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering at the Oklahoma State University since 2014. He received his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, Mumbai in 1996. His graduate degrees include M. S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Cincinnati and Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2005 (with Prof. Ed Maginn). He spent a couple of years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Multiscale Modeling of Biological Interaction at the Ohio State University before returning to Notre Dame as an Assistant Research Professor in Chemical Engineering, and later with the Center for Research Computing. His research interests include molecular modeling and simulation for novel materials discovery with a focus on ionic liquids and solvents for desalination, and software development for predicting thermophysical and phase-equilibria properties of complex fluids. Dr. Shah is a recipient of several NSF awards. In 2017, he was presented the “Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award” by the OSU Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association.


Dr. Samir Budhatoki (National Energy Technology Laboratory)

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Samir Budhathoki received PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2016 (with Prof. Edward Maginn), and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Lamar University in 2010. Currently he is working as a research scientist in National Energy Technology Lab (NETL) in Pittsburgh. Prior to this appointment, he worked as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow in NETL during which he worked in a high throughput computational project in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, that involved screening  millions of  hypothetical metal organic framework (MOF) based mixed matrix membranes for post combustion CO2 separation processes. He is currently working on a high throughput computational project, which will enable experimentalists in a targeted approach towards synthesizing novel materials for post combustion CO2 separation and capture.


Dr. Joseph Manser (ARPA-E)

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Joseph Manser currently serves as a Fellow at the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E). His responsibilities include exploring new technology development opportunities that have the potential for disruptive impact in the energy sector. His interests include innovations in energy storage, transportation, solar heat and light energy conversion, and power electronics. Joe was involved in the design of ARPA-E’s newest power electronics technology development program. He received his B.S. in chemistry from Catawba College (2011) and his Ph.D. as a Dean’s Fellow in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the University of Notre Dame (2016) under the direction of Prof. Prashant V. Kamat. During his Ph.D., he studied hybrid metal halide perovskites with a focus on their fundamental optoelectronic properties, structure-property relationships, and implementation in photovoltaic and solar fuels applications. Among his academic accomplishments, he was selected as one of 55 graduate student researchers in the United States to attend the Annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 2015. He also co-founded the Notre Dame Electron Microscopy Club. Prior to his time at Notre Dame, he worked as a National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellow at UNC Charlotte and as a Visiting Scientist at the FBI.