News and Updates for the Social Responsibilities for Researchers (SRR) program

Maria Gibbs is improving footbridges in the developing world. 

Maria Gibbs 1b

For the 1 billion people who live in the walking world, impassable rivers can be major obstacles in access to healthcare, education and economic opportunities. Maria Gibbs, civil engineering, works with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P; to build footbridges in the developing world. Through the SRR program, Maria sought to improve her communication skills to better engage various stakeholder communities. She successfully lobbied the Technical Advisory Board and Engineering team of Bridges to Prosperity to participate in the development of a design tool which can be used by engineers to design long-span bridges that are safe in the wind. When the tool is complete, B2P will include it in their standardized footbridge design and in the open source footbridge design standard they publish. 

Victoria Makuru hosts a STEM boot camp in Tanzania.

Victoria Mukula 3

Victoria Makuru, biology, organized a STEM boot camp in Tanzania in collaboration with ProjektInspire ( that aims to raise career awareness in youth and provide career consultancy. The boot camp lasted 4 days, from January 5-9, 2016 with 51 students in attendance, their ages ranging from 13 to 21. “As an organizer in the first boot camp,” Victoria explained, “I played part in forming the curriculum for the boot camp and facilitating other presenters and workshop leaders."

Students were divided into four groups. The biology group had an introduction to DNA and genetics and performed DNA extraction in the lab using readily available material. The chemistry group made soap and recycled paper. The engineering group designed a solar oven as well as assembled a drone. The technology group got an introduction to programming and mobile app creation.

Josh Mason and Andrew Schranck

Josh Mason, co-founder of the Science Policy Initiative at Notre Dame

Josh Mason, biology, co-founded the Science Policy Initiative at Notre Dame, a student group working at the interface of science and public policy. “There is oftentimes a disconnect between scientists, the general public, and policy-makers, particularly in their inability to interact and communicate,” he says.  To bridge this gap, members of the Science Policy Initiation met with a local Congresswoman and Congressman from IN-8 and with an Indiana Senator’s staff. They sponsored a societal impact prize at the Northern Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair and participated in the National Science Policy Group Congressional Visits Day in Washington, DC in April 2016. 

Josh Mason (left) and Andrew Schranck (right) debate other SRR fellows during boot camp in May 2015. 

Andrew Schranck engaged high school chemistry students with engineering. 

Andrew Schranck, civil engineering, brought innovative engineering research topics to a high school chemistry class at the Career Academy South Bend using both lectures and a project based learning approach. “The project has been largely successful,” says Andrew. “It increased science literacy and interest in STEM. It also promoted the broader impacts of my research while raising awareness about global wastewater and energy issues.” During the five-part series students were challenged to learn complex science and engineering concepts presented in a way that was relevant to material of their existing curriculum. 


Rodolfo Capdevilla awarded Ganey Graduate Stipend



Rodolfo Capdevilla, a physics PhD student in the first SRR cohort, was awarded a Ganey Community-Based Research Graduate Stipend for the work associated with his SRR project. What began as a simple plan to build educational demonstrations of quantum physics has, through a partnership with QuarkNet, grown into a substantial outreach effort that also serves as STEM career recruitment.  The project will be delivered at three area high schools, and the materials disseminated nationally.  Accompanying assessments will track learning, engagement with STEM subjects and future career choices.  Don Howard, the PI of SRR, served as Rodolfo's mentor for this project.  


Maria Gibbs takes MAGS 3MT Championship

Follwing her wins at the university and local levels, Maria has now taken First Place at the regional Midwest Association of Graduate School (MAGS) 3MT competition!   Way to go, Maria! 

Multiple NSF GRFP winners from both cohorts of SRR

Francisco Pancho Fields

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is among the most prestigous awards NSF makes to graduate students.  The oldest fellowship of its kind, the award includes a substantial annual stipend as well as a tuition allowance.  NSF Fellows are expected to become experts who contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. 

In the current SRR cohort, Francisco (Pancho) Fields of Biology has been awarded an NSF GRFP (pictured at right).  Andrew Schranck of Civil Engineering also received an Honorable Mention in the competition.  In the upcoming 2016 SRR cohort, Kristina Hook of Anthropology and Peace Studies and Heather Forrest-Fruscalzo of Biology have each been awarded NSF GRFPs!   Paige Ambord of Sociology also received an Honorable Mention. Read more about the award and see the complete list of ND awardees here. Congratulations to all!

Angie Lederach wins Fulbright Student Award

Angie Lederach 1

2015 SRR Cohort member Angie Lederach has been awarded a Fulbright Student Award for her dissertation research in Colombia.  Angie will research the role of intergenerational solidarity in a nonviolent peace movement — the Peaceful Movement of the Alta Montaña (Movimiento Pacífico de la Alta Montaña) — in Colombia.  Congratulations Angie!  


Maria Gibbs is ND 3MT Champion!


We are pleased to announce that 2015 SRR Cohort member Maria Gibbs has won the Notre Dame 3 Minute Thesis Finals Championship!  Maria will now represent Notre Dame in future rounds of the 3MT series competition.  In 3MT, doctoral students are given three minutes to give a compelling and concise yet informative presentation on their dissertation research.  Maria’s research concerns how to accurately model the aeroelasticity of footbridges in the developing world.  Her SRR project focused on how to share the results of this research with diverse stakeholders.  

Like all SRR students, Maria received training in communication and social impacts of research in SRR, and she has put this to excellent use! 

Fellow 2015 SRR Cohort member Josh Mason assisted in bringing the 3MT competition to Notre Dame.