Villanova University students and alumni won a record 15 Fulbright grants for 2018–2019, the largest single-year number of Fulbright awards in the University’s history. Engineering majors are regularly represented among the recipients, and this year was no exception. The winner of a Fulbright research grant, Electrical Engineering graduate Gabriel Lopez ’18 will pursue a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Solar Energy at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland. His goal—borne out of classroom learning, a research opportunity and international service—is a career in renewable energy focused on implementing sustainable infrastructure in Central and South America.
Seeking the most holistic experience possible at Villanova, Gabe complemented his engineering major with a minor in peace and justice. He says the combination enlightened him “to the social issues and systemic injustices on which I could put my technical knowledge to work.” A sustainability-focused service and justice trip to Costa Rica through Campus Ministry established his interest in renewable energy systems. Classifying the trip as his most memorable Villanova experience, Gabe notes, “I wouldn’t be where I am without it; it had a tremendous impact on me personally.” A research opportunity the following summer provided the next step toward his Fulbright grant and postgraduation plans.
Working on solar panels in the Solid State Devices laboratory with Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Pritpal Singh, PhD, Gabe was successful in modeling a solar-electric system and simulating its performance under varying conditions. Furthering his work in this area for his senior capstone project, Gabe contributed the electronic design for pay-as-you-go technology for solar-electric systems in Nicaragua. Both experiences provided him with the confidence to pursue his graduate studies in this field.
Hoping to put his technical background and passion for justice and the environment to work on a breakthrough in renewable energy, Gabe emphasizes, “I think we underplay how dire the situation is in terms of the environmental crisis that we’re headed toward.” He adds that he’s most interested in working in Central and South American countries because they will be hardest hit and most immediately impacted by the crisis being faced. Simply put, he concludes, “I want to use my education to enact some kind of positive change in the world.” Describing Gabe as very bright and very capable, as well as thoughtful and humble, Dr. Singh has no doubt his former student and advisee will do just that.