General Conference Chairs
Prof. Mike Wagner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Mike Wagner is an Assistant Professor at UW-Madison where he is principal investigator of the Energy Systems Operations Lab and affiliate of the Solar Energy Lab and Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium. His research includes thermal systems modeling, system design and operations optimization, and predictive performance analysis of energy generation and storage technologies. Prior to joining UW-Madison, he was a senior researcher and principal investigator for over 11 years in the Thermal Systems group at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado. Dr. Wagner is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (B.S., M.S.) and Colorado School of Mines (Ph.D.). He has over 50 scholarly publications and is a 2019 recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He serves as a guest editor of ASME Journal of Energy Resources Technology.
Prof. Justin Lapp, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Director of Solar Thermal Energy Laboratory
University of Maine
Dr. Justin Lapp is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine, and director of the Solar Thermal Energy Laboratory. He is affiliate faculty of the Climate Change Institute and the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. He is a graduate of Rose Hulman Institute of Technology (B.S.), Clemson University (M.S.), and the University of Minnesota (Ph.D.), and has specialized in heat transfer and thermodynamic modeling for high temperature solar thermal energy systems. Justin has performed research on the topics of solar fuels reactors, particle receivers for concentrating solar power, and high temperature thermal storage.
Technical Program Chairs
Prof. Hamidreza Najafi, Ph.D.
Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Florida Institute of Technology
Dr. Hamidreza Najafi is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Florida Institute of Technology. He conducts research and teaches courses in the areas of energy and thermal sciences. He is the Director of the Innovations in Sustainable Energy and Thermal Systems Lab (I.S.E.T.S) where his research is focused on designing and optimization of thermal/energy systems, renewable energy systems, energy efficiency and computational heat transfer. Dr. Najafi is serving as Florida Tech ASHRAE Students Branch Advisor, a Guest Editor of ASME Journal of Energy Resources Technology and MDPI Sustainability. Prior to joining Florida Tech, Dr. Najafi worked as a lead engineer in Alabama Industrial Assessment Center (funded by U. S. Department of Energy), where he was focused on improving efficiency in industrial energy systems and conducted assessments for more than fifty manufacturing companies in AL, GA, and MS.
Associate Professor of Engineering Studies
Julia Nicodemus is an Associate Professor of Engineering Studies at Lafayette College. She holds degrees from Grinnell College (BA in Physics), Brooklyn College (M.S. in Math Education), and the University of Minnesota (M.S. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering and M.S. in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy). Her scholarly interests include techno-economic and policy analyses of sustainable fuels and the use of baffles, manifolds and other passive means to control flow and temperature fields and enhance heat transfer to immersed heat exchangers in solar thermal storage tanks. Working in an undergraduate institution, she invites undergraduates into her research program and involves them deeply in her work. She teaches interdisciplinary classes in engineering and public policy, energy technologies, and sustainability to engineering and non-engineering undergraduate students. At Lafayette, she was awarded the John T. McCartney Excellence in Diversity Education Award in 2015 and the B. Vincent Viscomi Engineering Prize for Excellence in Mentoring and Teaching in 2021.
Technical Program Co-Chairs
Ben Xu, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering
Mississippi State University
Dr. Ben Xu is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Center of Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) at Mississippi State University (MSU). His current research interests focus on multiphase flow and heat transfer in porous media, high temperature solar thermal storage, additive manufacturing of refractory alloy, and laser-assisted 3D bioprinting. Prior to joining MSU, Dr. Xu worked as Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering in University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Drexel University. Dr. Xu has been PI, Co-PI and senior personnel at MSU and UTRGV on multiple funded projects from US Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and National Science Foundation. He has more than 50 scholarly publications in the field of renewable energy systems and advanced manufacturing. Currently, he is serving as the guest editor of Journal of Thermal Science (Springer), Processes (MDPI), and ASME Journal of Energy Resources Technology, and he is also the chair of technical committee of Renewable Energy and Energy Conversion (REEC) in Advanced Energy System Division (AESD) at ASME.
Prof. Luke J. Venstrom, Ph.D.
Paul H. Brandt Professor of Engineering
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Department of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering
Dr. Luke Venstrom is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Paul H. Brandt Professor of Engineering at Valparaiso University where he co-directs the James S. Markiwiecz Solar Energy Research Facility, home to the only solar furnace at a primarily undergraduate engineering college. He is a graduate of Valparaiso University (B.S.) and the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities (M.S., Ph.D.). His research broadly encompasses the thermal fluid sciences, with a focus on renewable energy systems and, in particular, high-temperature solar thermal and electrothermal chemistry. He was the 2019-2020 Valparaiso University Research Professor and the 2021 recipient of the Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Work for his integration of undergraduate students into cutting-edge, high-temperature concentrated solar energy research.