Sarah Kurtz

Professor, UC Merced School of Engineering

The Solar Team

Graduate Students

Aaron Wheeler Aaron is a Physics PhD student. His Bachelor's degree in Physics is from Weber State University. Current research interests are Solar module design, manufacture, and performance.

Zabir Mahmud Zabir is currently pursuing his PhD in Environmental Systems under the supervision of Dr. Sarah Kurtz. He graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, where he focused on renewable energy. For his undergraduate thesis, he conducted an analysis of the optimum thickness of the top and bottom layer of a tandem micromorph. At UC Merced, as part of the Long Duration Energy Storage (LDES) group, his current research focus includes offshore wind assessment and quantifying its impact towards reaching zero carbon grid.

Jeremiah Reagan Received his Bachelor's degree in Physics from UC Berkeley, and a Geology Master's from Cal State Bakersfield. Dabbled a bit in educational content writing and environmental testing. Current research interests include improvements to renewable energy storage and transmission.

Mahmoud Abido Mahmoud Y. Abido is a Ph.D. Student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California Merced. He received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from Aerospace Engineering, Cairo University, Egypt. Abido started his career as a tutor and teaching assistant in 2014. He was appointed lecturer assistant just before joining UC Merced. He joined the American University in Cairo from 2017 to 2020. Currently, his research interest is related to large scale energy storage.

Farzan ZareAfifi Farzan is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at the University of California Merced. He received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tehran in February 2020. He worked on modeling and numerical analysis of hydro energy harvesting turbines for in-pipe applications for his bachelor's thesis. He is currently working on the Long-Duration Energy Storage (LDES) project.

Tyjal DeWolf-Moura Tyjal completed his Master’s in Physics at Colorado School of Mines in 2022, where he worked on the geometric phase of entangled photons. He received his Bachelor’s in Physics with a minor in Math at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 2019. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Materials and Biomaterials Science and Engineering at UC Merced, to identify how he can use his skills to stop global warming.

Amani Byron Amani Byron is pursuing his master's in electrical engineering and computer science under the oversight of Dr. Kurtz. His current research focus is electrical effects on tribo-systems as to which his thesis will be based on. His master's journey will commence in Fall 2023.

Shahriyar Hekmat Shahriyar is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Merced. He earned his master's degree in Automotive Engineering with a major in Powertrain Systems from Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST). Shahriyar also possesses a background in Design and Manufacturing from his undergraduate studies. His previous research focused on advanced thermal management systems for Li-Ion battery modules used in electric vehicles. He has contributed to this field with published research papers in the Journal of Energy Storage and Applied Thermal Engineering, and he holds patents in both the U.S. and Iran. Currently, Shahriyar's research interests revolve around solar-paneled canals, floating solar panels, and the deployment of solar power in future mobility and space exploration.


Daniel Baerwaldt Daniel is a UC Merced senior. He is an officer in the Solar Energy Association and is looking forward to learning more about solar energy research.

Tom Le Tom is a Computer Science and Engineering undergraduate who joined Dr. Sarah Kurtz's team during his first year (2022) as a research assistant. With his passion for software development, he helped our team to develop and troubleshoot our contribution to the Energy + Environmental Economics (E3)'s RESOLVE electricity resource planning model.

Daniel Tsai Daniel Tsai is an undergraduate student currently pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. With his interest in renewable energy, he hopes to broaden his knowledge about this topic and use it in his future projects.

Jesus Reyes Jesus Reyes is a first-year Year Electrical Engineering undergraduate who joined Dr. Sarah Kurtz's team as a research assistant. With his interest in electrical and software development, he hopes to apply his skills to a project to improve the world with renewable energy and solar.

Nicholas Kong Nicholas is a student (soon to be an undergraduate) at Lynbrook High School in San Jose. He is highly involved in conservation efforts in his community and excited about the development of renewable energy technologies for decarbonization. He hopes to explore clean energy research and help support a sustainable energy transition.

Post docs and Research Scientists

Brandi McKuin Brandi earned her PhD at UC Merced in Environment Systems and is known for her work on solar canals. After a post doc at UC Santa Cruz, she has returned to UC Merced as an Assistant Project Scientist to lead UC Merced's research on Project Nexus, with the goal of solar canals across California.

Bishal Dumre Bishal obtained his PhD from the University of Toledo in 2023. He will be working on the TEAMUP project to test perovskite-silicon tandem modules.


Mariela Colombo Mariela completed her MSc in Environmental Systems at UC Merced December 2023 and has now returned to Argentina where she immediately found a job to work on the energy systems there.

Socheata Hour Socheata Hour is an international student from Cambodia. She has switched to pursuing her PhD in QSB after working with us for a couple of years.

Pedro Sánchez Pérez Pedro received his Bachelor's degree in Renewable Energy Institute from National Autonomous University in Mexico (UNAM) and completed his PhD at UC Merced in May 2023. He is now working at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Jesus Carreno Nunez Jesus graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in May 2023. With his full-time job at the local utility, he assisted with the Photovoltaic research utilizing his Solar Technician experience. He is driven to contribute to the future of renewable energy.

Antonio Ceballos Antonio Ceballos graduated in 2023. As an Environmental Engineering major, I am extremely interested in Renewable Energy and hope to gain knowledge and experience about the subject during my time here at the University. Antonio worked on a solar project during summer 2022.

Stanley Carhee Stanley Carhee graduated in 2023. He has a strong interest in renewable energy. Stanley joined this research to learn about solar energy and be able to apply skills towards solar research to learn about solar technology and gain experience in this field.

Ivan Padilla Ivan Padilla graduated in spring 2022 with a Bachelor's degree in Computer science and a minor in Mathematics. In the past, Ivan has participated in research on invasive plants using data from an Infared camera mounted on a drone. He currently has an interest in renewable energy with the intention to learn the depths of the current solar technologies that are being used every day.

Yi Hao Xie Yi Hao Xie graduated in Mechanical Engineering in December 2021. He has started graduate school for a Master's degree in Fresno. He seeks to gain experience and apply his knowledge from his study into renewable energy research.

Ashling Leilaeioun Ashling was a post doc with us from September 2018 to January 2020. She worked at Q Cells in Georgia, USA, during 2020 she returned to a second post doc at UC Merced, but in September 2021 she started a job at SunPower - how special! She completed her PhD at Arizona State University.

Joseph Bello Joseph graduated in May 2021 with a major in mechanical engineering. He is very intrigued by the possibilities renewable energy provides and wants to be a part of it.

Federico Del Castillo Carnero Federico was an international student from Spain and graduated in May 2021 with a major in Mechanical Engineering. He is very passionate about renewable energy and wants to learn and contribute to the vision of a clean energy future.

Cindy Wong Cindy Wong graduated in mechanical engineering in Fall 2020. Her research interests include space technology, mechanobiology, and energy storage. In summer 2020, she worked on a Best Practices Guide for California's Department of Transportation.

Jonathan Madley Jonathan graduated in Fall 2020 with a Mechanical Engineering Major at UC Merced. He transferred to UC Merced from San Mateo County in California. His passion for research is in creating technology that is sustainable and has practical applications.

Michele Campbell Michele Campbell is a 4th year Materials and Computer Science and Engineering double major. Her research interests include renewable energy and combining both majors for computational analysis. She has worked on many projects, but most recently has been working with the RESOLVE software to model how a day using renewable energy would look.

Julia Gionet-Gonzales Julia graduated from UC Merced in 2020. She helped with a range of projects.

Sara Vite Sara graduated from UC Merced in 2020 with and environmental engineering major. She is from Tlaxcala, Mexico. She was part of the UC Leads program from UROC, and did summer research in 2019 on a solar thermal system.

Shaun Flannigan Shaun graduated from UC Merced in 2020 with a mechanical engineering major. He helped with a project studying the rate of soiling at the 1-MW solar system on UC Merced campus.

Dana Ramos Dana graduated with a bioengineering major in 2019. She is from Vacaville, CA.

Athalia Solis Athalia graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 2019. She has helped review the data for NREL's Module efficiency chart and an updated version of NREL's Research cell efficiency chart. She also reviewed the waste-management practices in SE2 to improve the handling of waste.

Javier Chaname Javier graduated in 2019 as an Environmental Engineer. He is interested in researching sustainable energy technologies because of their potential to provide renewable and clean energy.

Anthony Ramirez Anthony graduated with a major in Materials Science in 2019. He evaluated methods for identifying soiled sensors, with Envision Digital.

Catherine Villarosa Catherine graduated with an Environmental Engineering major in 2019. She is from Gardena, CA.

Bizet Rodriguez Bizet graduated with a major in Computer Science and Engineering in 2019. Bizet helped to create this website originally. He is from Woodland, CA

Ronnie Panaliga Now graduated as a Computer Science and Engineering Major. From Stockton, CA

Brian Huang Brian worked with us for more than a year before transferring to the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign in January 2020. He has now graduated and started a job at Amazon in January 2022.

Shusmita Saha Shusmita was an affiliate with us for about a year before starting graduate school in Oklahoma in January 2020 then returning to UC Merced as a graduate student.