Alumna Energized by SunShot Experience

Alumna Energized by SunShot Experience

By Kristine Rohwer

The future looks bright for recent graduate Erin Cheese, BS’15, as she pursues her passion in the solar and renewable energy field.

A double major in energy science and applied physical analysis, Cheese is currently in her second year as a junior fellow with the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by 2020.

The junior fellows program is open to bachelor’s degree graduates who have held a degree for less than five years at the time of their application. This highly competitive program only accepts four to five applicants per year.

Cheese is working with scientists and engineers to improve the durability, reliability and efficiency of solar panels. She is also looking at ways to reduce non-hardware costs associated with solar energy technologies — such as labor and financing — to accelerate the adoption of these technologies nationwide.

“This fellowship has been a life-changing experience,” says Cheese, who works in Washington, D.C. “I work with a great team on challenging projects about a topic I’m passionate about.

“SunShot has given me so many opportunities to constantly learn about new topics and explore potential career paths. I’m very grateful that Creighton’s Energy Technology program provided me with the tools to be successful in this fellowship.”  

Cheese credits Andrew Baruth, PhD, assistant professor of physics and her faculty mentor, along with Creighton’s John P. Fahey Career Center, for preparing her for, and assisting with, the application process.

Baruth says he was confident that once Cheese earned an interview that she would be accepted. He particularly remembers a conversation with her afterward, in which she told him that her hands-on research in his material science lab helped set her apart. A point to which the Creighton professor beams.

“It was easily one of the proudest moments of my career,” he says.

In June, Cheese gave a presentation to more than 40 experts from higher education, industry and government at a conference in Portland, Ore. And in November 2015, the White House hosted an event in which Cheese and other members of SunShot brought in speakers to discuss the major challenges involving the deployment of solar technologies in communities nationally.