UT PGE PhD Student Honored for Research on Rare Earth Elements

December 14, 2022

Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering PhD student Sheila Gerardo (MSPE 2021) won a best poster award at the annual Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) symposium in November.

Gerardo works in her lab with Dr. Wen Song

Gerardo’s research, conducted under the supervision of Assistant Professor Wen Song, helps illuminate the process of extracting rare earth elements (REEs) from waste materials like coal ash that are deleterious to the environment, ecological systems and human health. Her research highlights how the morphology and the elemental makeup of the ash matrix play a critical role in the accessibility of REEs, furthering the knowledge basis required for the design of cost-effective and environmentally benign recovery techniques for REEs, which are needed for decarbonization technologies including wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicle motors.

Gerardo was one of two graduate students selected for the award from C3E, an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, MIT Energy Initiative, Stanford University’s Precourt Institute and the Texas A&M Energy Institute. C3E seeks to close the gender gap and increase participation, leadership and success of women in clean energy fields.

Gerardo’s research was also published in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) in October. ES&T has published rigorous and robust papers for a multidisciplinary audience of scientists, policy makers and the broad environmental community for the last 50 years. It is a top-tier, respected, reliable and pivotal venue for exceptional, world-class environmental research.