Students/Postdocs/Visiting Scholars

Currently, the REFRESCH project supports the research of five graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting researchers at the UM.  These young people have the opportunity to work side-by-side with resource-constrained communities to develop solutions to their food, energy, and water related challenges.  Each of these individuals are a part of research groups led by REFRESCH faculty.  Depending on the availability of funding, REFRESCH accepts new UM faculty members and their graduate students who have research interests that fall within the program parameters, especially if they come alongside current efforts or can create synergies.


Visiting researcher

School for Sustainability and the Environment

Franck is at the UM for six months, supported academically by UM's School for Sustainability and the Environment. He is developing concepts for field research in Gabon on indigenous and colonial conceptions and practices surrounding clean drinking water in rural areas as they intersect with/overlap with or inform emerging conceptions and practices of urban drinking water treatment and use. Franck has a Master in Dynamics from University of Yaoundé II and a Master of Arts in Anthropology, specializing in Cultural Heritage, Omar Bongo University, Libreville.

Xavier Fonell Almansa

Postdoctoral fellow

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Xavier was awarded his PhD in Engineering and Advanced Technologies from the University of Barcelona, his thesis addressing the conversion of solid organic wastes (food waste, sewage sludge, crop wastes, manure) into methane through anaerobic digestion. However, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin (present in food or agricultural waste) can hamper the activity of microorganisms in such a system. To degrade such components, Xavi, now a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Lut Raskin’s lab, has developed a novel bionic membrane bio-reactor to enhance the microbial activity of hydrolytic and acidogenic populations. The reactor design is based on the natural mechanisms occurring for the degradation of lignocellulosic components in the rumen (cow's stomach). This first step is crucial for the production of methane or platform chemicals with high economical value.

Mohit Nahata

PhD candidate

Chemical Engineering

Mohit's research interests lie primarily in the synthesis and characterization of activated biochar from cellulosic biomass using low cost-locally available materials for applications focused towards water treatment and gas phase recovery of ammonia from urine in resource constrained environments. On the ground in the Gabon, Mohit has been active in doing preliminary water testing in areas near Lambaréné. For Kazakhstan, Mohit worked with students of Nazarbayev University to model the daily electric demand of the Indian Brook Trout farm using HOMER and assess the trade-offs of introducing a renewable energy options to the existing supply via the electric grid. Mohit is advised by Prof. Johannes Schwank. He received his BE in Chemical Engineering from RV College of Engineering in Bangalore, India and was awarded his PhD in Chemical Engineering from UM in April 2018.

Gislhain Djessi TCHOUTY

Visiting researcher

Environmental Engineering

Working with Dr. Fonoll Almansa at the UM, Djessi is performing experiments on acidogenesis of food waste in a anaerobic bio-reactor mimicking the rumen to enhance hydrolysis. Biodigestors can use organic waste to produce energy and value-added products. Djessi graduated from INSAB/USTM in with a Professional License (Bachelor) in Agricultural Engineering.

Matt Vedrin

PhD candidate

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Matt Vedrin is integrating observational and interventional approaches from anthropology and engineering to study and impact water, sanitation, waste, and hygiene in Gabon. He aims to find balance between research and practice, and to live at the interfaces of social science, international development, public health, and engineering. Through his travels to Gabon since 2015, Matt developed relationships and understandings about the region in which he hopes to complete his dissertation work. Matt is co-advised by Prof. Rebecca Hardin from the School for Environment and Sustainability and Prof. Lutgarde Raskin from Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has a BSE in Mechanical Engineering from Florida State University and a MS in Design Science from the University of Michigan.