Lauren Walker

Class of 2022-2023

University of Notre Dame, 2022
Environmental Engineering

Why did you choose ESTEEM? 

As an Environmental Engineering undergrad, it was inspiring for me to see how entrepreneurial ventures founded upon human-centered design and strong community involvement were able to tackle complex issues in a financially sustainable and scalable fashion. After learning about the ESTEEM program, I knew it was a perfect fit because it would help me develop the skills and experience to solve critical problems at the intersection of engineering and business.

I chose to join ESTEEM because it equips students from technical backgrounds with the agile problem-solving skills and experience to launch impactful businesses and lead innovative teams in existing companies. ESTEEM is unique because of its strong emphasis on solving problems that matter and its hands-on approach to learning, where students apply the knowledge learned in the classroom directly to our capstone projects and other ventures.

I have already learned a great deal over the past few months, and I look forward to all the experiences and learning opportunities yet to come!

What is your Capstone Project and why are you excited about it? 

.With the onset of climate change, there is a critical need for reliable renewable energy technologies that can support the global transition toward a sustainable, low-carbon future. Given current supply chain and life-cycle sustainability concerns regarding the rare earth elements integral to technologies like solar and wind, it is imperative to have energy options that are less reliant on these rare resources.

By utilizing a centuries-old technology called anaerobic digestion (AD), ITility, LLC’s renewable energy division, IREA, has successfully created a patent-pending system that employs microbes to convert food and agricultural waste into reliable renewable energy and sustainable, nutrient-specific fertilizer. In this way, IREA’s AD and purification systems can create renewable, methane-rich biogas that can be turned into renewable natural gas (RNG), hydrogen gas, and other valuable products while reducing pollution from food and animal wastes, sequestering carbon, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

This is an exciting time for the AD market given recent legislative support. This capstone project will involve the identification and development of commercial opportunities, as well as state and federal grants and incentives. The process will include 50+ stakeholder interviews, a market assessment, and financial analyses to create the best value propositions and increase sales.

What do you hope to do after ESTEEM? 

I hope to join a collaborative team that uses human-centered design to create innovative entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial solutions to acute problems affecting individuals and communities. I am also interested in joining a team, working to address pressing public and environmental health, energy, and sustainability challenges. My ideal work environment is one where I am constantly learning and where I can see the tangible impact of my work.

What do you like to do in your free time?

When I’m not working, I love to read, play piano and guitar, garden, hike, and travel!