Status: Doctoral Student
Hometown: Villa Rica, GA
Department: Civil Engineering
Rackham Merit scholar Gabe Draughon is a humanitarian with a big heart. His research focuses on intelligent systems, and he is working on a monitoring technique that will help to sustainably harvest methane from landfills. The greenhouse gas is a byproduct of a variety of sources and a leading contributor to climate change. Harvesting it not only cleans up the environment, but also provides an energy source. Gabe’s system requires designing and implementing smart facilities–buildings with sensor-driven infrastructure and equipped with drones that monitor the air–at as low a cost and as high an energy turnout as possible. It’s called a “sustainable energy reaction facility.”
In the future, Gabe hopes to use his experience at Michigan to make a difference. “I’m going to take these five years and see where I’ll have the most impact. Whether as a professor, a researcher, or a nonprofit owner,” he says. “As long as I’m not in a nine-to-five job.” This unconventional attitude guides Gabe in every area of his life; both in recreation or research, he dares to dream big. An avid slackliner, Gabe’s goal is to eventually cross the line between two cliffs. He also loves to spend time outdoors climbing and hiking.
Gabe sees vast implications of his work for humanitarian causes. His focus is mainly on refugees. “If refugee camps can get energy and power from their waste…that’s pretty powerful. That’s what I’m most excited about.” Every summer throughout college, Gabe has worked on something entirely different, but he credits each experience as being formative to his passions and drive. “Each summer gave me something new that I pieced together to figure out my path,” Gabe says. During the summer after his freshman year, Gabe worked as a manufacturing engineer for power line equipment trucks. The next summer, he had a non-profit internship with One Hope, an organization partnered with refugee relief programs in Minneapolis. “It was there I learned my passion for people and humanitarian work,” Gabe says. Finally, in the summer of 2016, he participated in the Summer Research Opportunity Program at U-M, and fell in love with research. SROP changed Gabe’s feelings about grad school. “I used to think a PhD would be limiting; you get super zoned in on one specific area. After that summer I realized it’s kind of the opposite. It opens doors.”