Alumna Hannah Gillespie named 2023 Marshall Scholar

Author: Erin Blasko

Hannah Gillespie
Hannah Gillespie

University of Notre Dame alumna Hannah Gillespie will study in the United Kingdom next year as a member of the Marshall Scholars class of 2023. Gillespie is the 10th Marshall Scholar in Notre Dame’s history. She plans to use the award to conduct research in engineering for international development, building upon her experiences at Notre Dame and as an engineer at Boeing.

“It is an honor to join the upcoming Marshall cohort to receive a graduate education in the U.K. I’m deeply grateful to my professors, mentors and classmates at Notre Dame, as well as my mentors and colleagues at Boeing,” Gillespie said. “The Marshall Scholarship provides a unique opportunity to dive into two distinct courses, one to expand my growing technical experience in aerial robotics and the other to co-create innovative solutions with communities around the world.”

In applying for the award, Gillespie worked closely with the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), which promotes the intellectual development of Notre Dame undergraduates through scholarly engagement, research, creative endeavors and the pursuit of fellowships.

“Hannah Gillespie’s record of service and scholarship is impressive and represents the best of Notre Dame,” said Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “Congratulations to her, her family, her professors and the Flatley Center For Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement staff who supported her.”

Emily Hunt, student engagement program coordinator at CUSE, said, “We want to congratulate Hannah on her selection as a 2023 Marshall Scholar. Her commitment to combining her technical engineering skills with human-centered design to develop sustainable solutions across the globe is inspirational. As a Marshall Scholar, she will build on the tremendous opportunities she received at Notre Dame and as an engineer at Boeing. We would like to thank the members of the Notre Dame community who supported her, including those in the College of Engineering, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.”

Gillespie is a 2020 Notre Dame graduate from Johnsburg, Illinois, with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and a minor in theology.

On campus, Gillespie was a de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture Sorin Fellow, president of the AIAA Design/Build/Fly club, member of the Kellogg International Scholars Program and research assistant in the Hypersonic Aerodynamics Lab. A classically trained pianist, she also played piano for Mass in the Pasquerilla West Hall choir and volunteered in South Bend with the Community of Sant’Egidio. 

In her first year at Notre Dame, she received a grant through the Nanovic Institute for European Studies to serve as a research assistant in the Morph Lab at Imperial College London. She spent the summer developing a robotic proxy finger for physicians to evaluate the condition of patients in remote locations using haptic feedback.

As a Kellogg International Scholar, she assisted Tracy Kijewski-Correa, professor of engineering and global affairs, co-director of the Integration Lab and acting William J. Pulte Director of the Pulte Institute for Global Development, and Alexandros Taflanidis, professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences, on a National Science Foundation-funded project in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. 

During an in-person research visit to Léogâne, Haiti, the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, Gillespie listened to the need expressed by community members for increased access to clean water. In response, she worked with fellow engineering students in the College of Engineering’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program, along with community members in Léogâne, to develop a cost-effective biosand filter. During her senior year, Gillespie studied social entrepreneurship to explore how business could serve as a sustainable distribution mechanism for products in development settings.

“Our team approached the lack of clean water using the framework of human-centered design thinking,” she said. “Even beyond technical requirements, my advisers and education at Notre Dame taught me to ask deeper questions: What sort of cultural and political factors are in place that may impact what solution is viable? Throughout its entire lifecycle, how can a piece of technology be employed to promote the dignity of the human person?”

Upon graduation, Gillespie joined a two-year rotation program for early-career engineers at Boeing in Seattle. She received a patent and several innovation awards as a manufacturing research and development engineer in her first year, and also rotated as a guidance, navigation and control engineer for Boeing’s subsidiary Insitu. She currently works full-time as an autonomous systems engineer.

Outside of work, she is a member of the board of directors of AscendNW, a nonprofit that supports Catholic healing ministry in the Pacific Northwest. She previously served as house leader at Lisieux House, an intentional community of young Catholic women in Seattle.

To bring technological advances into greater conversation with international development, Gillespie will spend her first year as a Marshall Scholar pursuing a Master of Science in computing at Imperial College London, followed by a Master of Science in social innovation and entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her course at LSE will enable her to develop her own social venture in collaboration with communities in vulnerable populations around the world. Long-term, she plans to return to the U.S. and create a network of makerspaces to connect more entrepreneurial engineers with opportunities to work on international development projects.

“Hannah possesses unique abilities to collaborate across disciplines and cultures to discover lasting solutions, making her well-primed to be an excellent ambassador who will devote her life to making lasting contributions to society, particularly on behalf of the most vulnerable,” Kijewski-Correa, who co-advised Gillespie as part of both the Kellogg International and Grand Challenges Scholars programs, said in recommending her for the Marshall program. “Ever since I met her, Hannah has been hard at work designing a better world, and I can’t wait to see what the world looks like when she is done.”

Founded in 1954 to commemorate the ideals of the Marshall Plan, the Marshall Scholarships support Americans of exceptional ability to pursue graduate-level studies in the U.K., covering university fees, cost of living, research and thesis grants and travel to and from the U.S., among other expenses.

For more on this and other scholarship opportunities, visit cuse.nd.edu.