Foundation Scholarships Help Students Gain New Insights into the Natural Refrigeration Industry

The Natural Refrigeration Foundation, which supports research and education programs benefiting the industrial refrigeration industry, awarded its largest scholarship commitment to date. The scholarship program provides a unique opportunity for students to learn about a technical field, attend IIAR’s national conference, be financially rewarded and contribute to the future of the planet.

In addition to an existing $10,000 scholarship commitment to a returning senior in the scholarship program, the foundation added eight new scholarship recipients with a financial commitment of $5,000 each for five juniors and three seniors.

“The need for top-caliber engineering talent in the natural refrigeration industry, the recognition of outstanding scholarship recipients, and the scholar’s desire to make a meaningful difference in the health of our world, are all served by the scholarship program,” said Mark Stencel, IIAR’s Education Committee chair.

Seven of the nine 2021-2022 scholars attended the conference. “The IIAR scholarship was an eye-opener into the refrigeration industry for me as I never realized how many opportunities existed until attending the IIAR conference in Savannah,” said Jordyn Vanevenhoven, a 2021-2022 scholarship recipient. “Because of how little this industry is advertised, I think that this scholarship program is essential for its longevity since it is a great way to reach out to engineering students.”

Caden Matson, a returning senior who first received the scholarship in 2020, said both the people and the potential to change the world are the most exciting aspects of the industry, which was evident at the conference. “Walking around the conference expo floor, every manufacturer was showcasing their newest technology and refrigeration solutions that simply didn’t exist years ago, like CO2,” he said. “Everyone I met at the conference was excited to see young scholarship recipients in attendance and their passion for the industry could be seen the moment we started up a conversation.”

Former scholarship recipient Adam Tilgham agreed that the opportunity to attend the conference was invaluable. “The relationships and opportunities that came about from going to the conference were priceless,” he said. “Every single person we were introduced to or talked to was interested and wanted to grow our knowledge.”

Tilgham received the scholarship in 2019 and has since graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. He learned of the scholarship his junior year after interning at General Refrigeration Co. in 2017. “That opened up the whole industry of industrial refrigeration,” he said, adding that the scholarship was a good opportunity to not only help pay for school but also to get his foot in the door and learn more about the industry.

After graduating, Tilgham took a full-time role with General Refrigeration Co. “I think the ammonia refrigeration industry and the industrial refrigeration industry is an incredible group of people,” he said.

Mackenzie Peck, a recipient of a 2021-2022 scholarship award said ARF and IIAR play a valuable role in sharing the importance of refrigeration. “It is extremely important for educating college students about the natural refrigeration industry. It sparks an interest in students who may not have known about their interest without the conference/scholarship,” she said, adding that natural refrigerants help make the world a better place. “Being able to work for an industry that is making a difference for our planet is very rewarding.”


Kyle Brooks, Purdue University

Kyle Brooks is a junior pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. He has worked the past two summers as an engineering intern for Wagner-Meinert in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and he is returning to that same position this upcoming summer. “Industrial refrigeration is an interesting and exciting field because it can affect a large number of industries,” Brooks said. “I have been able to visit a wide variety of commercial buildings and factories throughout my time as an intern, and it opened my eyes up to how many different industries rely on effective refrigeration systems to function. The importance of the industry gives meaning to the work I would do, and that is what excites me.”

The scholarship has helped alleviate a bit of financial stress for Brooks. “College is expensive, so being able to get some help paying for it takes a weight off my shoulders and allows me to focus even more on academics and extracurriculars here on campus,” he said. “Besides being a nice financial boost, the scholarship has also opened some doors to new opportunities and connections within the industry.” Brooks also participates in the Purdue All-American Marching Band.

Zachary Laser, University of Tennessee

Laser is working towards a mechanical engineering degree and has gained practical work experience with POWER Engineers, working with engineers, architects, and plant representatives on a large frozen food plant refrigeration project and acting as construction manager on a freezer racking project.

In his application, Laser said ammonia plays a vital role in meeting current and future global challenges. “With the growing population of the Earth, sustainable means of increasing the shelf life of food is more important than ever. If we were to get to a point where the freezing of all vegetables was required so that stockpiles could be secured, ammonia would be a great refrigerant for the job,” Laser said. “Ammonia refrigeration systems are becoming engineered so that they are nearly the most cost-effective option for any facility to install and maintain for long-term, large-scale use.

Mackenzie Peck, University of Florida

Peck, who is pursuing mechanical engineering, said she is interested in the refrigeration industry because of its importance to the well-being and function of society. “Cooling systems store food, keep homes at a comfortable temperature, and aid in cooling systems down that tend to produce heat—data servers, vehicles, etc.,” she said. “For example, refrigeration was in the spotlight earlier this year with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine that required cooler temperatures.”

Peck is paying her way through school and said the scholarship has been tremendously helpful. “I can focus more on learning and my courses than my part-time job. Additionally, being able to attend the IIAR Conference expanded my technical knowledge and knowledge of the industry,” she said.

Currently, Peck works in a machine shop at the university and teaches students how to machine. “I have discovered a passion for manufacturing from this position and hope to go into a technical manufacturing role,” she said.

Ghazal Pourvash, Texas A&M University

Pourvash is studying industrial engineering. In the scholarship application, Pourvash explained he immigrated from Iran after graduating high school. “I did not have the privilege of building my career from the early start, however, I did not let that stop me. From the moment I got into college, I participated in college activities,” he said.

Pourvash has worked as a campus ambassador planning campus events. “Helping fellow students with their studies meant so much to me. It helped me to shape my social skills and build connections,” he said. “Then participating in invent challenges helped me to shape my technical skills.”

Pourvash has also received several academic awards, including the TSTEM Scholarship, Aggies Invent Third Place Winner, was a speaker at the national honor society graduation class ceremony, took part in the National Instruments Externship, and received the Scholastic Leader Award.

Trey Saltzman, Texas Tech University

Saltzman plans to enter the industrial refrigeration design field after graduating and hopes to have an impact on the natural refrigeration industry. The IIAR Scholarship program sparked an interest in Saltzman and inspired him to try and make a difference in the natural refrigeration industry.

“What excites me the most about the refrigeration industry is the capabilities to advance industrial refrigeration efficiencies all while doing it in a way that is safe for our environment,” he said.

For Saltzman, the IIAR Scholarship program is extremely important not only from a financial perspective but from a networking perspective as well. “Young upcoming engineers have a difficult time getting recognized,” he said. “Through the IIAR Conference, I was able to build more connections to a field of work than I have been able to do in my entire educational career at a university. To me, that is extremely valuable and more beneficial than anything else I have been a part of.”

Jordyn Vanevenhoven, University of Wisconsin-Platteville

The scholarship has given Vanevenhoven the financial security to not take out federal loans his senior year and even start paying off current loans. “Because of the scholarship, I am also now considering additional schooling at UW-Platteville to earn my M.S. in Engineering with an emphasis in Engineering Management,” he said. “This program would allow me to expand upon my knowledge in the supply chain, project management, method of experimentation, and cost/value analysis.”

This summer, Vanevenhoven is interning at Bassett Mechanical in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, with the refrigeration team. “I am so excited to experience this field first-hand and depending on how the summer goes, I could see myself in the refrigeration field upon graduation. However, I also have a background in HVAC and may pursue a career in HVAC consulting,” he said. “My future is thus somewhat undecided, but the conference in Savannah certainly helped narrow down what jobs I wish to pursue at the upcoming UW-Platteville career fair.”

Vanevenhoven’s impression after the conference was that the natural refrigeration industry relies heavily on professional connections between manufacturers, contractors, and customers. “I am excited to make these connections as a professional engineer and meet individuals from across the country,” he said.


William Moore, Arizona State University

Moore is majoring in mechanical engineering. He takes part in varsity baseball and basketball and has made the Dean’s List every semester in college. He has also worked at American Foods Group.

“While working at American Foods Group, I was fortunate enough to gain experience in industrial refrigeration as well as manufacturing processes,” Moore said. “I was able to travel around to each of the company’s meat processing plants, which allowed me to see a variety of different industrial refrigeration systems. Because of the immense amount of hands-on learning I was able to receive, I believe this experience has provided a head start for me, so I am able to hit the ground running when I get into the engineering workforce.”

Leonard Walker, Baylor University

Walker is majoring in mechanical engineering and has been able to gain valuable work experience while studying. He has been an undergraduate student researcher at Baylor University for combustion analysis used in NASA and SpaceX and an automation specialist for a chemical powerplant at Bechtel Corporation. While there, he led a team of 18 to fix efficiency issues at the power plant.

In his application, Walker said the internship helped him soar in a professional environment that spanned all aspects of his academic and engineering career. “From an engineering perspective, I was able to learn and understand better ways to solve problems while also implementing economical and efficient technology into my solutions,” he said.


Caden Matson, University of Florida

Matson is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering as well as an Engineering Leadership Certificate as part of a minor program. He will graduate in December.

“The ARF scholarship has been immensely helpful in easing the financial burden of college and allowing me to focus on my studies. As someone who goes to a public university as an in-state student, a few thousand dollars per semester is able to cover almost my entire tuition fees and free up my time for projects that will better prepare me for the industry after graduation,” Matson said.

This summer Matson will be interning with Clauger in Jacksonville, Florida, and is looking forward to getting more hands-on experience in the refrigeration industry. “With only one semester left, I hope to be back working with the world of natural refrigerants after I graduate this coming December,” he said.

Matson said attending the IIAR Conference is an amazing experience. “Everyone at ARF and IIAR goes above and beyond to make our time there be filled with meaningful activities from dinners with various companies to meeting young engineers in the industry,” he said. “The entire weekend blew my expectations out of the water and got me so excited for the work I’ll be doing this summer.”