Sam Kessler ’22

Class of 2022
Environmental Analysis, Public Policy and Environmental Mitigation major

Sam Kessler, a student researcher extraordinaire, spent his time at UofL trying to advance how UofL approaches research. Personifying the Cardinal Spirit through his desire for a healthy community and passion for environmental policy, his efforts redefined the current standards for undergraduate student innovation.

Kessler’s leadership in the pursuit of discovery is an inspiration for future students who want to impact change in their communities.

A Campbellsville, Kentucky native, Kessler has always embraced challenges, locally or globally, as opportunities instead of problems. His background in public policy and law, coupled with his passion for environmental change, led to his selection as a Grawemeyer Scholar, where he left his mark on campus and the community with his academic and research endeavors.

“Having any scholarship to the university frees up your time to do this kind of work,” he said. “I am blessed to have this opportunity because I can afford to attend college and in my extra time, I’ve used it to do this research.”

With guidance from Russ Barnett, a retired faculty member within UofL’s Envirome Institute, Kessler dove into environmental issues, hoping to benefit Louisvillians’ health and wellness.

“When I moved to Louisville, there were all of these environmental issues that affect people’s health,” Kessler said. “Seeing those issues made me want to be a part of improving the environment here and led me to the research route.”

His relationship with Barnett inspired Kessler to implement the Think Tank, a partnership between students and faculty to help student researchers create a pathway to become policy fellows in their own interests and passions.

Leading a group of undergraduate research students, Kessler developed a new monitoring tool for water sources in the community. The tool monitors E.coli in water sources in a way that is not only more efficient but cost effective.

“Lowering the cost to monitor our waterways and capturing harmful contaminants is beneficial while getting a more reliable sample to fix the issue,” he said. “It’s a very low-tech tool that anyone can use and understand what contaminants the ‘special dirt’ has that is harming the community.”

A small-town student with sustainability interests his accomplishments have made his family and community extremely proud. Owing his research path to his father, a professor at Campbellsville University, Kessler hopes his studies will combat environmental issues that still plague the town he calls home.

“Growing up in that small college town atmosphere led me to be interested in the environment,” he said.

Kessler’s academic work started in Kentucky but his yearning for environmental research continued after his May 2022 graduation, making its way across the ocean to Ireland. As a recipient of the prestigious George J. Mitchell Scholarship, he will pursue a year of graduate study abroad at the University College Dublin. Kessler is focusing on public policy with the ultimate goal of taking on the challenges of climate policy.

“Once we know what the problem is and we analyze it, then we have to mitigate it,” he said. “That’s why I want to study public policy and take my STEM background to a legal atmosphere.”