As Seán Lysaght prepared to graduate from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, he thought he had his future mapped out. For the previous two years, he’d worked as chief sales officer for his brother’s start-up company, FiltraCycle, experienced the realities of a small startup, and planned to join him full time to continue making an impact. But after attending a session on the University of Notre Dame’s ESTEEM Graduate Program, everything changed.
“I heard about the event and the free food, so I went,” Lysaght recounts. “What appealed to me about ESTEEM was that it’s a perfect amalgamation of business and technology. Although my undergraduate degree is in Computer Science, I never wanted to be a programmer. With ESTEEM, I saw the value in using that knowledge in a business setting.”
He adds, “After that event, I was hooked on going to Notre Dame.” Lysaght promptly applied and was accepted into the ESTEEM Class of 2024.
His brother Liam was disappointed he would not be joining FiltraCycle, as Lysaght had played a pivotal role in pitching investors, courting customers, and securing a partnership with one of the biggest eyewear brands in the United Kingdom. For his part, Lysaght had learned to look beyond the glitz and glam of startups and realized the power of small companies as a force for positive change.
However, the brothers agreed agreed the opportunity to earn a Master of Science in Engineering, Science, Technology, and Entrepreneurship Excellence was too good for to pass up. “Liam recognized I needed to pursue the degree. Notre Dame is among the premiere academic universities in the United States and getting a masters from Notre Dame will open doors in the future. And, I had always dreamed of living in America.”
In some respects, it seems as if Lysaght has prepared his whole life for his American moment. In high school he discovered basketball, becoming a power forward. While playing varsity basketball for Trinity College, he served as co-captain his senior year. That same year, the team won five trophies, including the All-Ireland Championship and a tournament in Paris.
Also during high school, Lysaght was a champion debater, winning a gold medal in a prestigious competition. “Debating taught me the importance of serious preparation and also how to think on my feet.”
Lysaght got a jumpstart on ESTEEM when he served as a STEM Faculty Convener for the Trinity College Dublin Student Union. In this role, he represented all 8,000 of the college’s STEM students on several boards and committees, including the University Council, Union Forum, and STEM Faculty Assembly. “Each month I had to present to the Faculty Assembly, wearing a robe and covered the big issues facing the university and student body. It was tough, but I learned how to be diplomatic.”
With this bag of tools—entrepreneurship, basketball, debating and diplomacy—Lysaght headed for America in June 2023. Prior to coming to South Bend, he spent a few months during the summer of 2022 working in San Diego on a J1 visa. Arriving on the Notre Dame campus in June, he felt right at home. “Seeing all of the tourists on campus wearing their Irish gear made me proud to be an Irishman.”
He also made it a priority to score a ticket to the Notre Dame-Navy football matchup played at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Saturday, August 26. Seeing the Fighting Irish trounce Navy 42 to 3 was particularly gratifying. “It was a proud day for Ireland,” Lysaght says.
Back in South Bend and in true form, Lysaght has been elected to serve as ESTEEM’s representative in the Graduate Student Union. For his capstone project, he is working as a graduate strategy consultant to Energy Vault, a company co-founded and led by Notre Dame Alumnus Robert Piconi.
“I have a keen interest in sustainability,” Lysaght says. “I chose Energy Vault for my capstone because it is completely different from my field of study but also because of problem it is solving, storage of renewable energy. When I read the project description, I was blown away. The opportunity to work on cutting edge technology is exciting.”
Founded in 2017, Energy Vault develops and deploys utility-scale energy storage solutions designed to transform the world's approach to sustainable energy storage. The company's offerings include proprietary gravity, battery, and green hydrogen energy storage hardware technologies, supported by a proprietary energy management system software and integration platform. To date, many of Energy Vault’s projects have been overseas with starting in the United States. Working with a team based in Westlake Village, California, Lysaght is performing market analysis on their energy storage technologies for use in the United States.
“This is a big project, a great experience and not typical intern busy work. The analysis I’m doing with the team will really help the company,” Lysaght says.
Meanwhile, one thing Lysaght won’t be doing at Notre Dame is playing basketball. He suffered a serious injury in 2022 which limits his ability to play hoops. Instead, he plans to join Notre Dame’s Gaelic football and enjoy his season tickets to the number 13-ranked Fighting Irish football games. “I want to experience all sports while I’m here.”
Asked about his plans after he graduates from Notre Dame, Lysaght says he is open minded. “One of my professors at Trinity College said in ten years I would be working a job that doesn’t exist yet due to the pace of technology. So who knows? I’m only 22 so it’s a great time to take some risks.”
The only downside Lysaght sees? “ESTEEM has made me more confused about my future. There are so many opportunities.”