These impressive students offer a snapshot of the nearly 140 students that pursue a graduate degree in Chemistry at UConn. Click on their photos below to learn about their academic and research experiences, life as a graduate student, and plans for the future!

Cristian Aviles-Martin
Reuben Bosire
Svetlana Gelpí-Domínguez
Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer
Lei Jin
Jessica Martin
Louis Pascal Riel
Deepthi Varghese

Meet:

Cristian Aviles

Cristian Aviles-Martin

Expected Graduation: Ph.D. '22

Research Group: Pinkhassik Group

Academic/Research Focus: Analytical Chemistry/ Polymer Chemistry

Hometown: Lajas, Puerto Rico

Scholarships: NSF LSAMP Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship

Clubs/Activites: ConnCAP/Upward Bound STEM Field Panelist, Volunteer Teaching at North Windham Technical High School, Graduate School Recruiting through Bridge to Doctorate

 

Why did you choose a graduate degree in Chemistry?

As an undergrad I kind of flipped flopped in what I wanted to major in.  By my sophomore year I made my final decision and switched majors to Chemistry.  From there on I joined a research group and basically got hooked on research and finding solutions to problems. I ended up pursuing my graduate degree in chemistry with the plan of being able to stay in a research lab for longer.  I also I did a lot of Science Communication outreach in undergrad and through it I discovered that a lot of important, yet simple concepts aren’t well known to the public.  I decided to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry to further prepare myself as a researcher and gain skills that will help me in raise awareness about important scientific issues in our community.

How did you choose your advisor/research group?

I worked in an inorganic synthesis group during my undergraduate education, however when I entered graduate school I felt it was time for a change in my research focus.  I still wanted to work in nanoscience, but I didn’t want to work with inorganic chemistry as much.  I was also looking for some amount of freedom to explore my own ideas.  After evaluating a couple of groups, I found my place in Dr. Eugene Pinkhassik’s group.  His style of mentoring fit quite well with how I worked, and I also liked the overall dynamic there is with the other members of the group.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

Of the classes I’ve taken so far Dr. Suib’s Advanced Inorganic course was definitely the most engaging.  Before this course, I didn’t think it was possible to go as in depth into the material as we did in just one semester.

Please briefly describe your research experience and the impact is has had on you.

Working in an inorganic group with limited resources in undergrad, I didn’t get to perform a lot of advance techniques. So, coming to UConn and working in a polymer group was quite the contrast. Fortunately, the other members of my group were incredibly helpful, so I never felt out of place. One thing I would like to bring up is how open the access to advanced equipment is here. The NMR facilities and electron microscopes are available to any student if they have taken the proper training and approval from their advisor.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome at UConn so far?

I honestly underestimated how rough the winters could be up here in Connecticut.  I mean I lived in a tropical island all my life and was seriously not expecting how bad it could get. But hey, I can assure you get used to it after the first month.  Although having it snow late April was a bit annoying.

How have you learned to balance the graduate student life (i.e. balancing being a TA, taking classes, conducting research, and managing life outside the Chemistry Building)?

Basically, I try to do as much as possible on campus during the day.  Either research or any other coursework I do exclusively during the day in my lab or desk, if I take home work it’s usually reading or answering emails.  This way I keep myself productive by associating my lab and workplace with active work. This has helped me avoid wasting time during the day.  Another thing that’s helped me a lot was dedicating time in my schedule for free time.  Sometimes there’s a thousand things to do and it feels like a waste of time but trust me after going like that for 3 months straight you’re way less productive than you’d think.

What are your plans after you secure your degree?

I plan to obtain a position in academic research, although with time my plans might change.  While tenure track positions are my focus up until now, I have also considered a job in Science Communication or consulting firms.  I enjoy figuring out and explaining complex concepts to others, and I figure that this field will allow me to do that at a professional and more widespread and both career paths would allow me to do this.

« back to top

Reuben Bosire

Reuben Bosire

Expected Graduation: Ph.D. '19

Research Group: Kasi Group

Academic/Research Focus: Polymer Chemistry, Design/applications of hierarchical liquid crystalline polymers

Hometown: Kisii, Kenya

Clubs/Activities: Society of Petroleum Engineers

Why did you choose a graduate degree in Chemistry?

I have always been inspired by the many aspects of modern life that require knowledge in chemistry. Ranging from materials science to medicine, the fields are wide and deep. I wanted to be a part of this revolution.

Why did you choose UConn?

I chose UConn primarily because of its research and research facilities at its disposal and the faculty. Additionally, UConn’s wonderful collaborations with other institutions, nationally and internationally played a part in making this decision.

How did you choose your advisor/research group?

I was looking for a field in chemistry with bias towards polymer-based materials. With so many research groups to choose from and many dynamics to look into, I wanted a research group that mirrors my long-term goals, a multi-disciplinary division that is centrally placed to grow my knowledge and skills to tackle industrial challenges in the long run. Dr. Kasi’s group perfectly fit into what I was looking for.

What are your plans after you secure your degree?

I have had a short stint in industry before joining grad school and know how invaluable advanced knowledge can help companies maximize profits. Whether it’s a position in industry or an opportunity for a postdoctoral position, I hope to secure an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills I gain through my degree.

Please briefly describe your experience as a TA and the impact is has had on you.

Every time I have had to TA has been an amazing experience for me. Guiding students through discussions/lab sessions and helping them understand difficult concepts has helped me internalize chemistry principles much deeper than I could’ve imagined. These students have always given me an extra opportunity to apply knowledge and helped improve my interpersonal skills. Getting them to understand otherwise unclear concepts was a major breakthrough moment for me.

How have you learned to balance the graduate student life (i.e. balancing being a TA, taking classes, conducting research, and managing life outside the Chemistry Building)?

Learning to manage my time has been the key to untangle all these responsibilities. A key part in my first year of grad school was being open to fellow grad students whenever I felt overwhelmed. Getting to know how they dealt with various situations was very helpful. Additionally, learning to unplug and do something not related to research or academics gets me back on my feet.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

Graduate school is a commitment that one endeavors to fulfill. When you decide to go for it, there are instances when the path to getting to the desired destination will be shrouded in uncertainty. This is the time when that self-motivation to get it done kicks in and having an understanding advisor will definitely help. In the midst of all this, try to enjoy your time as a student.

« back to top

Sventlana Gelpi-Dominguez

Svetlana Gelpí-Domínguez

Expected Graduation: Ph.D. '20

Research Group: Gascón Group

Academic/Research Focus: Physical Chemistry/Computational Chemistry

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Awards/Scholarships: Kinesis Foundation Scholarship,
Bridge to the Doctorate LSAMP Fellowship,
GEM Ph.D. Science Fellowship, &
Computational Chemistry and Materials Science Fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Clubs/Activities: SACNAS at UConn,
PLU,
ACS,
SIAM,
KUBE Outreach,
UConn Chemistry Summer Softball,
CALAHE,
UConn NSF REU Summer Activity Coordinator,
Invited Judge at the 2015 McNair Symposium at Tufts University,
ASEE NE 2016 Conference,
2017 Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, &
UConn SECRET

Why did you choose a graduate degree in Chemistry?

When I started my undergraduate career I thought I wanted to be a volcanologist. I was a geology major who discovered I was not being challenged enough by the material I was studying. I remember having to choose between taking general chemistry or biology as a science elective towards my major. I remember enjoying chemistry in high school so I chose chemistry. Once I got my hands on my course book “Chemistry: A Molecular Approach” by Nivaldo J. Tro I was hooked. I love how interdisciplinary chemistry is. My favorite courses as an undergraduate student were Quantum Chemistry and Modern Physics. Even though I had performed wet lab research in my undergraduate institution I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Computational Chemistry because it gives me the opportunity to revisit, question, and contribute to our knowledge of the fundamental principles that make chemistry.

How did you choose your advisor/research group?

In 2013 I was a UConn NSF REU summer student in the Gascón group. During those ten weeks that I spent in his laboratory, he gave me the independence I needed to perform research but was always flexible and open to meet when I needed his guidance if I was stuck. His group members at the time were knowledgeable, patient, and eager to help me learn and explore. Another aspect that pulled me into the group was how involved Dr. Gascón is with the community. During my summer here I was able to help with the outreach activity School of Exploratory Chemistry Research Experience & Training (SECRET). After the summer experience, Dr. Gascón was always available to help me with career advice. All of these variables plus others was what convinced me that I wanted to be in his group.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

I have had two favorite classes. The first one was Quantum Chemistry, taught by Dr. Gascón. The second one was Density Functional Theory taught by Dr. Ramprasad. These classes taught me the history, development, and the nuts and bolts behind Computational Chemistry. These professors passion and enthusiasm was also a big factor into why they were enjoyable classes.

What are your plans after you secure your degree?

I was once told by one of my mentors that I should be flexible when it comes time to apply for jobs. I have had many people in my life who have constantly tried to push me away from the tenure track. While I was being pushed away I found the national laboratory system in the United States and connected with most of their missions. Although I have no secure plans I would like to focus on research that involves making our nation a safer place.

Please briefly describe your internship experience and the impact it has had on you.

I was invited to work with the Biophysical and Biochemical Systems group in the 2017 Computational Chemistry and Materials Science summer institute at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. When I came into the internship I was feeling insecure about myself as a scientist. I thought that I was not fully prepared to represent UConn’s Chemistry Department. This internship taught me that I was prepared and also what is in store for someone in my field after acquiring a degree in computational chemistry. The national laboratory system is filled with highly motivated and enthusiastic people working towards a common goal. It is similar to industry in which you are given a budget and deadlines. It is similar to academia in which there are groups focused on working towards understanding fundamental scientific phenomena—you are constantly learning and applying knowledge. This internship gave me the motivation and confidence I needed to continue confidently in my career.

What has been your best/most influential UConn experience so far?

My most influential experience at UConn was when I took a required pedagogy course for chemistry teaching assistants. I have never been a big fan of public speaking and knowing that I had to teach and be in control of discussion anywhere from 50 minutes to 3 hours terrified me. This course introduced me to people who were passionate about teaching, how to deal with difficult situations in the classroom, and helped me create a support system here at UConn. After having taken the course I am still learning new techniques but I still ask my support system for advice.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

  1. Find a support group. I came from an island in the Caribbean where Spanish was the main language. The best thing about the chemistry department is the diversity of people inside of it. Find people you can relate to during work and after.
  2. Do not be scared to ask questions. I work in an interdisciplinary field and I do not pretend to know every aspect about chemistry. The professors and graduate students in our department are very approachable and open to answering questions people might have even if it is not directly related to their research.
  3. Get involved in outreach. I love seeing people who are genuinely excited and curious about science. Besides exposing people to STEM it also helps you practice your presentation skills.
  4. Join groups on campus. This is a big one. I joined the Graduate Student Senate my first and second year of graduate school. Besides there being free food (pizza, salad, and boneless wings) you were up to date with graduate student issues and concerns, and you met people from other degrees other than the hard sciences.
  5. Have a hobby. My hobbies range from taking pottery classes weekly to visiting breweries all around Connecticut (I have a map of all of the breweries in Connecticut if you are interested). This has helped me release any stress I have and has helped me meet new people in Connecticut.

« back to top

Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer

Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer

Expected Graduation: Ph.D. '19

Research Group: Gascon Group

Hometown: Stratford, CT

Awards/Scholarships: 2014 NextGenCT Scholarship,
2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, 
LearningAlly Scholarship,
The Lighthouse Guild for the Blind Scholarship, &
National Federation for the Blind of Connecticut Scholarship

Why did you choose a graduate degree in Chemistry?

As a discipline that seeks to understand and utilize the molecular language of nature, chemistry has always attracted my curiosity—my desire to understand the "secret motions and causes of things," to use Sir Francis Bacon's phrase—and I rapidly bonded with the subject matter. The possibility of “seeing" further than the eye can see into the nature of the universe is an exciting prospect. I chose graduate studies in chemistry to become a more fluent speaker of the universal chemical language, to embark on great research adventures, and to make a contribution, however small, to expanding the bounds of the possible. I find it an endlessly captivating thought that every medical and material improvement in human life has come from an increased fluency in speaking nature's chemical language, the knowledge of how to arrange timeless atoms in new ways to unleash the hidden potential of the world in which we live.

Why did you choose UConn?

I chose to come to UConn after my first visit to the Chemistry Department. I loved the personal, one-on-one interactions, and the encouragement to experiment and excel.

What is your academic/research area of focus?

My interests primarily relate to physical and organic chemistry. However, at UConn, I have been fortunate to be involved in a range of projects that are at the boundaries of many areas of chemistry. From sub-2 nm thiolated gold nanoclusters to protein-antigen interactions, and the properties of light harvesting molecules, my research involves the use of computational methods to gain fundamental insight into a variety of cool chemical problems.

How did you choose your research group?

I chose the Gascon Group because I want to understand chemical phenomena at a fundamental level. By using computational chemistry, we have the potential to gain insights into experimental observations at an atomistic level that enrich our understanding, and which in turn, may suggest new experiments. I was also attracted by the breadth of projects addressed by the Gascon Group from protein-ligand recognition, to the properties and design principles of gold nanoclusters, as well as many other exciting topics.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

Choosing a favorite is very difficult, because all my courses have been amazingly great. My dual love for physical and organic chemistry does not make the choice any easier. But, of the courses I have had so far, Dr. Howell's Organic Reactions and Dr. Gascon's Statistical Mechanics were my favorite.

How has your research experience impacted you?

When I came to UConn, I helped develop an efficient computational approach to model the structure, dynamics, and intermolecular interactions of thiolated gold nanoclusters (AuNCs). The use of these sub-2 nm complexes for biomedicine, environmental protection, and industrial catalysis can benefit from an elucidation of design principles to optimize application specific physicochemical properties. From not being aware of the existence of AuNCs, I quickly became addicted to the adventure of finding parameters so that simulations on these computationally demanding and interesting complexes could be performed rapidly with reasonable accuracy. The research was very iterative, like a game you cannot stop playing until all the challenges have been mastered. I became convinced that a solution had to exist, and could be revealed with enough effort. I gained a similar outlook on exploring the literature from this project, which has resulted in countless hours of database searching and a deluge of journal articles. From this project, I came to fully understand what Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman termed the "pleasure of finding things out."

I have had even more fun with another project on ring-expanded bacteriochlorins. By looking and playing with the structures for a very long time, I found a cool structural mechanism that may contribute to optical property modulation.

Has a certain class had a significant impact on you?

An assignment for Dr. Howell's Organic Reactions course involved profiling an early career organic chemist, and I chose to write about Dr. Martin Burke at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This assignment turned out to be much more than a course project. Dr. Burke's story illustrated for me how decades of scientific consensus could be proven wrong, and actually shown to be an impediment to optimizing the pharmacology of an important anti-fungal medicine by thinking differently about how to elucidate the mechanism of action of the drug.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome while at UConn so far?

The greatest challenge I have, and continue to face at UConn, is the 24 hour day. There is simply not enough time to explore the literature, experiment in the lab, and to daydream about still unanswered questions. I love every aspect of being a graduate student at UConn, particularly the overwhelming opportunities to learn and to make discoveries.

« back to top

Lei Jin

Lei Jin

Expected Graduation: Ph.D. '19

Research Group: He Group

Academic/Research Focus: Nanomaterials design and application in catalysis and energy

Hometown: China

How did you choose your advisor/research group?

My research experience started with hybrid materials in energy storage devices when I was at Donghua University. I enjoyed research in this area, so I was planning to join a group working on nanomaterials synthesis and applications. Dr. He's group focuses not only on nanomaterials, but also on the combination of polymers, so I decided to join his research because it seemed like the best fit for me and I believed I would learn more than I had even originally planned.

Please describe your TA experience and the impact it has had on you.

Being a TA is a precious experience in the Ph.D. process. At first it was not easy to balance my time teaching, studying, and doing experiments. However, after having more experience, I now enjoy being a TA. I also found it is a good way to improve my presentation and communication skills. I like the lab section as well because helping students solve the problems in the experiments makes me feel happy. Being with younger people makes me feel younger as well.

Has a certain advisor had a significant impact on you?

Dr. He is a talented and hard-working advisor. He has helped me a lot with studying and research. I like the discussions I have with him because he always encourages me to find the novel ideas in the research.

What is your favorite memory of UConn?

The chemistry orientation impressed me most. During the three-week orientation, I became more familiar with UConn and Chemistry. I also made many friends.

What are your plans after you secure your degree?

I am planning to find a postdoc position first. That's a great way to improve myself and also get acquainted with more high-level individuals.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

Since you choose to be a graduate student, try to enjoy the wonderful life of a graduate student.

When you join a research group, find the area you are interested in and then keep going. It's always hard at first, but more reading and more discussions with labmates and your advisor will help you solve the problems.

As a TA, enjoy the time with your students. It's a good way to improve your presentation and communication skills. Also, it will help you remember some chemistry knowledge that you forgot.

In your own courses, enjoy the time in class. These might be your last several courses at school.

Lastly, in your free time, have fun with your friends. It's also important to do some exercise to keep healthy.

Choose it, and enjoy it.

« back to top

Jessica Martin

Jessica Martin

Expected Graduation: Ph.D. '21

Research Group: Pinkhassik Group

Academic/Research Focus: Biological Chemistry

Hometown: Garden Grove, CA

Scholarships: 2018 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (3-year stipend)

Clubs/Activites: Graduate Student Career Council, Skype a Scientist, Graduate Student Advisory Council, Stall Street Journal Contributor

 

Why did you choose a graduate degree in Chemistry?

Advances in microscopy and chemical manipulation enable us to better understand the world around us and open up opportunities to solve complex problems we have never been able to solve before.  It is an exciting time to take on the age-old challenges of energy and food production, and basic survival.

How did you choose your advisor/research group?

When I initially joined the program, I had no idea who I wanted to be my research advisor.  Through serendipity (and perhaps a bit of networking wisdom from my department chair, Dr. Nina Barcenas at Heritage University), I ended up with an excellent research advisor during my undergraduate years.  Not only was he an astute and experienced scientist, he had a personality that worked with mine very well.  When I was talking to the scientists in the Department of Chemistry, personality trumped the science.  I wanted to make sure that I found an advisor who was prepared to support me in an effective way, and who was also prepared to be honest with me in a constructive way.  Finally, I was seeking lab mates who saw the value in helping one another succeed.  I found all of this with Dr. Pinkhassik and the Pinkhassik Lab.  Now that I am 2 years in, I think I made a good choice, and I anticipate a great deal of success in the future.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class has been MCB 5002 - 001L Biochemistry Laboratory.  I have been disappointed by how few graduate level courses are laboratory-based.  While my high GPA is a testament to how well I can read and regurgitate information, I don’t truly learn something until I actually do it.  I chose chemistry because I enjoy benchwork, and the class I gained the most demonstrable value out of here at UConn is the one laboratory-based class I was able to take.  It is also a great deal more engaging (and, dare I say it, fun) applying theory and analysis to the data that you have generated yourself.

Please briefly describe your research experience and the impact is has had on you.

After my first year studying chemistry as an undergraduate, I was awarded a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) opportunity in the lab of Dr. Stephen F. Garczynski in the Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory of the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA.  After this 10-week NSF-REU project, Dr. Garczynski hired me as a Biological Laboratory Technician to continue work on projects.  In the 3 1/2 years I spent in his research lab, I received excellent mentorship from Dr. Garczynski, as well as others, I was involved in exciting, cutting-edge research work in insect genetics, and this work culminated in 2 research publications in peer-reviewed journals of which I am very proud.  Working in his lab convinced me that I had made the right decision in returning to school to switch careers.

Please briefly describe your internship experience and the impact it has had on you.

Last summer (2017), I was invited to Jena Bioscience in Jena, Germany for a 12-week internship funded by the DAAD of Germany.  I enjoyed this experience immensely, both because of the opportunity to live in another country for a period, and also because of how inspiring it was to work with Dr. Barbara Zschornig and the Jena Bioscience team. The product I did the preliminary work on at this time is expected to be launched commercially in the next few months. This is both exciting and quite gratifying.

How have you learned to balance the graduate student life (i.e. balancing being a TA, taking classes, conducting research, and managing life outside the Chemistry Building)?

Time-management and learning to prioritize are essential.  It is also important to stay attuned to the opportunities that present themselves, and apply for everything that you want.  When someone tells you that winning a certain thing is highly competitive, remember that they have to give it to somebody, and you cannot be that person unless you apply!  I have certainly been through periods in the last 2 years when I have been letting someone (or two or three) down in some realm of my life.  Quite frankly, this is inevitable.  However, if you keep your priorities straight, and do your best to adequately maintain everything else, you will find your way through the woods.  That’s not just graduate school — that’s life!

What advice would you give to incoming students?

It is important to know why you are doing what you are doing.  Sacrifices are far easier to manage when you have your eyes on a prize you actually want.  Also, as you make choices about advisors, activities, and scheduling, it is important to be in tune with who you are and how you best succeed.  Then you are far more capable of recruiting people around you to help you be successful.  Finally, never forget that nothing happens in isolation.  Teams are pivotal to success.  Choose yours wisely and nurture it.

« back to top

Louis Pascal Riel

Louis Pascal Riel

Expected Graduation: Ph.D. '21

Research Group: Howell/Yao Group

Academic/Research Focus: Organic/Bioanalytical (MS-Proteomics)

Hometown: Tucson, AZ

Clubs/Activities: Graduate Student Advisory Committee & UConn Outdoor Recreation

Why did you choose a graduate degree in Chemistry?

I enjoy organic chemistry as I imagine it as a never ending puzzle composed of sub puzzles that might be solved but the entirety of it which cannot. Furthermore, seeing students have that “Eureka” moment where they suddenly see/comprehend the molecular architecture is immensely pleasing.

Why did you choose UConn?

It’s a matter of lineage, really. At my undergraduate institution, I was taught introductory organic chemistry by professor Lisa Dollinger (a product of the Howell group), her enjoyment of Organic Chem was contagious and instilled a similarity in me. Doing some post-baccalaureate work to bolster my candidacy for graduate school, I worked for professor Nooshin Hashemzadeh (another Howell group product). She suggested UConn and after visiting the campus and meeting faculty, I was sold!

How did you choose your advisor/research group?

Organic chemistry is my passion, and something I wish to pursue in my future career, but the bioanalytical skills I will acquire in the Yao group working on MS-based proteomic experiments leaves me with a vast skill set that I believe will be of use in the competitive job market that I will be in come graduation.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

It’s hard to bring one to the forefront, as they have all been useful/thought-provoking. Separation methods dealing with HPLC and GC was taught well by Dr. Yao and provided a good mixture of the theory and practicality that is necessary in crafting a good chromatographic protocol. Organic Reactions provided me both a good refresher and increase to the repertoire of organic reactions I know, Dr. Howell taught this course. Perhaps my favorite course so far has been Organic Synthesis which dealt primarily with total synthesis. Dr. Peczuh taught this course, it was a delightful mixture of class discussion and presentation where we started to grasp the level of minutiae necessary for a successful total synthesis campaign.

What are your plans after you secure your degree?

I’m drawn to academia for the relative freedom it affords one, so I either see myself pursuing a research position or a teaching position or a mixture of both. Or I might open a food truck selling French Macarons (Sweet Louis’), the future is muddled.

Please briefly describe your experience as a TA and the impact is has had on you.

TAing for Dr. William Bailey is a daily enjoyment. The anecdotes and apocryphal stories he sprinkles throughout his honor Organic Chemistry lectures are enjoyment entire. An example being Vladimir Prelog, of Kahn Ingold Prelog fame, being an active-noncombatant moments before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the catalyst of WWI. I try and track these stories, and the good methods to teach organic for use in my potential future role as a teacher.

How have you learned to balance the graduate student life (i.e. balancing being a TA, taking classes, conducting research, and managing life outside the Chemistry Building)?

I make sure to exercise occasionally, eat moderately well, and do things outside of chemistry such as kayaking/ice skating or reading Sci Fi novels.

What is your favorite memory of UConn?

Being from an arid desert, I take immense pleasure in the snow/winter weather. A day after the last big blizzard, a contingent of the chemistry graduate students went sledding at Horsebarn Hill, a large mound that is perhaps a 15 minute walk away. This was a rosy experience and students, both domestic and international enjoyed taking part.

« back to top

Deepthi Varghese

Deepthi Varghese

Expected Graduation: Ph.D. '19

Research Group: Adamson Group

Academic/Research Focus: Polymer Chemistry

Hometown: India

Clubs/Activites: Graduate Student Senate, &
Tarang

Why did you choose a graduate degree in Chemistry?

Chemistry had fascinated me right from high school. I was fascinated with the fact that chemistry can be used in any branch of science to understand it better. My undergraduate degree in chemistry increased my curiosity to learn more about this subject and hence I decided to continue research in this field to learn more about how it affects everything around us.

 

How did you choose your advisor/research group?

I come from a background in biochemistry and initially I thought I would be working with a Biochemistry professor at UConn. I did talk some really good professors but I couldn’t decide whose group I would join. I had heard Dr. Adamson’s talk at the orientation and I was instantly amazed by his work. After listening to his talk I decided to talk to him even though his research interests were different than mine. After I spoke to him and his graduate students and saw their work I decided that Adamson group was the best fit for me. I must say it has been a rewarding choice indeed.

How has your research experience impacted you?

When I chose Dr. Adamson’s group I started with no polymer background, but now after 3.5 years of experience I can say I surely know some polymer chemistry. Though my research is in polymer chemistry, my actual work is more into material synthesis and its applications. My current work is on polymer graphene composites, the goal being to use properties of graphene and help it enhance some polymeric properties. Graphene exfoliation is a challenging process and I have worked on cheap and easy exfoliation methods. Using this method is how we synthesize our nanocomposites. Our materials have various applications like oil absorbents, supercapacitors, water desalination, flame retardants etc.

Please briefly describe your experience as a TA and the impact is has had on you.

Teaching at UConn has been a rewarding experience for me. I come from India and in my first class I was totally intimidated by my students because I was not sure how they would accept me as their teacher. I was pleasantly surprised when my students did engage in class while I was teaching and slowly the fear of teaching new people disappeared. I have taught different types of general chemistry students and if today I remember basic general chemistry it is because of teaching. While teaching I have learnt so many things from my students who are from various departments and it overall has been a great experience.

What has been your best/most influential UConn experience so far?

Two things have had very strong impact on me here at UConn. One is research and the other one is being part of a community and taking up leadership roles. Research has taught me to think independently and persevere even if things do not go the way you expect. My leadership roles have taught me that I should stand for what I think is right and to help people out who need that helping hand.

What is your favorite memory of UConn?

My best memories at UConn are because of the wonderful people I am always surrounded by. By being a part of the community I am in, it is really difficult to choose one instance but I can say that all the memories I have from UConn are because of the wonderful people I am surrounded by.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

I just have to say that make the most of your time in graduate school. Make new friends, meet new people, learn a lot and strive to be a better self everyday .

« back to top