Undergraduates from India, Thailand enjoy hands-on research at WashU

Sixteen undergraduate students from India and Thailand are getting hands-on lab experience this summer in labs in Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering.

The students are from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, IIT Gandhinagar and the Indian Institute of Science, and from Kasetsart University and Chulalongkorn University, both in Thailand. They arrived in May and will be here for about two months.

The McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environment Partnership (MAGEEP) and faculty mentor research grants provide partial funding for the student internships. Two students have funding from the S.N. Bose Scholars Program and the Indo US-Science and Technology Forum.

“Such programs allows Washington University to build better connectivity to our McDonnell Academy partner universities, to provide for mentorship opportunities for our doctoral students and to motivate undergraduate students to consider pursuing advanced graduate studies,” says Pratim Biswas, chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering and director of MAGEEP.

While in St. Louis, some of the students have gone to the City Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, the Gateway Arch and the Saint Louis Zoo, and even had a weekend trip to Chicago.

Jenil Pankaj Dedhia, a rising senior majoring in chemical engineering at IIT Bombay, is working in the lab of Dan Giammar, PhD, associate professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering. Although Dedhia has done other internships in industry, this is his first internship outside of India. He said he is impressed with the buildings and lab facilities in Stephen F. and Camilla T. Brauer Hall.

While in Giammar’s lab, Dedhia is working on removing chromium 6 from drinking water with iron.

This research experience has been really good,” Dedhia says. “Professor Giammar is a really enthusiastic person who takes time to meet with us and to help us solve problems. Working under his guidance has been a good experience.”

Monika Tiwari, a rising senior majoring in energy science and engineering at IIT Bombay, is working on flow batteries in the lab of Venkat Subramanian, associate professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering. She has previous experience working with batteries, but in modeling. In Subramanian’s lab, she is working on experimentation.

“I’m learning a lot about flow batteries,” she says. “There are many good people around who are very knowledgeable. I can approach anyone freely and they will help me anytime.”

Tiwari says Subramanian has been very helpful, too.

“He gave me the chance to choose between modeling and experimentation, and I chose experimentation,” she says. “He told me to ask everyone in the lab what he or she is working on so I get a good idea of their work.”

Dedhia and Tiwari are in IIT’s five-year bachelor’s/master’s program, and both plan to pursue a doctorate after they graduate. It was the first trip to the United States for both.

Kasinan Suthiwanich, a rising senior at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, is getting hands-on experience in the lab of Nathan Ravi, MD, PhD, professor ophthalmology and visual sciences and of energy, environmental & chemical engineering, as well as the chief of staff at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System. In Ravi’s lab at the School of Medicine, Suthiwanich is working with gold nanoparticles to understand their mechanism and dose of ocular toxicity. The ultimate goal is to enhance ocular imaging and treatment of retinal diseases.

“Dr. Ravi is a good mentor,” says Suthiwanich, who is majoring in nanoengineering with a minor in bioscience at Chulalongkorn. “He is very supportive of me and challenges me to think beyond and to see the bigger picture.”

Suthiwanich says the experience has been beneficial for him.

“In Thailand, especially in nanoengineering, we learn things mostly from textbooks,” he says. “So it’s good to get hands-on experience in the U.S. in good facilities and actually do research.”

The School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis focuses intellectual efforts through a new convergence paradigm and builds on strengths, particularly as applied to medicine and health, energy and environment, entrepreneurship and security. With 82 tenured/tenure-track and 40 additional full-time faculty, 1,300 undergraduate students, 700 graduate students and more than 23,000 alumni, we are working to leverage our partnerships with academic and industry partners — across disciplines and across the world — to contribute to solving the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.