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Doctoral graduate sets career path solving problems

When Adarsh Bafana came to Lamar University five years ago with his bachelor’s degree in petrochemical Adarsh Bafanaengineering from Savitribai Phule Pune University in India, he dreamed of solving big problems. Today, having achieved his master’s degree and his doctorate degree (August 2019) in chemical engineering from LU, Bafana, 27, has accepted a job as a post-doctoral researcher in a national lab.

In August, Bafana will move from Southeast Texas to Chicago, Illinois, to work for Argonne National Laboratory.

“I’ll be a post-doctoral appointee for petroleum fuel life cycle,” said Bafana. “The work will involve life cycle assessment of manufacturing, storing and transporting hydrogen as a fuel. They want to test all of the scenarios of utilizing hydrogen as a fuel and I will be a part of that.”

Bafana’s doctoral research focus has been sustainable nanomaterials specifically using silver nanoparticles. His work as a research assistant for Clayton Jeffryes, assistant professor of chemical engineering, in the nanobiomaterials and bioprocessing laboratory or the NABLAB, led Bafana to co-author five peer-reviewed articles published in distinguished journals and provided an opportunity to work with Liv Haselbach, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering.

“We were trying to come up with a process that is more sustainable to make these silver nanoparticles. To evaluate sustainability of our process, we utilized life-cycle assessment techniques which I studied in the life cycle assessment class taught by Dr. Haselbach, while working on the project. So we consulted and collaborated with Dr. Haselbach to carry out this research and worked as a team to publish these interesting results.”

The resulting article, titled, “Evaluating microwave synthesized silver nanoparticles from silver nitrate with life cycle assessment techniques,” is the published work that Bafana believes got the attention of Argonne.

“I think knowing life-cycle assessment coupled with my chemical engineering experience is what Argonne liked. But I really am grateful to my colleagues at the lab and to Dr. Jeffryes and Dr. Haselbach. It was a team effort. I would also like to thank my parents for helping me pursue my aspirations.”

Bafana says he also attributes his success to the opportunity to travel while at Lamar University to national engineering conferences like American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Each year Bafana traveled to a major city to network with engineers from all over the world.

“It’s meaningful getting to go to these conferences, presenting and learning along the way and connecting what you’re doing with what else is happening in the world. You network with universities that are not nearby so you don’t feel isolated, and you can talk to more people and bounce your ideas off of others. They share what they feel is wrong or right or logical. That’s helpful.”

Bafana says Lamar University’s strong international community was critical to his professional and personal growth. “Coming from India, this place was new in terms of its social landscape and I embraced it seamlessly and vice versa. It’s sometimes hard to connect with someone not in the same situation so it helped to have a rich and diverse international community. It also helped that LU has been so involved in the community and industries around the campus, especially during disasters like Harvey. In fact, I’ve grown more in five years than I thought I would.” (Laughs)

Bafana is looking forward to his move to Chicago but is more excited about working in a field he’s passionate about and has long-term opportunities. “Five years from now I still want to be in the sustainable research domain solving problems.”