Author: Rhonda Ward

Recent Ph.D. Graduate Reflects on Experience as IMS Polymer Program Student

Dr. Deepthi Varghese
Dr. Deepthi Varghese

After completing a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry from St. Josephs Arts & Science College in Bangalore, India, Deepthi Varghese joined the UConn Chemistry graduate program in the fall semester of 2014. After hearing brief research presentations from the chemistry departmental faculty, she became interested in Polymer Science with Prof. Douglas Adamson, an unexpected diversion from her initial plans for a career in biochemistry into a field in which she had no experience.

Although the lack of experience created a steep learning curve, Deepthi embraced this new research direction. While she faced challenges during the first two years, looking back, Deepthi says that she gained far more knowledge than expected, including polymer science, electro chemistry, and setting up scientific research laboratories.

Deepthi also struggled with many challenges regarding science including the fact that experiments are more likely to fail than succeed; science takes far more time than initially expected; and there is never enough time to accomplish everything. Lessons like this can be applied to all aspects of life, business, and art, as well as science.

In addition to the science, Deepthi has increased her knowledge of communications, independent learning, and keeping an open mind to feedback from all sources. She realized that you never know who will have valuable knowledge.

“Keeping an open ear and open mind allows you to learn from faculty, technicians, graduate students, and undergraduate students as well,” Deepthi says. She noted that undergraduates, especially those from outside disciplines, are also able to contribute bits of knowledge to the scientific challenges of the day.

Deepthi became involved with UConn organizations, the South Asia Community (Tarang) and the Graduate School Senate, where she was treasurer and president, respectively. This experience helped her learn organizational leadership.

Looking back on her graduate experience at UConn, Deepthi says that she grew as a scientist as well as a person. She had a number of unexpected experiences that changed her in many ways, all positive. In November, 2019, Deepthi started her professional career as a TD Etch Module Engineer at Intel, Hillsboro, Oregon.

IMS Polymer Program Members Inducted into UConn NAI Chapter

NAI Members and Inductees
NAI UConn Chapter members and inductees (Dr. Alexandru Asandei is 3rd from left, Dr. Richard Parnas is 4th from left).

IMS Polymer Program faculty members, Dr. Alexandru Asandei and Dr. Richard Parnas, were inducted into the UConn Chapter of the National Association of Inventors (NAI) in December 2019. The UConn NAI chapter was established in 2017 as the first Connecticut chapter of the national organization which was formed in 2010. The goal of NAI is to recognize and encourage academic inventors, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

Dr. Richard Parnas — whose research pursuits include biofuels production and separations, renewable polymers and composites, and interface engineering — holds a patent for a novel membrane that can be used to make biodiesel production more profitable by aiding the conversion of glycerol to 1,3 propanediol, a valuable platform chemical.

In 2018, Dr. Parnas and Trumbull, CT-based REA Resource Recovery Systems partnered with UConn and the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority (GNHWPCA) to place a pilot-scale demonstration system at the East Shore Water Pollution Abatement Facility in New Haven to convert brown grease to biodiesel fuel. The type of biodiesel fuel produced through this partnership, called Brown FOG (fats, oils, grease) can be used for power generation, including to power vehicles.

In May of 2019, U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and former New Haven Mayor Toni Harp visited the joint UCONN/GNHWPCA/REA project at the East Shore facility to celebrate the successful performance of the demonstration system and to kick off the effort to place a full-scale commercial system at several wastewater treatment plants in the state. Dr. Parnas has since partnered with the city of Danbury on a project to create a biodiesel production facility at that city’s water treatment plant.

Dr. Alexandru Asandei’s research interests include controlled radical polymerization, block copolymers, fluoropolymers, catalysis, biodegradable polymers, and organometallic chemistry. He holds several patents related to his research in polymer science and has served as an editorial board member for the Journal of Polymer Science: Part A: Polymer Chemistry since 2009. Dr. Asandei has served as co-organizer of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Workshop on Fluoropolymers in 2016, 2018, 2020.

In 2015, Dr. Asandei completed a month-long visiting professorship at Pôle Chimie Balard in Montpelier, France. Asandei was selected for the Chaire TOTAL program which includes a visiting professor/researcher component, an International School on Sustainable Chemistry and Energy initiative, and a scholarship program. As part of the program, Asandei presented four invited lectures. While in France, Professor Asandei also made invited presentations at the University of Toulouse and the University of Grenoble.  Dr. Asandei has been called upon to present his research at numerous conferences, universities, and industry organizations.

Members of Dr. Kasi’s Group Nominated for Best Poster at ACS Fall Meeting

Samiksha Vaidya
Samiksha Vaidya with her poster at the ACS Fall Meeting

Ian Martin
Ian Martin with his poster at the ACS Fall Meeting

Ian J. Martin and Samiksha Vaidya of Dr. Rajeswari Kasi’s research group recently attended the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2019 National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, CA and presented posters entitled “Templated perylene diimide-polydiacetylene supramolecular structures with unique chromatic transitions” and “Molecular engineering of dye incorporated liquid-crystalline polymers with different architectures”, respectively. Each of their presentations were highlighted as distinguished poster nominees in the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) division.

Dr. Luyi Sun Elected as Member of CASE

Dr. Steven Suib and Dr. Luyi Sun
IMS Director Dr. Steven Suib congratulates Dr. Luyi Sun on his election as a member of CASE

Dr. Luyi Sun, Director of the IMS Polymer Program and Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was inducted into the academy at its 44th Annual Meeting in May 2019

Election to CASE is made on the basis of scientific and engineering distinction achieved through significant contributions in theory or applications, as demonstrated by original published books and papers, patents, the pioneering of new and developing fields and innovative products, outstanding leadership of nationally recognized technical teams, and external professional awards in recognition of scientific and engineering excellence.

Dr. Sun’s publication credits include such distinguished journals as Scientific Reports, Nature Communications, Science, and Science Advances, as well as holding several patents related to his research. His work has been featured in articles at, R&D Magazine, and Plastics Technology among other publications. Dr. Sun also serves as advisor to the UConn student chapter of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE).

IMS Director Dr. Steven L. Suib, also a CASE member elected in 2012, congratulated Dr. Sun on his membership and accomplishments at a celebration at IMS.

UConn, UMass Lowell, Georgia Tech to Collaborate with Industry on 3D Printing Research Supported by NSF

Multi-material micro-lattice polymeric structures fabricated using 3D printing
Multi-material micro-lattice polymeric structures fabricated using 3D printing

UConn, the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell), and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) announced a collaboration to establish SHAP3D, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC), to address emerging challenges of additive manufacturing, also commonly referred to as 3D printing.

IUCRCs bridge the gap between early academic research and commercial readiness, supporting use-inspired research leading to new knowledge, technological capabilities and downstream commercial applications of these technologies.

“This Center will address the grand challenges that prevent the entire 3D printing field from moving forward,” says Joey Mead, Distinguished University Professor and David and Frances Pernick Nanotechnology Professor in the Department of Plastics Engineering at UMass Lowell. Mead serves as the center director of the Center for Science of Heterogeneous Additive Printing of 3D Materials (SHAP3D).  Read the full UConn Today Story.

Intriguing Flexible Devices Based On Mechanoluminescence

Photo: Pixabay

Mechanoluminescence (ML), also called triboluminescence (TL), refers to the phenomenon/process that materials could emit light under mechanical stimuli, e.g., friction, stretch, compression, impact, etc. The ML materials could utilize the ubiquitous mechanical energy in daily life to generate light emissions, avoiding the requirement of an artificial photon- or electron-excitation source as that in photoluminescence (PL) or electroluminescence (EL). Therefore, ML materials show great advantages in energy saving and environmental protection.

For practical applications, ML crystals or powders are required to composite with bulk matrices to generate structural non-destructive ML. Among the fabricated ML composites, elastomer-based ones have attracted increasing attention owing to the rising requirement of incorporating stress sensing characteristic into flexible/wearable devices. The present ML elastomer composites mainly employ transition metal ion doped sulfides (TM-sulfides) as the luminescent components because of their intense ML intensity. However, the TM-sulfides usually have poor chemical stability and may cause severe environmental pollution as well as lack of rich emission color.

Theoretically, rare earth doped oxides (RE-oxides) are promising alternatives because of their high chemical stability, nontoxicity, and abundant energy levels. It is essential to develop efficient and ideally multicolored ML of RE-oxide based elastomer composites, so that flexible devices may possess remarkable and environmentally friendly mechanical responsive optical characteristics.  Read the full story at Science Trends.


Polymer Program Seminar Series 2/9/2018

Dr. Igor L. Medintz
Dr. Igor L. Medintz, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

February 9, 2018
11.00am in  IMS 20

Enhancing Enzymatic Activity with Nanoparticle Scaffolds – Towards Cell Free Biocatalysis

Igor L. Medintz
Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
Washington D.C.  U.S.A.

Enzymes and especially multienzyme pathways are of tremendous interest for the production of industrial chemicals and in the development of metabolic sensors. One primary focus of synthetic biology is to design enzymatic production capabilities in a “plug and play” format within cellular systems.  Living cellular systems, however, can suffer from toxicity, competing pathways and sometimes an inability to mix enzymes from different species.  Application of enzymes for industrial catalysis is often achieved by immobilization on a surface since this often provides stability and facilitates purification and reuse of the enzymes from the reaction mixture. Unfortunately, immobilization of enzymes on large planar surfaces often results in loss of enzymatic activity.  We seek to create cell-free enzyme systems that can circumvent these issues in a “plug and play” format where enzymes are assembled on nanoparticle surfaces but still overcome diffusion and stability issues. We, and others, have demonstrated that immobilization of enzymes or substrate on nanoparticles often results in enhanced enzymatic activity relative to the free enzyme in solution.  Mechanistic studies of this phenomena will be presented starting with substrate on nanoparticles and then progressing to the converse approach. Examples of multienzyme cascades assembled on nanoparticles that appear to access substrate channeling phenomena will also be presented.  The challenges of characterizing and describing these complex organic/inorganic supramacromolecular systems will also be discussed in the context of further studies moving forward.

Host: Elena Dormidontova ( and Mu-Ping Nieh (