Doctoral Student Has a Winning Research Formula
Jul. 18, 2011
UT Dallas graduate student Prakash Sista ticks off his accomplishments with the same low-key demeanor one might use to describe a morning commute.
He is modest about his research successes in the Chemistry Department, which include authoring or co-authoring eight scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals – an impressive feat for anyone, and all the more for a graduate student.
Sista, a native of India, was the first in his immediate family to branch out into the natural sciences. His father is an economist and his mother, a linguist. His two siblings chose careers as computer engineers.
“I was truly drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of bridging organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, material science and engineering,” Sista said. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I started a five-year program in chemistry in India.”
He attended the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, one of the top schools for science in his home country. He entered a specialized program in chemistry that covered a broad range of topics, where he began exploring current research trends.
“After completing my degree, I wanted to further my education in chemistry and came to the United States in 2006,” Sista said. “I began at the University of San Francisco, but I knew that UT Dallas had a great program and wanted to come here to finish my doctorate.”
He has focused on polymers used in semiconductors, among other applications. His research includes measuring electronic properties of semiconducting polymers for use in solar cells.
“During my undergraduate studies, I was already exposed to these various fields, and I came across Dr. Mihaela Stefan and her research and saw the broader reach of the research here at UT Dallas, where I could involve myself in all the fields,” he said. “It’s very useful to interact with people from different fields and combine our skills to further our understanding of these materials and their uses.”
In the spring, Sista was asked to present a poster detailing his research at the Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research Symposium organized by the division of Polymer Chemistry at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Only a handful of students are invited to present posters in this symposium. With the recommendation letter from his mentor, Dr. Stefan, assistant professor of chemistry at UT Dallas, he prepared an outline of his research including synthesis of semiconducting polymers and testing them as active components in field-effect transistors and solar cells.
“I was very flattered to be asked to present,” Sista said. “The application process is lengthy, and we show our results and explain why we are doing it.”
During his three years at UT Dallas, he has learned how to make organic polymers made predominantly of carbon and investigate how electric charges move inside these polymers.
“Prakash is an outstanding graduate student and a wonderful mentor for both undergraduate and graduate students, and he has a genuine passion for science doubled by an amazing work ethic,” Dr. Stefan said. “His research in my group is highly interdisciplinary and in less than three years, he has acquired skills in organic and polymer synthesis, materials science and engineering , and semiconductor technologies.”
Prakash’s research is supported in part by a National Science Foundation Career Award won by Dr. Stefan. Additionally, the NSF Career grant and the UT Dallas Small Grants Program funded by the University’s Office of Research provided Prakash the financial support to attend the Chemical Society meeting in the spring of 2011.
After completing his studies, Prakash wants to pursue a career as a university professor.