September 16, 2016 8:00AM
In the world of scientific research, publication in a respected scientific journal is the brass ring. It’s the place where seasoned researchers share their work and expose it to the scrutiny of some of the best minds in their fields.
So it’s a pretty big deal when a student’s research – especially the work of an undergraduate student – is accepted for publication. For undergraduate students working in Ram Gupta’s labs at Pittsburg State University, this is precisely the goal.
Gupta, an assistant professor in PSU’s Department of Chemistry, came to PSU as part of its Polymer Chemistry Initiative. In labs at PSU’s Kansas Polymer Research Center, Gupta mentors students in the university’s undergraduate and graduate polymer chemistry degree programs.
Two of Gupta’s undergraduate Brazilian exchange students recently had research papers published by major journals. Their research is complex and deals with the rapidly expanding fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology, electrically conductive polymers, energy storage and supercapacitors. Three domestic undergraduate students have also published their research in peer-reviewed journals.
Pawan Kahol, dean of research and graduate and continuing studies at PSU, said having undergraduate students do research and publish their work, especially in such complex fields, may seem ambitious, but it’s critical to a solid undergraduate experience.
“An undergraduate’s experience is incomplete if they haven’t done primary research,” Kahol said. “We’re very lucky to have Dr. Gupta here. He works so well with the students. His focus is to make students think.”
Gupta said he enjoys working with the undergraduate students.
“I enjoy teaching and nurturing them,” Gupta said. “I try to design each project so that it works well with the time the students have.”
And when the data comes in, Gupta works with the students to write a report that is worthy of publication.
Camila Zequine is one of the authors of a study, “High Performance and Flexible Supercapacitors based on Carbonized Bamboo Fibers for Wide Temperature Applications,” which was published in “Scientific Reports” (Nature Publishing Group) earlier this year.
Zequine said she was grateful for her undergraduate research opportunities.
“Dr Gupta helped me every time I called him,” Zequine said. “He supported me and taught me how to create and develop the graphics and experiments. The experience of working in a big lab with an excellent researcher was incredible.”
Petar Dvornic, chair of the Department of Chemistry, said PSU’s is one of a small number of undergraduate polymer chemistry programs in the U.S. and it gives students an unexpected experience, in no small part because of Gupta.
“Polymer programs have historically been graduate programs,” Dvornic said. “But the field has matured enough so we can start students earlier. Dr. Gupta is such an asset to our program, both because of the breadth and depth of his knowledge and also because of his passion for teaching undergraduate students.”
Begun in 2014 with support from the Kansas Legislature, PSU’s Polymer Chemistry Initiative is an educational and research program that offers qualified students bachelor’s of science and master’s of science degrees in polymer chemistry. For more information, visit http://www.pittstate.edu/chemistry and click on the Polymer Chemistry link.
Meet Ram Gupta, Ph.D.