• Matt_s Swirls

Aditi Naik

I grew up in Glastonbury, CT and graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. At Cornell, I created polylactic acid nanofibers for biosensing applications in Professor Maragaret Frey’s research lab for three years. During this time, I also completed a Co-op at Kraft Foods working on Capri Sun product development, and an REU internship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham under the guidance of Dr. Aaron Catledge. Here, I used dip-pen nanolithography to fabricate a point-of-care polyacrylamide sensor for protein recognition.

My previous research experiences impressed upon me the importance of understanding polymers at a fundamental level, which drove me to apply for PhD programs with strong polymer and material science research. When I was deciding between several graduate programs, and I chose to attend PSE for very specific reasons. The top five were (1) world-renowned faculty in polymer research and nanotechnology, (2) great graduate and postdoc community between all research groups, (3) PSE Mentoring and Outreach events throughout the year, (4) opportunities for international research and collaboration, (5) guaranteed funding for five years with no teaching requirements.

Currently, I work in Professor Jim Watkins’ lab, where my research is focused on the development of low-cost interconnects for flexible electronics and fabrication of inexpensive microfluidic valves for biosensors. In addition to my research, I am very involved with outreach initiatives both at PSE and UMass Amherst. For the past three years, I have helped organize ASPIRE (A Student-led Program in Research & Education), where 30+ local high school students attend a five-day program at PSE to learn about polymer chemistry, engineering, and physics from graduate students. I have also served as the Mentoring co-Chair for GWIS (Graduate Women in STEM), a 500+ graduate student organization at UMass that supports women throughout their graduate careers. In this role, I have organized over 30 mentoring events to connect graduate students with faculty and undergraduates with graduate students over mentoring lunches and dinners. Through this, I have learned the importance of mentorship and outreach at the local community, departmental, and campus levels. I hope this will lead to better communication and connections between scientists and the public.  

I was awarded the NSF IRES Fellowship to conduct research on encapsulated liquid crystal in microbeads for smart, responsive materials at the University of Luxembourg in Dr. Jan Lagerwall’s lab during the summer of 2015. More recently, I was selected to represent UMass Amherst at CASE (Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering) in Washington D.C. in April 2017 and will meet with members of Congress from Massachusetts to discuss science policy.  

Following graduation, I am considering a research career in either industry or a national lab, while continuing to pursue my interest in science communication and public engagement.