LSU Chemistry alum hopes to solve environmental challenges with polymer science

November 13, 2023

Dr. Chatterjee

Dr. Sourav Chatterjee (LSU PhD 2016), Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Murry State University

BATON ROUGE - Sourav Chatterjee's exposure to the world of chemistry came at an early age through his father, who worked as an industrial chemist. It was Chatterjee's membership to the British Library, a decision his uncle encouraged, that influenced his aspiration to embark on a research career. His inspiration came from the vivid and captivating science-related images in the journal articles. 

"The most interesting part about chemistry is that you can actually look into the study of the molecules. That's what chemistry is all about. You can go to the molecular level to see the problem and try to solve it, and that's what fascinates me." 

Chatterjee earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in chemistry from the University of Delhi, India, and then completed a one-year internship at the National Lab in Delhi, marking the initiation of his research career.  

"In the lab, I started working on carbon nanotube-based polymer composites. From there, I knew this was what really excited me. Knowing it can have some impact on day-to-day life and people is what motivated me to pursue a Ph.D.," Chatterjee said. 

Chatterjee’s academic pursuits took him to the United States, where he earned his second master's degree in polymer science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His late advisor, Professor Daniel J. Sandman, encouraged Chatterjee to apply to the Ph.D. program in chemistry at LSU due to the institution’s esteemed reputation in polymer research. 

Interested in pursuing research on conjugated polymers, Chatterjee joined the research laboratory of Professor Evgueni Nesterov in the LSU Department of Chemistry and was co-advised by Professor Raul Russo.

During his doctoral studies, Chatterjee designed and prepared a series of hybrid environmentally responsive nanoparticles where fluorescent block copolymers were grafted on the surface of inorganic nanoparticles using surface-confined Kumada catalyst-transfer polymerization. He studied the effect of energy transfer in block copolymer grafted on silica nanoparticles with the help of transient absorption, scattering, and photophysical studies.

In recognition of his significant contributions, Chatterjee was honored with the Graduate Excellence Award by the ACS Polymer Division. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2016, Chatterjee went on to undertake a series of postdoctoral positions at Tulane University, the University of Delaware, and the University of Alabama. 

Chatterjee's postdoctoral research position at the University of Alabama with Professor Jason Bara focused his research interest on applying the fundamentals and applications of polymer science involving synthesis and scattering tools to research solutions for environmental issues. 

In Bara's lab, Chatterjee investigated the development and analysis of novel, high-performance solvents from glycerol and ionic liquid polymers for effective CO2 capture and separation in various process conditions.

"If we want to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and mitigate the climate crises, we must discover innovative methods for reducing our global footprint," Chatterjee said. "An academic career affords me the freedom to address these real-world problems, conduct research, and, hopefully, find solutions." 

Chatterjee is now an assistant professor at Murray State University and is interested in developing advanced polymer materials for clean energy storage, carbon dioxide capture and separation, and 3D printing using a plant-based source. In his laboratory, he hopes to create novel monomers from a plant waste source and polymerize them, yielding polymers with enhanced recycling capabilities for various applications. 

"While there may not be a single quick fix to address the climate crisis, I remain optimistic that my research contributions in reducing the carbon footprint, no matter how seemingly small, play a vital role in the broader solution," Chatterjee said. 

On November 17, 2023, Chatterjee will present his work at the LSU Department of Chemistry's macromolecular division seminar in 100 Tureaud Hall at 12:30 PM (CST).