Updated: Jan 22, 2019
Nanotech NYC sits down with students, faculty and researchers from across the city to give those interested a glimpse into the local nanotechnology scene. Today we sit down with Ingrid Paredes, a 3rd year PhD student in the Chemical Engineering Department at NYU Tandon.
Tell us a little bit about where you are from.
I grew up across the Hudson in Jersey City, New Jersey. It’s a big city known for its diversity - actually, we were recently named the most diverse city in the country.
Where did you complete your undergraduate and any graduate degrees prior to this one?
I completed both my B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemical and biochemical engineering at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I minored in English literature - I loved both writing and chemistry growing up, and so in college I looked for opportunities that would allow me to do both. Actually, I decided to pursue research because of the school’s newspaper - my sophomore year, my friends and I started its science section. My first interview was my first conversation with researchers about their work, and I was inspired by the genuine curiosity and drive I saw in each of them. I applied to positions for that summer and landed in Dr. Benjamin Glasser’s lab, where I’d stay for my B.S. and M.S. theses. The focus of my research was to gain fundamental understanding of the transport phenomena behind rotary calcination, a heat treatment used in preparation of industrial catalysts.
What is your current status as a graduate student?
I am a third year PhD student in chemical engineering at NYU Tandon. I plan to graduate by May 2021.
What group are you in and what is the group’s overall focus?
I am a part of the Hybrid Nanomaterials Laboratory led by Dr. Ayash Sahu. Our group studies the transport of heat, mass, and charge at the nanoscale in hopes of designing devices for energy harvesting.
What is your particular research on?
The focus of my research is the development of reliable, solution-based synthesis routes towards sustainable hybrid nanomaterials.
Can you tell me about some potential future applications for your work?
Currently, the optoelectronic industry is dominated by semiconductors comprising of rare, expensive elements that are difficult to process. Overall, they are unsuitable for large scale commercialization. Our energy demand, though, is growing with our population. To meet that growing demand in a sustainable fashion, we can synthesize materials that behave comparatively to current commercial systems but come from elements that are abundant and recyclable.
How did you figure out you wanted to specialize in this area?
Fashion! In high school, I found a book called Techno Textiles at Strand. It outlined recent developments on the intersection of fashion and technology. I began to follow news about the topic, gaining interest in materials science and nanotechnology over the years - so when I spoke with Ayash about his work as a first year student, I was super excited from the start. I actually keep that book on my desk at work.
You are a community organizer for the March for Science's NYC satellite. Tell us a bit about their mission, why it’s important to you, and what you do for them as a community organizer?
March for Science is a nonpartisan group that calls for evidence-based policy and science for the common good. Since the first D.C. march in 2017, the movement has inspired hundreds of satellites nationwide. In NYC, our goals are to mobilize the scientific community (less than half of STEM students nationwide voted in the 2016 election!) and educate the public about science-based issues. We do this by organizing outreach events targeted at adults, like science fair happy hours, voter information nights, and our city-wide march and teach-in.
You do a bit of blog writing for Physics World and GradHacker. Can you tell us a bit about that and why you do it?
As a student contributor for Physics World, I write research updates related to nanotechnology and peer-edit articles written by other students contributors. The opportunity allows me to stay up to date with research in my field while keeping up with writing. I love the challenge of taking the science out to a broader audience than the scientific community.
For GradHacker, my writing is more personal - the blog publishes advice and personal essays by graduate students. I appreciate that it allows me to take some time to reflect on some of my experiences as a grad student, like mentorship and organizing for March for Science.
Where do you hope to take your career in the next 5 or 10 years?
I’d love to stay in academia as a professor. I’m incredibly fortunate to have had supportive mentors throughout my career, and I hope to provide the same opportunity for students in the future.
What do you do for fun outside of your program?
I love exploring the city - you can’t be bored here, and time on the subway is time for reading. I’ve always loved music - I play the piano - and have been going to plenty of shows since I’ve moved here.
If you could go back to the first day you started your graduate work and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
Expect to make mistakes and to sometimes fail - be patient and learn from those experiences.