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Jayachandra Hari Mangalara, currently pursuing a PhD in the Department of Polymer Engineering, had a growing interest in chemistry and attended the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Roorkee before pursuing his PhD at The University of Akron. Read more about his research, experience, and future goals.

How does your major (or minor) fit into your life’s plan? How did you end up  in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?

As I approached the end of my high school education, I had a growing interest in chemistry. When I cleared the competitive exams to join elite engineering schools in India, I had an opportunity to opt for a tech-degree in Polymer Science and technology, which was being offered for the very first time. I instantly felt this is something very close to what I want to pursue and grabbed the opportunity. By the end of engineering school, I had learnt much about the basics of polymers from classroom and practical experience. But, I still felt that there was something more I could learn and contribute to the field, especially from an industrial perspective – to create newer, light-weight materials – which led to me pursuing PhD in polymer engineering. From here, I want to use all the expertise I have to design newer polymeric materials to solve major problems in the industry.

What have you learned that makes a difference to you?

Graduate school has introduced me to a whole new world which I have not seen before. I’ve had an opportunity to meet a lot of professionals from various fields and cultures. I have definitely improved as a researcher. Apart from that, I’ve seen myself grow as a person over the past 5 years in regard to communication skills, presentation skills etc. These aspects are very critical for a person to survive in this competitive world and move forward on a progressive path. I would highly recommend to my colleagues and prospective students to not only focus on improving your research skills, but to dedicate a considerable amount of time to nurturing your interpersonal skills.

Why did you choose The University of Akron, specifically the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering?

Honestly, this was the only name I consistently heard about and read about during my undergraduate days. I had a growing interest in pursuing higher studies in the field and hence I applied to the most famous polymer school. I realized its greatness after arriving here and experiencing for myself what it has got to offer. It is a big hub for the plastics industry and for anyone in the field of polymers, especially interested in joining industry, I would say this is the place to be!

Tell us about your experience in an internship or research project.

I joined The Simmons Research Group in January, 2012 and ever since then my learning curve shoots up on a daily basis. I was new to the kind of research I was going to do (Understanding Glass formation behavior using MD Simulations! – scary?) and I had no idea what I was signing up for. But with strong support and encouragement from my advisor Dr. David Simmons, this ride became more and more exciting. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage prospective students to learn more about simulations and not to be intimidated by the word SIMULATIONS. The research is not at all about coding. It is an interesting way to approach scientific problems from a molecular perspective. I also had an opportunity to work for SABIC Innovation Plastics (Mount Vernon, IN) as part of the summer internship program. This was a vital experience for me just before graduation, as I always wanted to be in industry addressing real world problems and this experience gave me a first-look at industrial level research. I feel at least one industrial internship is vital for PhD level students, especially for those wanting to join industry after graduation. It is an opportunity to get a good look and understanding of how different things are in industry compared to academics.

Who is your favourite professor (or staff person) and why?

Every person I met here is my favorite. I got to learn something from each individual I met here at The University of Akron, however small that might be. I would like to thank each individual making my journey successful. STUDENT SPOTLIGHT (continued on next page)

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ve always had a keen interest in joining industry and that is what I want to do after graduation. I like solving real world problems and I am confident that the expertise and experience I have now will definitely be very useful in addressing those problems.

Anything else you would like to share?

I would like to strongly urge alumni to interact more with current students and come back to campus to talk more about their experiences. This way, students will become more aware and have more information when thinking about their career path.