Please tell us about yourself

The first-year doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering, Himaghna grew up in India and went to college there. He studied chemical engineering at BITS Pilani and joined a photography group during his undergraduate years. In the final year of his graduation, he bought his first camera and started packing it on his adventures.

For two weeks, he lived with a fisherman in southern India, taking pictures of fishermen in boats and scenes on the shore. During a stint working for Michelin in France, he would spend his vacation time traveling around Europe and taking photographs of fjords, forests, the Danube, and more. He has visited 32 countries in total.

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How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career?

After two years, Himaghna grew restless. A futurist at heart, he longed to develop and understand emerging energy technologies.

“If there is one area where you can make the biggest impact on the future, it is energy,” he said.

That’s why Himaghna came to the University of Delaware.

“I knew I wanted to work in catalysis, and UD is one of the best places in the world for catalysis,” he said.

He specifically hoped to work with two professors that both advise and mentor him: Dionisios Vlachos, the Allan and Myra Ferguson Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and director of the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation and director of the Delaware Energy Institute, and Yushan Yan, associate dean for research and entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering.

Tell us about your work

“Himaghna has a very diverse set of skills and interests. He is remarkably mature and driven for the stage of his career,” said Vlachos. “He has made great progress on studying on the computer the mechanism by which renewable derivatives of biomass are converted into dienes, the molecules we use to produce tires for bicycles and cars. His work can enable the commercialization of renewable tires manufactured from waste, leaves, and trees.”

Himaghna aims to use computational tools to understand how the surface environments of catalysts, substances that speed up chemical reactions, encourage or discourage these reactions.

Yan, an expert in catalysis, nominated Himaghna for the Laird Fellowship.

“I have been impressed by Himaghna since before he even came to UD,” said Yan. “At UD, he has shown great enthusiasm for catalysis, and he excelled in my Electrochemical Energy Engineering course. More importantly for the Laird Fellowship, his wide interests and experiences beyond the traditional academic excellence made him the ideal candidate for the selection committee.”

What are your future plans?

Himaghna has many aspirations for how he will utilize his expertise in catalysis. For one, he aspires to start a technology company someday.  

“It’s been a long dream of mine to work on something that addresses the energy crisis,” he said.

He has not yet decided how he will spend the prize money from the Laird Fellowship, but he might put it toward his photography habit. As he optimizes his free time, Bhattacharjee has his eyes firmly focused on what’s next.

“I am very excited about the future,” he said.