Temple University chemistry graduate students Zachary O 'Dell, Tipsiri “Mint” Pungsrisai and Sanjay Sridhar, in collaboration with graduate students from Indiana University, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin, have been selected to organize the Graduate Student Symposium at the spring 2024 American Chemical Society Spring National Convention in New Orleans in March.

The theme of the symposium, Nanoparticle Heterogeneity, Realizing Strengths by Embracing the Differences, is centered around the work of the NSF Center for Single-Entity Nanochemistry and Nanocrystal Design, a partnership among Temple University, led by Professor Kallie Willets, and Indiana, Texas A&M and Texas. All three Temple students work in the Willets Lab, where much of the work is focused on plasmonic nanoparticles and how they interact with light.

“The overall goal of the symposium is to connect scientists from various disciplines of nanomaterial research to better understand and control heterogeneity in metal nanoparticle samples,” explained O’Dell, who is chair of the symposium. “We’ve also awarded eight undergraduate nanomaterial researchers with travel grants to attend the symposium, and are throwing a networking event after the symposium so that undergrads, grad students and postdocs get to meet and talk with these world-leaders in nanomaterial studies.”

Sridhar’s role is managing logistics, including drafting the schedule, categorizing speakers, planning the symposium reception and ensuring the tech at the meeting is all set. “Organizing the symposium has taught me a lot,” said Sridhar, “from managing people to being part of a team to streamlining communications across four universities.”

Sridhar is excited about his research efforts in the Willets Lab, working to understand how nanoparticles' surfaces affect their electrochemical properties. “Nanoparticles are used in a gamut of applications in electrochemistry and understanding the effects of surface structure on their function is key to unlocking their true potential,” he explained. “Thus far, we have managed to gain some insight into the dissolution/growth behavior of plasmonic nanoparticles through a combination of electrochemistry and optical microscopy but are currently adapting new interferometric imaging techniques to study the electrochemical behavior of non-plasmonic nanoparticles, too.”

As speaker liaison, Pungsrisai is responsible for communications with the invited researchers. “I mostly see their names on their great research papers,” said Pungsrisai, whose Temple lab work involves the fabrication and application of carbon thin film electrode as a platform for multi-microscopy characterization of single nanoparticles. “This symposium is a great opportunity to actually meet and talk about science to big names in the research field. I guess it's like seeing your idols in person.”

On one of her first visits to Temple and the Department of Chemistry, Pungsrisai was impressed by how close the graduate students were with one another and with their PIs, reminding her of her undergraduate years at the much smaller Franklin & Marshall College. For Sridhar, he was drawn to Temple because of the great nanomaterials research. “And once I got familiar with the work done in the Willets Lab,” he said, “I was sold.”