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"Lucky" student Lagnajit Pattanaik wins prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

Professor Nicholas Brunellii and Lagnajit Pattanaik Professor Nicholas Brunellii and Lagnajit Pattanaik Undergraduate CBE student Lagnajit Pattanaik's nickname might be "Lucky," but luck had very little to do with him winning the most prestigious undergraduate research scholarship in the country - the Goldwater.

Lagnajit, who has been called "Lucky" since childhood, was one of two Ohio State University students and eleven students in the state of Ohio whose hard work, ingenuity and outstanding potential were recognized with the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which seeks to foster excellence and alleviate a critical current and future shortage of highly qualified scientists, matematicians and engineers.

"I was a bit surprised to win," Lagnajit said, "but Dr. Brunelli had suggested that I apply, and he has given me tremendous encouragement. He motivates me every day. No one is harder working than him, and we recently got our first big federal grant, which is exciting. This award is not just mine, it's Dr. Brunelli's and the group's as well -- a culmination of effort. You'll definately be seeing more Goldwater Scholars from Dr. Brunelli's group," he said with a smile.

Lagnajit has always liked and excelled at math and chemistry. Combining the two seemed to lead naturally to studying chemical engineering, he said.

"It was my interest in chemistry that led me to Dr. Brunelli's group," Lagnajit explained. "Our lab uses more organic chemistry than other chemE areas. We model catalysts after enzymes and study catalysis for biomass conversion -- converting organic molecules like fructose, glucose and eventually cellulose to 5 hydroxy methyl furfural (HMF). HMF is an intermediary material used to make other molecules found in polymers, plastics and fuels. It's greener than using petroleum to make polymers," Lagnajit said.

Lagnajit had two research experiences previous to working with Professor Brunelli's group. A paper he worked on in high school with Dr. Lannutti got published.

"I've always been a good student, but what I've learned most is to be patient in research. You go in expecting a 100% success rate before finding out that a 10% success rate is actually good. Getting experience with failure has helped me grow as a researcher," he said.

"I have also learned about how much preparation is needed to do good research. So much of research is reading what others have done before you, and thinking about how you can improve on it... understanding your project and what you are trying to achieve," he added.

"What do I like best about it? When you run an experiment and it supports your theory -- that's a cool feeling. In chemistry, you can't see things working, so when you can quantify that you were right, and then extend the technology so that it can make a difference in the world when applied to a larger scale, it just makes you feel very good.

"It makes you think about how we can get our technology to help other people. Because at the end of the day, that's our goal. It's a really big motivator for me.

"I'd like to eventually build a flow reactor that would allow us to feed in raw materials and flow out value-added products in a cleaner and more sustainable fashion," Lucky concluded.

Lucky, who will be on an internship this summer with Owens Corning, also received the Maximus Scholarship this year, as well support from the Office of Diversity Inclusion and Ohio House of Science Education. He will be a senior next year.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was authorized by the United States Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The creation of Goldwater program pays tribute to the leadership, courage, and vision of Senator Goldwater and establishes in his name an endowed recognition program to foster and encourage excellence in science and mathematics.The Goldwater Scholarship is an honor bestowed only once. Each scholarship covers eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board, up to a maximum of $7,500 annually.

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