By Marlese Lessing
MSE graduate student Ayana Ghosh has been named as the recipient of the prestigious John Tanaka Graduate Student Fellowship award, which is given annually to a UConn graduate student in the United States’ oldest honor society, Phi Kappa Phi.
The award, which was established in 1993, is named after chemistry professor emeritus and former Director of the Honors Programs, Dr. John Tanaka. Professor Tanaka led Phi Kappa Phi at UConn for many years during his 45 year career at UConn. He also taught inorganic chemistry, and advised many undergraduate and graduate students. Although he passed away seven years ago in April 2012, his name lives on in this prestigious award.
Ayana said she is “very pleased” to have won the award.
“This type of recognition always acts as a catalyst for me to continue my daily efforts in research, learn more, and perform better,” she said. “I am extremely grateful to receive exceptional mentorship from my advisors at UConn, Pfizer Inc. and Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as my previous institutions that have shaped my academic career to date. I wish to continue performing cutting-edge research on a wide-range of materials with present-day and prospective technological and medical applications while being engaged in events to encourage younger individuals to pursue careers of their choices, especially in STEM fields.”
Candidates for this award are judged based on their research, career goals, academic success, achievement, and rigor, and service and leadership skills and activities.
Ayana has achieved many of these markers, winning Best Design for her poster in the third annual School of Engineering Poster Session in 2017, and departmental first place in the 2019 competition. She came to UConn in 2016, starting work in Professor Serge Nakhmanson’s lab working on evaluating Machine Learning methods to accurately predict the crystallization of pharmaceutical compounds, a project funded by Pfizer Inc and UConn MSE.
She is currently studying Computational Materials Design using Density Functional Theory (DFT), Machine Learning and Data Mining in Professor Nakhmanson’s lab. Ayana has previously been a graduate student at New Mexico University. She earned her Bachelor of Science in physics and abstract mathematics from the University of Michigan-Flint in 2015.
“Obviously, I am extremely happy about Ayana receiving this well-deserved award,” Professor Nakhmanson said. “The Tanaka fellowship emphasizes excellence in research and academics, and therefore is a great match for Ayana’s numerous accomplishments. She managed to complete not only a bunch of projects with me, but also collaborated with Pfizer researchers and did multiple internships at the Los Alamos National Laboratory working on something else entirely. She published extensively on all of these efforts and will surely publish more before she graduates.”