By Giorgina Paiella
The MSE department is home to students who demonstrate excellence early on in their undergraduate and graduate careers, receiving prestigious accolades and opportunities that set them apart as high achievers among their peers.
Arun Kumar Mannodi Kanakkithodi will be entering his third year as an MSE Ph.D student completing doctoral research work on dielectrics. He is one of five MSE graduate students selected as 2014 GE Fellows, a distinguished program that provides fellowships to outstanding graduate students in the UConn School of Engineering who are pursuing terminal degrees in the areas of advanced materials, magnetic materials, polymeric materials, and energy and modeling.
The GE Fellowship program is part of a five-year $7.5 million advanced technology initiative meant to expand the longstanding relationship between GE and the University of Connecticut. Established in 2012, the program was created to transform the state’s technology sector and spark breakthrough innovations in electrical distribution products. In order to receive the fellowship, a student must receive a 50% research assistantship from his or her advisor. Recipients must also maintain excellent standing in research and academics, attend SoE graduate professional workshops, deliver a presentation on the annual GE night, and participate in at least 50 hours of SoE activities designed to enrich the graduate community.
After receiving his bachelor’s of technology degree in 2012 from the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Roorkee, India, Arun joined the UConn MSE department in 2012 as a graduate assistant in the Ramprasad Research Group.
Arun received a GE Fellowship for his thesis, Rational Discovery and Design of New and Improved Dielectric Polymers. He explores the chemical space of organic and organomettalic polymers using first principles calculations and advanced data mining methods based on machine learning techniques, research that is expected to lead to the production of new, promising polymer dielectrics. This interdisciplinary research also allows for active collaborations with experimental polymer chemists, particularly Dr. Greg Sotzing’s Polymer Science group in the chemistry department. Arun’s 50% research assistantship supporting his doctoral research work is provided by Professor Ramprasad’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant, which he received from the Office of Naval Research in July 2010 to guide the design and synthesis of polymeric films for capacitive energy storage. In addition to his research, Arun served as Dr. Theodolus Kattamis’ teaching assistant this past year. The position provided him the opportunity to deliver several lectures on Strengthening Mechanisms in Metals to a class of sophomores, which allowed him to explore and enhance his teaching skills.
“Arun is an intelligent, independent, creative and motivated student who is highly deserving of the honor of the GE Graduate Fellowship,” advisor Professor Ramprasad states. “Moreover, his research topic overlaps strongly with several of GE’s interests, including dielectrics, polymers, and modeling, as well as application areas such as electrical energy storage and high-field phenomena.”