By Giorgina Paiella
Sapna has worked as a research assistant in the UConn Center for Clean Energy Engineering since 2011, focusing on the development of electrically and ionically conducting high temperature ceramics for energy conversion systems and oxygen gas separation devices under advisor Professor Prabhakar Singh. Her research interests include ceramics, high temperature electrochemical systems, mixed electrically and ionically conducting high temperature materials, and the characterization and evaluation of chemical and structural stability of materials in an aggressive environment. In addition to her research, Sapna has served as a teaching assistant for Mechanical Behavior of Materials (MSE 3004) and Introduction to Structure, Properties, and Processing of Materials II (MSE 2001).
Prior to joining UConn in 2011, Sapna received her bachelor’s of technology in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Trichy in India in 2010. She will be entering her fourth year in the MSE Ph.D program this coming fall.
“During the past three years of my graduate career,” Sapna reflects, “I have been introduced to various facets of research: critical assessment of literature, long hours of comparative study, precise documentation, frustration over unanticipated results, requirement for continuous perseverance, and the joy of solving a problem or making a discovery. This experience fascinates me and continues to pique my interest in research and development.”
Sapna’s passion for learning is evident in the many fellowships, distinctions, and awards that she has received. Last summer, she pursued a research internship at Praxair Technology Center to work on materials development for oxygen transport membrane systems. At UConn, she is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, most selective, and most prestigious honor society. Within the materials science and engineering discipline, she is a member of the Materials Research Society (MRS), The American Ceramic Society (ACerS), Association for Iron & Steel Technology (AIST), The American Society for Metals (ASM International), and The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS).
An extension of her extracurricular involvement and interest in ceramic education, Sapna formed a UConn chapter of Keramos last fall. One of twelve student chapters across the country, the national professional ceramic engineering fraternity aims to stimulate scholarship, character, and development in students while promoting interest in the professional aspects of ceramic engineering, technology, and science. As chapter president, Sapna helped to plan and organize two Keramos events this year. Early in the semester, the group welcomed the Litchfield County 4-H organization to the UConn Center for Clean Energy Engineering, where members ranging in age from seven to seventy learned about fossil fuels, renewable energy, and cutting-edge materials research. They had the opportunity to view scientific demonstrations, see how a hydrogen fuel cell worked, and take a tour of the center. To increase the visibility of Keramos within the MSE department, the chapter also hosted an egg drop challenge, where students were provided with a packet of office supplies and 45 minutes to build a device capable of protecting an egg from a two-story fall. Bridging her leadership and involvement in several materials societies, Sapna also serves as finance committee chair on The American Ceramic Society (ACerS) President’s Council of Student Advisors (PCSA). The student-led committee of delegates aims to engage students in ACerS activities and facilitate the development of a ceramics community by increasing collaboration across various student organizations, universities, and academic departments.
Sapna was most recently featured as a guest columnist in the May 2014 issue of the American Ceramic Society Bulletin, where she detailed her journey as an international graduate student and the unique experiences offered to her as a member of the UConn MSE community:
“My experiences as an international graduate student have been holistic because of the skills and knowledge they have endowed me and because they have shown me how people from various cultures approach the same problem from different angles. Through my experiences, I have learned that nothing is impossible to a willing heart and mind.”