A specialized chemistry major in the Class of 2022, Maya Chattoraj will graduate in May and continue her education in graduate school, working toward a career in research that would combine materials and physical chemistry and projects that combat environmental issues.
“I chose UIUC chemistry because of the amazing research opportunities available to undergraduates,” said Chattoraj, who has participated for more than two years in the research group of chemistry professor Prashant Jain.
In the Jain lab, Chattoraj has worked on the electroreduction of CO2 to value-added chemical fuels using intermetallic gold-copper nanoparticles as the catalyst. She has learned to synthesize nanoparticles, characterize them using ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, X-ray power diffraction, and transition electron microscopy, and has also run the CO2 reduction reaction and used gas chromatography to identify products.
“My research work has given me the opportunity to learn a wide variety of skills under the guidance of my advisor and my graduate student mentor,” Chattoraj said. “I really value my research experience, which has given me insight into the research process and prepared me well for graduate school.”
Chattoraj also gained valuable research experience as summer research intern working on a quantum dot project at Fermilab, the U.S. particle physics and accelerator laboratory in Batavia, Illinois
“This experience was really unique as I was interacting with scientists working on decades-long multi-million-dollar projects in high-energy physics,” Chattoraj said. “My time at Fermilab has complemented my undergraduate research on campus by providing me with insight into research at a national lab as well as in pure academia.”
In her four years on campus, Chattoraj has also been part of three student organizations — the Illinois Space Society, Honors Student Council via the Campus Honors Program, and the American Chemical Society’s UIUC student chapter.
As a member of the space society, Chattoraj has worked on high-powered rocketry technical projects and has participated in the group’s mentoring program.
“This organization has given me opportunities to learn really cool technical skills, from coding and electronics to mechanical work. I've also met many of my closest friends through ISS,” she said.
Between student organizations and research labs, Chattoraj said, there are so many ways to get involved, meet new people, and explore anything you're interested in.
“I also have found a strong sense of community in my research group. By getting involved, it is really easy to find groups of people who share similar interests and who will end up being lifelong friends,” she said.