Student Spotlights

Nirupam Aich

Nanohybrid Researcher



Aug. 11, 2014

As nanotechnology continues to advance at a rapid pace, engineers are looking at how nanomaterials will affect organisms and ecosystems. Nirupam Aich, a Ph.D. student in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, is studying the environmental implications of nanohybrid materials with Assistant Professor Navid Saleh.

An understanding of nanomaterial behavior in aquatic ecosystems and a better knowledge of the interplay between nanomaterials and biological entities is critical to ensure safety. While the environmental community has already shown concern about the mobility, transport, and toxicity of single nanomaterials, nanohybrids have been overlooked. Nanohybrids are complex nano-structures made of two or more nanomaterials.
Nirupam is working with hybridized nanomaterials (carbon nanotubes hybridized with fullerenes or titanium) to see how the hybrid fate, transport, and toxicity differ from the component behavior.

nano models

These 3D fullerene models were created to educate high school students about nanomaterials.

He has also been involved in other research projects related to nanoscale material preparation, characterization, application, and implication studies with the goal to achieve sustainability:

  • preparing colloidally stable and biocompatible nanoparticle suspensions (fullerene, carbon nanotubes, graphene etc.) for usage in biomedical, electronics, and environmental applications.
  • characterizing nanomaterials in concrete structures using nano-scale imaging.
  • using simple DSLR camera to image light emitting paint to characterize cracking in concrete and carbon fiber reinforced plastic.
  • using carbon nanotubes, graphenes, or mussel inspired biopolymers to reinforce concrete structures.
  • preparing nanomaterial based biosensors for biofilm growth monitoring.

Nirupam received a M.S. degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of South Carolina in 2012 and a B.Sc. degree in Chemical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in 2009. Back in South Carolina, he also worked with Dr. Saleh before they both came to UT Austin in early 2014.

“I wanted to continue my research work under his supervision and also knew about the world class reputation of EWRE program here,” says Nirupam. “Therefore, I applied to UT and got accepted.”

Nirupam is originally from Bangladesh, which he proudly states is “the best kept secret in South Asia with the longest sandy beach in the world, royal Bengal tigers and one of the world’s largest textile and garment industries.”

At UT Austin, he has not felt like the new kid on the block for very long. “The hospitality of the teachers and students has been the most intriguing part of the department,” he says. “The faculty’s passion and care for teaching can be really felt. The graduate students really want to help new fellows like me and have provided me with the best support possible. Their cordial acts have helped me to go through the transition very easily.”

Nirupam says he has always aimed to be an academic. He would like to continue to utilize his skills and knowledge to further pursue research in environmental applications and implications of nanoscale novel materials.

Outside of school, he takes photos as a hobby when time permits.  He even turned his hobby into a tool for research. “Based on digital imaging I was able to develop a technique based on light emitting paint to characterize crack initiation and propagation in concrete and plastic structure,” he says. “I published two journal articles on that technique. I never realized that a hobby can be used as a skill for research!”