Graduate student interview: Natun Dasgupta




We are pleased to have Natun Dasgupta as our graduate student interviewee! We recently caught up with him to see what he's working on and to get advice for other grad students. Thanks Natun!

What program are you in and when did you start it?

I am a PhD candidate in Chemistry/Nano working under Prof. Mario Gauthier. I had started my Masters in Summer 2016 and eventually transferred to PhD.

When did you know that you wanted to do graduate school?

I did my undergraduate from University of Waterloo in Hons. Biochemistry Co-op. My initial co-ops were in academic research labs where I was exposed to different sorts of material characterization. I got to synthesize zeolites, graphene and polymer nano-composites which sparked my interest in the field of materials science. I started to read more about polymers and was fascinated by the variety of applications it has. I took the introductory polymer courses in my 4th year along with my research project with Prof. Gauthier which made me decide that I wanted to further pursue research and do graduate school.

How did you find your supervisor?

Prof. Gauthier was the first person I had contacted for my 4th year research project. He specializes in polymer synthesis which is what I wanted to do for graduate school.

What is your research on?

My research is on biodegradable polymers and how they can be used to tackle some current environmental issues. I focus on living polymerization techniques to make polymers with controlled architecture. I try to make unique polymers that has not been made in past. It is science but some may say that it is magic!

How did you become interested in your research?

I was working at Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, UAE for one of my co-ops in my 3rd year of undergraduate studies. Sulfur is a byproduct of natural gas and oil refineries in Abu Dhabi. My project was to prepare nano-composites of polystyrene and sulfur and identify its chemical and mechanical properties. I found this project quite interesting and tried to take up research positions in future coop terms which eventually led to graduate school.

What is the coolest thing about your research?

The entire project is quite cool by itself. It keeps me motivated that what I am currently doing is unique and can have an effect in people’s lives in future. The thought that my research can protect the environment and save mother earth makes me want to come to lab every single day!

Tell us something we might not know (related to your research)?

Living polymerization is a unique technique where the polymer chains tend to live forever. This means that the chains do not terminate and can be extended later. This technique is desirable for having precise and controlled polymer architecture.

Why did you choose UW for graduate school?

My experience with Prof. Gauthier during my 4th year research project had been very positive. Moreover, being away from parents who are thousands of kilometers away, I have been blessed to have family in the form of friends here in Waterloo. University of Waterloo is a great place to stay focused. UW is resourceful and its established faculty and staff made me choose UW for graduate school.

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

  • Have faith in yourself
  • Always put that extra effort
  • Have a balanced academic and social life
  • Feel proud about what you are doing

What advice do you have for potential graduate students?

  • Do graduate school only if you are passionate about a certain research topic
  • Make sure that the supervisor and his/her lab is the right fit for you
  • Talk to several current graduate students to get a feel of graduate school. Unlike undergraduate, everyone’s experience at graduate studies is unique

What's a personal challenge you've faced as a graduate student?

It is difficult to stay thousands of kilometers away from parents. My parents live in Dubai and recently they had imposed a ban on skype or any form of video calling. It was extremely difficult to not be able to see my mother for a few months. I try to maintain a healthy social life which in turn keeps me motivated as a graduate student.

What's a career-related challenge you've faced as a graduate student?

My project is confidential, and thus I am not allowed to openly talk about it currently. This has kept me from presenting at conferences or from publishing papers. I am patiently working hard and hoping that the silence will bare fruits in future!

What is your favourite thing about Waterloo (the city)?

I like the Columbia Ice Fields area in Waterloo. It is always fun to play football beside the lake. The sunrise and sunsets are also beautiful at CIF.

What is the best place to get food near/on campus?

My favourite place is Shinwa. It sells Hakka/Indian Chinese food. That’s the earliest memory of my taste buds from the streets of Kolkata, India.

What do you like to do when you're not doing research?

I like to play Chess and Table Tennis during my pastime. I like watching football and playing FIFA. I like being active and if not, I spend my weekends chilling with friends playing board games.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am grateful to University of Waterloo for all the opportunity that I have gotten till now. I hope to give back through my research and continue making UW a better place.