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Group Members

Group Leader

Dr. Pulickel Ajayan

Dr. Pulickel Ajayan is the leader of the Ajayan Research Group, which is involved in the research of advanced nanomaterials with specific application areas in alternative energy, multifunctional nanocomposites, and electronics/sensor technologies. Ongoing projects focus on the materials science and engineering of several technologies that will impact society in the future. Energy generation and storage, chemical sensors, nanoelectronics, flexible displays, high performance composites, membrane technologies, coatings, and biomedical technologies are some of the areas explored. With several collaborations at Rice and outside the group is involved in a multi-disciplinary team effort with the goal of developing functional nanomaterials for a rich variety of applications. The Ajayan Research Group is committed to changing the world through discoveries and development of new materials.


Faculty Research Fellow

Dr. Robert Vajtai

Dr. Robert Vajtai joined Ajayan’s group at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in July 2000 to spend his sabbatical with a NATO-NSF Fellowship. Robert received his M.S. degree in physics and his Ph.D. degree in solid-state physics from the University of Szeged, Hungary, in 1986 and 1997, respectively. From 1987 to 2002 he was a faculty member of the Experimental Physics Department of Szeged University, Hungary. He received the Bolyai Fellowship of the Hungarian Scientific Academy from 1999 to 2000. He also spent sabbatical time as a Fellow of the Swedish Institute in The Ångström Laboratory in Uppsala, Sweden, from 1998 to 1999; as an Eötvös Fellow at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, from 1995 to 1996, and he also visited the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany in 1993 via the Max Planck Fellowship. Between 2003 and 2008 he was a Laboratory Manager at the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center, RPI, Troy, NY managing the nanoparticle generation by inert gas deposition and the carbon nanotechnology laboratories. He is currently a Faculty Fellow at Rice University. His work is focused on synthesis and applications of nanomaterials.


Research Scientists


Dr. Babu Ganguli

Dr. Babu Ganguli joined Ajayan’s group in July 2016. He received a Master of Science (2006) in Chemistry from Central College, Bangalore University. Dr. Ganguli received his PhD in 2013 from CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute, India. His research interests are in the interdisciplinary field of materials science and electrochemistry, particularly in electrode and electrolyte materials for energy storage and conversion applications. Dr. Ganguli’s current research focuses on development of super capacitors and Li-ion batteries for wider temperature applications and understanding the reaction mechanism in Li-S batteries.


Dr. Guanhui Gao

Dr. Guanhui Gao (Gigi) was born in Inner Mongolia (Mongolian Minority) and joined Ajayan’s group in April 2019. She received a Ph.D. in Materials Science from the Ocean University of China, 2012. She was a joint Ph.D. student in Prof. Ajayan’s group from 2009 to 2012. She then worked in the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology at the Chinese Academy of Science as an associate professor from 2012 to 2015. From 2015 to 2019, she worked at the Paul-Drude Institute für Festkörperelektronik, Leibniz-Institut im Forschungsverbund Berlin, Germany, as a junior scientist. In April 2019, she re-joined Rice University as a research scientist in the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngieering. At Rice, she is in charge of the Titan themis3 STEM in the Electron Microscopy Center, while also focusing on her own research in the interdisciplinary field of materials science and electrochemistry. She is particularly interested in the characterization of and the correlation between structures and properties for nanomaterials and heterostructures via TEM technologies to better understand and enable optimization of the synthesis and performance of nanomaterials.


Dr. Ben Jawdat

Dr. Ben Jawdat received his PhD in physics from the University of Houston, where he studied novel Pt-based superconducting materials. After receiving his PhD, he joined the Air Force Research Laboratory as an NRC Postdoctoral Fellow, where he worked on the development of long-distance power-beaming using millimeter-wave technology with focus on new and robust materials with high millimeter-wave absorption for effective power transmission. Dr. Jawdat joined Prof. Ajayan’s research group as a Research Scientist in June 2018, where he is focusing on the development of nano-composite millimeter-wave absorbers for this research project.


Dr. M.M. Rahman

Dr. M.M. Rahman received his Ph.D. from Cornell University where he studied the structure-property relationship in green nanocomposites. His primary academic interest lies in interdisciplinary materials science research, using an engineering and biology perspective to fabricate nature-inspired hierarchical composites. He is designing next-generation composites via advanced manufacturing technologies including 3D printing, with an emphasis on sustainability for load-bearing structures, textiles, energy, and environmental applications. Additionally, he is interested in exploring how hierarchical architectures and geometries affect the design of new composite metamaterials with unprecedented multifunctional properties. The desired outcomes from his research include discovering the structure, composition, and property relationship behavior of novel composite materials along with the exploration of the relationship between the multi-scale geometric design of hierarchical architectures and their multifunctionality.


Postdoctoral Research Fellows


Dr. Ashok Kumar Meiyazhagan

Dr. Ashok Kumar Meiyazhagan joined Ajayan’s group in February 2015. He received his PhD degree in Chemistry from the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), University of Madras, Tamil Nadu, India. His doctoral work focused on a simple, efficient method for the development of carbon nanomaterials from bio-wastes for a wide range of application in the fields related to energy storage, catalysts and organic reactions. His current area of research focuses on the synthesis of lithium metal-doped organic molecules for energy storage applications and the synthesis of high performance 3D nanocomposite materials for multifunctional applications.


Dr. Anand B. Puthirath

Dr. Anand B. Puthirath received his PhD in physics from Cochin University of Science Technology (CUSAT), India, where he studied the roles of surface plasmons and conducting polymers in optoelectronics and energy storage. Dr. Puthirath completed his master’s degree in physics from the same school, where he specialized in modern optics, advanced mathematical methods for physicists and quantum field theory. After receiving his PhD, he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), India, as a postdoctoral fellow, where, with the help of impedance spectroscopy, he investigated various types of relaxation phenomena in super-cooled glassy liquids near their glass transition temperatures (Tg). At TIFR, he also researched the potential material compositions for flexible solid electrolytes. In 2017, he received the national postdoctoral fellowship to pursue postdoctoral research at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Dr. Puthirath joined Prof. Ajayan’s research group at Rice University as a SERB-Indo-US postdoctoral fellow in January 2018. His research at Rice has focused on magnetism and piezoelectricity in 2D materials. Other research interests include 2D materials-based sensors, mechanical properties of 2D and 3D structures, dielectrics, optoelectronics and low energy water splitting. Furthermore, research in the field of energy storage always excites him where the emphasis is on Li-S cells and supercapacitors.


Dr. Weipeng Wang

Dr. Weipeng Wang received his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Tsinghua University under the guidance of Prof. Zhengjun Zhang. His Ph.D. research was mainly focused on extreme conditions (high energy particle, high magnetic field) based low-dimensional material processing, property modification and their applications in energy and environmental science. His current research is focused on nanotechnology enabled water treatment (NEWT).


Dr. Xiang Zhang

Dr. Xiang Zhang joined Ajayan’s group in Spring 2014 as a Ph.D. student in the Applied Physics Program at Rice University and then as a postdoc in Materials Science and NanoEngineering in May 2018. He received his B.S. degree in Applied Physics from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), where he started to grow graphene by using the CVD method. His current research is focused on synthesis, characterization, and applications of 2D materials including graphene, h-BN, transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), and their heterostructures.


Doctoral Students

Amey Apte

Amey Apte completed his dual degree BS/MS in physics from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, in 2014. His MS thesis, under the guidance of Prof. Sulabha Kulkarni, involved the study of self-assembled vertically aligned gold nanorods on silicon substrates, and their application for the ultrasensitive detection of various chemicals using Surface-enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS). Thereafter, he continued research on gold nanostructures and certain rare earth orthoferrites with Prof. Kulkarni for another year before joining the Applied Physics PhD Program at Rice University in August, 2015. Beginning January, 2016, his research in the Ajayan group will focus on the growth and characterisation of functional 2D materials as well as layered heterostructures and the investigation of their exotic properties using techniques like ultrafast X-ray pump probe spectroscopy.


Abhijit Baburaj

Abhijit (Abhi) joined the Energy group in Dr. Ajayan’s Lab in 2017. His M.S. in Mechanical Engineering thesis was on optimization of Martian regolith and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene composites for radiation shielding and habitat protection for future missions to Mars. He spent four years in GE Oil and Gas as a subsea engineer designing and optimizing oilfield systems. His prior internships consisted of research on cutting of carbon nanotubes, armor protection material and corrosion protection material. Abhi’s interest in sustainable sources of energy led him to work on optimizing electrodes for aqueous electrolytes that can be used in supercapacitors and batteries. He is also focusing on developing compliant thermal interface materials with high conductivity for electronics applications.


Jarin Joyner received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Oberlin College and his master’s degree in organic chemistry from Georgia State University. His previous research studies include the investigation of the mechanisms in the oxidation of reducing sugars using spectrophotometric assays and chemical glycosylation of small molecules with simple, 6-carbon sugars. He joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in the Fall 2014 semester as a Ph.D. student in the chemistry department. His research pursuits are concentrated in energy storage, investigating polymer composites to be utilized as separators in lithium ion battery systems at high temperatures.


Keiko Kato

Keiko Kato received a B.S. in materials science & engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014. Before she joined Dr. Ajayan’s lab as a Ph.D. student in the summer of 2015, she worked at Xerion Advanced Battery Corporation for one and half years where she developed high power lithium ion batteries based on nanostructured electrode architecture. In Dr. Ajayan’s lab, she is interested in investigating organic batteries, high temperature batteries, and other energy storage methods as well as harvesting materials.


Suppanat Kosolwattana

Suppanat Kosolwattana (Nat) is a Ph.D. Student in the Materials Science and Nanoengineering department at Rice University. He has received a full scholarship from the Ministry of Science and Technology of Thailand to study in the United States since his undergraduate study. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in chemistry and physics. Then, he received his master’s degree in materials science and engineering from Pennsylvania State University. In summer 2014, he joined in Prof. Ajayan’s research group for pursuing his Ph.D. His research is focused on energy storage devices such as batteries and supercapacitors.


Jiawei received her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Hangzhou Dianzi University, Zhejiang China (2014), and her professional master’s degree in Materials Science and NanoEngineering from Rice University (2017). She became a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Ajayan’s group in fall of 2017, with research focused on the fabrication of field-effect transistors (FETs). She is currently investigating the development of bio-sensors and bio-mimetic sensors from 2D materials.


Samuel Castro Pardo

Samuel Castro Pardo received his B.S. in Nanotechnology engineering and chemistry from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in 2015. His previous research was focused on the development and characterization of novel amorphous pharmaceutical formulations as well as in the evaluation of the electrochemical performance of the active materials of a lead-acid battery. He joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in the Fall 2017 semester as a Ph.D. student in the chemistry department. He is interested in the synthesis and characterization of new materials for energy storage devices.


Onur Sahin

Onur Sahin graduated from Pepperdine University in 2015 with a B.S. in Physics and B.A. in Philosophy. After earning his master’s in materials engineering at Rice University, he joined Dr. Ajayan’s group as a Ph.D. student. His research interest lies in applying nanoengineered materials to cancer therapy and diagnostic imaging research.


Seyed Mohammad Sajadi

Seyed Mohammad Sajadi received his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Tehran and his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Houston in December 2016. His previous research involved modelling and experimental studies to elucidate the fundamentals of micro-scale heat transfer and their implementation in nanotechnology. His MS thesis involved development of Micro-Nano Structures for Tuned Heat Transfer. Mohammad joined Dr. Ajayan’s group as a PhD student in January 2018 and his current research focused on development of metamaterial.


Devashish Salpekar

Devashish Salpekar joined Rice University in Fall of 2015 as a professional master’s student and joined Dr. Ajayan’s group as a PhD candidate in May of 2017. Devashish received his Bachelors of Technology degree in Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering from Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, India, in May 2015. He is currently working on synthesis of high temperature electrode materials for Lithium-ion batteries.


Lucas Sassi

Lucas joined prof Ajayan`s group in Fall of 2017. He received his B.S. in Nanotechology and his M.S. in Nanotechnology Engineering, both from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) in Brazil. Lucas has experience with molecular dynamics, AFM nanomanipulation, Raman spectroscopy of graphene and carbon nanotubes and anti-fouling coatings. Before joining the group, Lucas also worked as a lecturer of the Nanotechnology undergraduate program at UFRJ and as a researcher in the Brazilian metrology institute (INMETRO). His current research interests include development of new 2D materials and Van der Waals heterostructures and their applications.


Xinting Shuai

Xinting Shuai received his B.S. degree in Material Science and Engineering from the Jiangsu University of Science and Technology (JUST) of China in 2015. He joined the Materials Science and NanoEngineering (MSNE) department at Rice University in the summer of 2016 as a professional master’s student and joined Dr. Ajayan’s group as a Ph.D. student in Spring 2019. He has previous research experience in the CVD growth of graphene and 2D materials. Currently, his interests focus on CVD growing optical organic and inorganic materials. His motto is: “Build better materials and change the world”.


Sandhya Susarla

Sandhya Susarla received her undergraduate degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University; IIT BHU) in May 2015. She joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in Fall 2015. Her final year project at IIT BHU was based on peroviskite based solar cells. Her current research interests include development of new 2-D materials, both by top down and bottom up approaches, and investigating their properties for various optoelectronic applications.


Mai Kim (Kimmai)


Hailing from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering as well as a minor in Sustainability and the Built Environment, Kimmai joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in Spring 2017 as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, excited to change the world and beyond. Her current research interests mainly lie in materials for environmental sustainability; to “design with nature in mind.” She is currently working on metallic organic frameworks for CO2 sequestration with a parallel project on deep eutectic solvents with the eventual goal of making recyclable batteries. Outside of the lab, you can probably catch her eating French fries or chocolate, sipping a coffee or bubble tea outside of Brochstein Pavillion, or petting dogs nearby. Follow her adventures in her weekly Blogumentary!


Zhou Zhou

Zhou Zhou is a graduate student in Ajayan’s group at Rice University. She received her B.S. in Physics from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and her Professional Master’s in Nanoscale Physics from Rice University. Her current research interests are the fabrication and engineering of low-dimensional materials and their applications in the oil and gas field.


Undergraduate Students


Nancy Cui

Nancy Cui is an undergraduate student in the class of 2021 at Sid Richardson College. She plans to graduate with a B.S. in Bioengineering and then pursue graduate studies. Nancy joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in Spring 2018 with her focus on developing and testing new materials like S-Se alloy and bacteria cellulose.


Sylvia Jung

Sylvia Jung is an undergraduate student in the class of 2021 at Hanszen College. She plans to graduate with a B.S. in Materials Science and NanoEngineering and pursue graduate studies in Material Science. Sylvia joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in Fall 2017 and will be exploring different research areas, starting from 3D nanostructure materials.


Grant Wilkinson

Grant Wilkinson is an undergraduate student in the class of 2020 at Sid Richardson College. He plans to graduate with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Grant joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in Spring 2018 and is currently working with the mechanical properties of different 3D-printed structures


High School Students


Neel Narayan

Neel Narayan joined Professor Ajayan’s group in June of 2018 as a high school student. He is currently part of the 2020 high school graduating class of Cypress Ridge High School. Neel is involved with research in 2D materials and nanomaterials, and does work for hybrid-biocomposite functional materials for multifunctional applications, while his current research lies in the application and synthesis of graphene and hBN derived materials.


Riya joined Ajayan’s group in August of 2018 and is currently in the 2022 graduating class of Cypress Ridge High School. Riya is involved with research on carbon-based nanomaterials for supercapacitor applications. She also works on synthesis and electrochemical characterization of graphene and CNT-based structures for high energy, high density, energy storage systems.


Academic Visitors


Dr. Eliezer Fernando de Oliveira

Dr. Eliezer Fernando de Oliveira joined Prof. Ajayan’s group in August 2019 as an academic visitor. He has a Masters degree (2013) and PhD (2016) in material science and technology from the Universidade Estadual Paulista “Julio de Mesquita Filho” (UNESP), Brazil. During his PhD program, he had an internship period at the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies in Nanoscience (IMDEA-Nanoscience), Spain. After receiving his PhD, he was a postdoctoral fellow researcher at the Gleb Wataghin Institute of Physics (IFGW/UNICAMP), Brazil. In 2017, he received the Capes Prize 2017 from the Brazilian Science Ministry for the best PhD thesis in the area of materials. He has experience in computational modeling and simulation of materials, and is currently working on the following topics: organic photovoltaic devices; electronic structure and engineering electronic levels of organic materials; absorption spectra and theoretical bandgap extrapolation of conjugated organic polymers; classical and reactive molecular dynamics; mechanical properties of carbon nanostructures.


Dr. Francisco C. Robles Hernández

Dr. Robles has a Bachelor, a Master and a PhD of Science degree in Metallurgy and Materials Science and Engineering. He has more than 20 years of research and industrial experience in Materials Science, Engineering and Manufacturing. During his career Dr. Robles worked for the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) as a Manager and a Principal Investigator. In August 2008 he moved to the University of Houston as an Assistant Professor. Today he is an Associated Professor with Tenure and has appointments in the Electrical Computer Engineering and Materials Science departments. He has been working on nanostructured materials such as catalysts, water splitting, ceramics, polymers, composites and carbon nanostructures. He also has expertise in Structural Materials such as steels and aluminum alloys and their applications for the automotive and railway industries. His current activities at Rice University are mainly related to transmission electron microscopy.


Guangmei Hou is a Ph.D. candidate (supervisor, Prof. Lijie Ci) from SDU & Rice Joint Center for Carbon Nanomaterials, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Shandong University. She joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as an academic visitor in September 2018. She has previous research experience in cathode materials for advanced Li-ion battery. Her current research is mainly focused on the design and protection of Li metal anodes enabled by nanotechnologies.


Dr. Liang Wang

Dr. Liang Wang joined Prof. Ajayan’s group in October 2018 as an academic visitor. He is currently an associate professor at Shanghai University. His present research is focused on the controlled synthesis and structure-property relationships of carbon and other metal-free functional nanomaterials (0D quantum dots, 2D nanosheets, 3D porous nanomaterials) using green chemical strategies, and exploring their applications in photocatalysis, electrocatalysis, energy storage and bioimaging.


Fanshu Yuan

Fanshu Yuan is a Ph.D. candidate from the School of Chemical Engineering at Nanjing University of Science & Technology. She joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as an academic visitor in September 2018. Her current research interests are the fabrication and engineering of 3D nanostructure materials and their applications in electrochemical applications.


Zhenwei Zhu

Zhenwei Zhu is a Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Physics at Xiamen University. She joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as an academic visitor in September 2018. Her current research is focused on synthesis, characterization, and applications of 2D materials and exploring their physical properties.