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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.


Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Dr. Pei Dong

Dr. Pei Dong received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from Rice University in 2013, under the guidance of Professor Jun Lou. She is currently a joint Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Prof. Pulickel M. Ajayan’s and Prof. Jun Lou’s groups. Her dissertation was on nanomaterials enabled dye-sensitized solar cells. She is currently working on self-stiffening mechanisms in nanocomposites.


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. Babu’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. Hemtej Gullapalli

Dr. Gullapalli has a doctoral degree in material science from Rice University. His thesis deals with developing nanomaterials for energy conversion and storage applications. He has a master’s in Physics and a bachelors in electrical engineering with experience in synthesizing 2 Dimensional materials for use in sensors and for electrodes in supercapacitors and lithium ion batteries. Gullapalli is currently continuing his work in the field of electrochemical energy storage and is developing customized devices for applications involving harsh environmental conditions. His research interests include synthesis of layered materials, developing 3D electrode architectures and cell packaging for batteries and capacitors.


Dr. Vidya Kochat

Dr. Vidya Kochat joined Ajayan’s group in April 2015. Dr. Kochat received her Ph.D. in Physics from the Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India in 2014 and Master of Science (M.Sc) in Physics from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-R), Roorkee in 2007. Her doctoral work was based on the fabrication of heterostructure devices from atomically thin 2D materials and their electrical transport measurements at ultra-low temperatures with main focus on the topological defects and their implications on transport in graphene, localization phenomena in graphene and proximity-induced superconductivity in graphene. Her current research interests are in developing novel technologies for growing 2D materials and probing their transport and applications at the quantum limit.


Dr. Ashok Kumar Meiyazhagan

Dr. Ashok Kumar Meiyazhagan joined Ajayan’s group in February 2015. He received his Ph.D degree in Chemistry from the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), University of Madras, Tamil Nadu, India. His doctoral work focused on the simple, efficient method for the development of carbon nanomaterials from bio-wastes for 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 synthesis of high performance 3D nanocomposite materials for multifunctional applications.


Dr. Chandra Sekhar Tiwary

Dr. Chandra Sekhar Tiwary completed his Bachelor of Technology in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from National Institute of Technology Durgapur in year 2008. He completed his PhD from Materials Engineering, Indian Institute of Science Banaglore under supervision of Prof. K. Chattopadhyay and Prof. Dipankar Banerjee in 2013. He was a Management Trainee with MECON Limited from 2008 to 2009. He is currently working on development of 2D and 3D Hetrostructure materials.


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 is 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 supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) based material synthesis, modification and their applications in energy industry.


Dr. Jingjie Wu

Dr. Jingjie Wu is a postdoctoral research fellow under a joint supervision of Prof. Ajayan and Lou. He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of South Carolina-Columbia in December 2013. He completed his B.S. and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Wuhan University of Technology, China, in 2006 and 2009, respectively. His interest and expertise are on the materials and related techniques for renewable energy conversion and storage. He focuses on the development of materials, methods, and interfaces for electrochemical and photochemical processes, including CO2 reduction, water splitting, hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), and oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cell and metal-air battery. Specifically He is working on the synthesis and characterization of group V disulfide two-dimensional (2D) materials and its application in energy conversion and optoelectronics device, construction of 2D semiconductor-2D metallic materials heterostructure for photochemical water splitting and tuning electrocatalytic activity of heteroatom incorporated carbon nanotubes and graphene.


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.


Elisabeth Bianco

Elisabeth graduated from The Ohio State University in 2013 with a B.S. in Chemistry. At Ohio State, her research focused on the synthesis and characterization of germanium-graphane analogues. She is joining the 2D materials team in Ajayan’s group, working towards a Ph.D. in Chemistry. Her research interests include designing novel 2D materials with unique properties for a broad range of applications such as optoelectronics and energy conversion.


Alin Cristian Chipara

Alin Cristian Chipara received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas – Pan American (UTPA) in 2012. He joined the research group in the fall semester of 2012. He has previously studied nanofiller and polymer matrix interaction as well as various composites at UTPA. His main research interests include nanocomposite characterization and applications and the pursuit of novel uses of carbon nanotubes within differing matrices.


Zehua (Arthur) Jin

Arthur Jin graduated from Rice University with B.S. in Electrical Engineering (Distinction in Research and Creative Work) and B.A. in Physics in 2014. He joined Ajayan’s Group in 2014 and is now working on optical and electrical applications based on low dimensional materials.


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.


Peter Owuor

Peter Owuor joined Ajayan’s group in 2014. His research interests include thermo-mechanical properties of polymer nanocomposites, conductive polymers, PEM, Organic-inorganic composite materials, materials for energy storage.


Sruthi Radhakrishnan

Sruthi Radhakrishnan received her Bachelor’s degree in Instrumentation Engineering from Mahatma Gandhi University in India. She was an intern in the group during summer 2012 and joined Ajayan’s group in Fall 2014, as a PhD student. She is currently working on the multi-modal application of Fluorinated Graphene oxide for cancer imaging as well as therapy.


Marco Tulio Fonseca Rodrigues

Marco-Tulio F. Rodrigues received his B.S. in Chemistry and his M.Sc. in Physical Chemistry from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil). He has some experience with polymer nanocomposites, spectroscopy of carbon materials, colloidal self-assembly, and energy storage devices. He joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in Summer 2013 as a Ph.D. student.


Devashish Salpekar

Devashish Salpekar joined Rice University in Fall of 2015 as a professional masters 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.


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!


Hsinhan (Dave) Tsai

Hsinhan Tsai (Dave) received his BS dgree in chemistry (2006) from Fu Jen Catholic University (Taiwan) and MS degree of Polymer Science (2010) in National Taipei University of Technology (Taiwan). Before join Rice, he was worked with conducting polymers and perovksite materials for optoelectronics and sensing applications at Los Alamos National Lab, USA. He joined with Ajayan’s group in January, 2015 as PhD student at Dept. Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice University. His current research focused on novel perovkskite materials for solar and energy application.


Zixing (Cecile) Wang

Zixing (Cecile) Wang received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. Her concentration was electronic materials. She joined the Chemistry department at Rice University in the summer of 2015. During her undergraduate program, she worked on ion exchange fiber composites for water treatment. Afterwards she studied group V nitrides’ micro-structure and its effect on electronic, superconducting and mechanical properties. Her current interest is growing novel 2D materials and studying their properties.


Xiewen Wen

Xiewen Wen finished his BS/MS study of optics at Sun-Yetsen University in China. He received his MA/MS in Chemistry and Electrical and Computer Engineering in Rice University. He joined Dr. Ajayan’s lab in 2015 and is currently working on understanding electronic transfer in 2D materials and their heterostructures using ultrafast spectroscopies. He is also interested in infrared optoelectronic devices.


Xiang Zhang

Xiang Zhang received his B.S. degree in Applied Physics from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 2013. He joined Ajayan’s group in Spring 2014 as a Ph.D. student in the Applied Physics Program. He has previous research experience in CVD growth of graphene on insulating substrates. His current research interests include fabrication of 2D materials and their applications.


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.


Professional Master’s Degree Students


Jiawei Lai joined Dr. Ajayan’s Group in Spring 2016 as a graduate student. She recieved her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Hangzhou Dianzi University, Zhejiang China, in 2014 and now is a professional master in Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice University. She is currently studying fabrication of hierarchy structures based on two-dimensional materials and their applications.


Undergraduate Students


Irene Hwang

Irene Hwang is an undergraduate student in the class of 2018 at Sid Richardson College. She plans to graduate with a B.S. in Materials Science and Nanoengineering. Irene joined Dr. Ajayan’s group in Spring 2016 and currently works with nanocomposites, mechanical properties, and 3-D nanostructures.

Visiting Graduate Students


Mengmeng Fan is a Ph.D. candidate (supervisor, Prof. Dongping Sun) in the Chemicobiology and Functional Materials Institute, School of Chemical Engineering, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China. He started his master-doctor continuous study in 2012. He joined Dr. Ajayan’s group as a Visiting Scholar in February 2017. His previous research was focused on the preparation and the biological, electrocatalytic and energy storage applications of N-doped graphene. His current research is focused on the exfoliation and catalytic application of 2D materials.


Ygor Morais Jaques

Ygor Morais Jaques joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as a visiting scholar in September 2016. He is a PhD candidate in Physics from the University of Campinas, Brazil. His work is focused on computational simulation of nanomaterials, mainly the study of the mechanical and electrical properties of transition metal dichalcogenides and carbon-related nanostructures, as well as their interactions with liquids. He completed his B.S. in Physics at Centro Universitário Franciscano. He received his Master’s degree in Nanoscience and Advanced Materials from Universidadade Federal do ABC, with a period abroad at University of Calgary, Canada.


Chenglu Liang

Chenglu Liang is a Ph.D. candidate in Department of Polymer Science and Engineering of Sichuan University, Sichuan, China. She received her B.E. in Material Processing Engineering from Sichuan University and then started her master-doctor continuous study in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering of Sichuan University. She joined Dr. Ajayan’s group as a Visiting Scholar in September 2016. Her research is focused on the preparation of two-dimensional materials and their applications for energy conversion and storage.


Yang Liu

Yang Liu is a Ph.D. student in Department of Polymer Science and Engineering of Sichuan University, Sichuan, China. He received his M.S. on Material Processing Engineering from Sichuan University. He joined Ajayan’s group as a Visiting Scholar in September of 2015. His research is focused on the preparation and mechanism of graphene based hydrogel, thermal degradation and the recycling of polymer materials.


Visiting Scholars


Dr. Om P. Khatri joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as a Raman Research Fellow in May 2017. Currently, he is a Senior Scientist at CSIR – Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, India (a National Research Laboratory). He has been working in the area of nano-structural layered materials, ionic liquids, nanoparticles, self-assembled thin films, bio-mass derived carbon, etc. for lubricant, environment and catalytic applications. His current research interests in Prof. Ajayan’s group include the design and synthesis of self-reinforced low-density 3D hybrid foams/materials for environment applications.


Dr. Ramazan Ozturk

Dr. Ramazan Ozturk joined Prof. Ajayan’s research group in August 2016. He received his PhD from Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul Turkey in 2004. He worked as an associate professor at Fatih University, Department of Genetics and Bioengineering in Turkey. Dr. Ozturk’s research background is mostly related to design and modification of plasmonic nanoparticles for potential applications in nanomedicine and solar cell systems. His current research at Rice is focused on plasmonic properties of 2D materials and 2D alloy metal carbides.


Dr. Jairo J. Pedrotti

Dr. Jairo J. Pedrotti joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as a visiting scholar in July 2016. Dr. Pedrotti received his PhD in Analytical Chemistry from The Institute of Chemistry of São Paulo University. He is currently a professor in the MackGraphe – Graphene and Nanomaterials Research Center at Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Brazil. His past research has mainly been focused on the development of new materials based on graphene and two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides for application in energy, sensors and environment. His current research interests at Rice University include the design and synthesis of three-dimensional composite materials for use as electrode material in capacitive deionization systems.


Dr. Lulu Qu

Dr. Lulu Qu joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as a visiting scholar in August 2016. She received her PhD in Analytical Chemistry from East China University of Science and Technology under the supervision of Prof. Yi-Tao Long. She is currently an assistant professor in Jiangsu Normal University. Her research interests are mainly focused on fabrication of multifunctional carbon-related materials.


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 in April 2017 and his current research focused on development of metamaterial.


Dr. Farheen N. Sayed

Dr. Farheen N Sayed joined Ajayan’s group in August 2015 as a Nehru-Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Farheen did her PhD work in Chemistry at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, India, from 2008 to 2013. She received her PhD degree from Mumbai University in 2013. Her doctoral work involved synthesis of different functional oxides (Ionic conductor, Dielectric materials, Multiferroics and Photocatalysts) in both nano and bulk form, followed by their chemical/structural modifications to further enhance the properties. She has also worked as Visiting Fellow in Department of Chemical Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, India from 2013-2014. In view of her experience in synthesis of range of materials for energy related application, she will be working on some oxide based systems to be used as electrode in Li-ion battery and supercapacitor. She will also be working on optimization of conditions for fabrication of perovskite solar cell.


Dr. Tiva Sharifi

Dr. Tiva Sharifi received her PhD in material science from Physics Department, Umeå University, Sweden. Her research was based on the synthesis and understanding of nitrogen-doped carbon nanostructures and developing carbon-based electrocatalyst material for energy conversion reactions such as water electrolysis. She has joined Ajayan’s research group as visiting scholar in June 2016 under the support of Swedish research council.


Dr. Yanhua Song

Dr. Yanhua Song joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as a visiting scholar in October 2015. Dr. Song is an assistant researcher in School of Environmental and Chemical Engineering at Jiangsu University of Science and Technology. Her research is mainly focused on the development of new composite materials and their application in the environment. Her current research interests in Prof. Ajayan’s group include the synthesis of Bi-, Ag-based composite materials for application in the environment.


Dr. Cristiano Francisco Woellner

Dr. Cristiano F. Woellner joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as a visiting scholar in September 2016 for one year. Dr. Woellner received his PhD in Physics from Federal University of Paraná (Brazil) in 2010 under supervision of Prof. Jose Freire. In 2012 he joint Nguyen’s group (UCSB) as a postdoctoral researcher, working mainly on theoretical modeling to Bulk Heterojunction Organic-based Solar Cells. He is currently a joint postdoctoral research fellow in University of Campinas (Brazil) under supervision of Prof. Douglas Galvão. In Ajayan’s group his research has been focused on theoretical modeling and computational simulations of mechanical/electronic properties of 2D nanostructure materials.


Dr. Keyu Xie

Dr. Keyu Xie joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as a visiting scholar in October 2016. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Center for Nano Energy Materials and the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern Polytechnic University, China. He received his Ph.D. degree in 2012 from Central South University, China. From 2010 to 2013, he stayed in Hong Kong Polytechnic University as a Research Assistant and Postdoctoral Research Associate successively. His research interests include the design and synthesis of nano-materials and their application in electrochemical energy storage devices.


Dr. Hui Xu

Dr. Hui Xu joined Prof. Ajayan’s group as a visiting scholar in September 2015. Dr. Xu is an associate professor in the Institute for Energy Research of Jiangsu University. His research is mainly focused on the development of new graphene-like materials and their application in energy and environment. His current research interests in Prof. Ajayan’s group include the design and synthesis of C3N4, BN, transition metal dichalcogenides and 2D composite materials for application in energy conversion and use.


Dr. Thakur Prasad Yadav

Dr. Thakur Prasad Yadav joined Prof. Ajayan’s research group in November 2016 under Raman Research Fellowship. He received his PhD from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. He was a BOYSCAST Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The University of Liverpool, UK, from 2011 – 2012. Dr. Yadav’s research background is mostly related to design and modification of complex metallic alloys (quasicrystals, nanomaterials, amorphous/glass) for potential applications in hydrogen production and storage. His current research at Rice is focused on 2D materials for energy applications and catalysts.