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Graduate Student Profile
Ruchira Chatterjee
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Ruchira Chatterjee

Hometown: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Prior Study: St. Xavier’s College, B.Sc., Miranda House College, M.Sc.
Degree(s) Sought: Ph.D. Chemistry
Department: Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Faculty Advisor: Dr. K. V. Lakshmi
Year of graduation: 2012

The overwhelming need for carbon-neutral energy and the enormous potential of solar energy use defined the goals of Ruchira’s research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She graduated in with her PhD in 2012 and is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications.

A major effort of my research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is focused on the solar water-splitting protein complex, photosystem II (PSII), which catalyzes one of the most energetically demanding reactions in nature by using light energy to drive a catalyst capable of oxidizing water. One of the objectives of my research was to elucidate the tuning and regulation of the solar water oxidation reaction of PSII. I was involved in the development and application of new state-of-the-art multi-dimensional and time-resolved pulsed electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy methods to directly probe the factors that control the coupling of proton and electron transfer steps in the highly efficient solar water oxidation reaction of PSII. Recently, in an exciting breakthrough, we had successfully disentangled the individual steps of the photo-induced events that lead to solar water oxidation by developing new EPR and high-frequency electron-nuclear double resonance spectroscopy methods. This breakthrough provides direct ‘snapshots’ of the solar water oxidation reaction in nature  and, for the first time, makes it possible to detail the mechanism of biological solar energy transduction.

What are your hobbies/interests/special talents?

I enjoy listening to music and swimming. I received training in Indian classical singer and dancing.

Why did you choose to enroll at Rensselaer?

I chose Rensselaer for its reputation in excelling in Sciences and Engineering. I wanted to learn in an open and friendly atmosphere that was apparent when I spoke to the professors in my department before joining Rensselaer. The extent of interdisciplinary and collaborative work that the school encouraged was also another attractive quality for me.

What are some benefits of being part of the Graduate Community at Rensselaer?

Rensselaer provides a warm and vibrant environment that encourages students to do their best. It provides a platform for interdisciplinary research thereby increasing the potential to address and solve the challenging problems of science and society.

What would you tell a prospective student about choosing Rensselaer?

Rensselaer has provided a unique experience and an environment that has motivated me to give in my best and excel. It has also given me the opportunity to work with and learn from some excellent colleagues. The people and the environment that the school provided truly made my years as a graduate student memorable.

List Information about your background and accomplishments in College and Work Experience:  

May – July 2006 - Research Assistant, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, India Project: Synthesis and Characterization of Conducting Polymer Nanowires.

What are your plans following graduation?

I am currently a Postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Berkeley, CA.

Awards/Fellowships:

Graduate Student Award, National Society for Applied Spectroscopy (NYSAS), 2012
Graduate Student Award, New York Section of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (NYSAS), 2012
Founder’s Award of Excellence, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY, 2011
Baruch ’60 Award of Excellence, 27th Eastern Regional Photosynthesis Conference, 2010
Slezack Memorial Award, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2010


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