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Subhadeep Pal

PhD Candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Subhadeep Pal

Always be curious and enjoy the journey!”

Subhadeep Pal is a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering. Subhadeep works with Professor Sinan Keten in the Computational Nanodynamics Laboratory where his primary research focuses on understanding polymer-based nanocomposites. He was awarded the Ryan Fellowship from the International Institute of Nanotechnology in 2023. 

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience? 
My research is centered on exploring the fundamental mechanics and behaviors of polymer-based nanocomposites through molecular modeling and machine learning. These techniques enable us to develop materials that are both stronger and tougher. By conducting simulations at the nanoscale, we uncover phenomena that are otherwise invisible to traditional experimental approaches. 

Tell us what inspired your research and/or work. 
My interest in material science began in the concrete lab during my undergrad. The progression of fractures in concrete cubes and subsequent failure in compression tests made me curious about the underlying physics of the material. This curiosity led to my journey with material modeling using computational techniques. Slowly, I realized that materials can effectively be modeled using their fundamental atomic structure, and simulations at the nanoscale can provide invaluable information. 

What is a mistake you have learned from in your career? 
One mistake I made was getting deeply attached to my research. I took it personally when someone would criticize my work. However, I learned that criticisms, advice, and rejections create a flawless manuscript! 

What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work? 
I think developing a model that imitates the experiment scenario at the nanoscale is the most challenging part. However, seeing the atoms' behavior confirm experimental trends in the simulations makes me very happy.  

Why Northwestern? 
Northwestern offers a lot of interdisciplinary opportunities, which is a must for my research. Plus, staying close to Chicago provides access to diverse cultural experiences and interesting recreational activities. 

How do you unwind after a long day? 
I watch TV, play video games, or hang out with my roommates. On weekends, I paint or go biking to clear my head and prepare for the Monday blues! 

What inspires you? 
My parents are my constant inspiration. Coming to the other side of the world, managing myself, and becoming fluent in a non-native language was a difficult but enjoyable challenge. It would not have been possible without them. 

What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path? 
Always be curious and enjoy the journey! Focusing only on the end creates frustration. 

Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you. 
I am currently working with composites known as polymer-grafted nanoparticles. These are polymer chains attached to the surface of an inorganic filler, such as silica or ferric oxide. They have an uncanny resemblance to the COVID virus, though they are completely harmless, I promise! 

The polymer-grafted nanoparticles have shown superior mechanical, electrical, and optical properties. Given their effectiveness across various applications, I believe they will soon become as popular as graphene, and will be used in electronics, energy storage, sensors, biomedical devices and more. 

Publish Date: April 30, 2024 

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