Meet Arjun Krishnan

Arjun Krishnan
Arjun Krishnan

























First-place honors in the Engineering category at this year's Graduate Student Research Symposium were awarded to Arjun Krishnan. A doctoral student in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Krishnan's award-winning poster was entitled, "Selectively Solvated Block Copolymers upon (Electro)Mechanical Deformation."

Krishnan is originally from Mumbai, India, and began his formal training at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, India. He earned his Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering in 2005.

But Krishnan wanted to pursue his graduate work in the United States because at the IITs, there is ". . . a rich tradition among undergrads of pursuing higher education in the U.S. and Europe. . . ." Plus, he heard positive feedback about NC State from his senior classmates. He gravitated toward the study of polymers ". . . due to an active faculty and excellent facilities in our department."

Now in his fifth year of the doctoral program, his research offers ". . . a good combination of basic research as well as industrially relevant product development." The focus of the study is on polymer science, specifically, highly elastic polymer materials that change shape in response to an electrical field. As Krishnan explains: "The elastic polymer consists of a triblock copolymer, which is formed by linking two or more chemically distinct polymers together to form a single molecule. They are interesting because they have the inherent ability to self-assemble into a highly stretchable and resilient network structure at the molecular level." These polymers may, someday, be used as ". . . lightweight actuators in tomorrow's robots, replacing expensive and inefficient hydraulic and pneumatic motors."

Krishnan bases his research on that of a predecessor in his group ". . . who first showed that elastic gels formed by swelling triblock copolymers in a 'selective' solvent are excellent electroactive materials." Krishnan expanded on that original study ". . . by showing relationships that exist between experimental conditions and electroactive behavior, some of which had been glossed over in literature. This also included an in-depth understanding of how the interaction between structures that the polymer forms within the gel changes when the material is stretched."

Krishnan says that one of the most interesting findings in his research is how mechanical time response, and hence electroactuation, can be changed simply by adding a second solvent -- similar to whether a stretched rubber band snaps back quickly or slowly over several minutes. Now, researchers can actually predict the mechanical response of the system, and thus, design more efficient materials in industry.

The Symposium, however, was not Krishnan's first poster. He previously had created poster presentations for conferences and is always using those lessons learned. He said that it's important to ". . . check the impulse to cram in as much data into the poster as possible." With experience, he's realized that a lot more information is assimilated when an overall perspective of the research and its impact is objectively presented. He also likes to bring samples of polymer materials to make his research more tangible.

When not focused on his research, Krishnan enjoys reading, playing tennis, or traveling during his down time.
Any advice for his fellow grad students? Krishnan says that one lesson he has learned from graduate school is to be unafraid to make mistakes. He also suggests that students should take advantage of every opportunity to present their research. "Ever so often, a fresh set of eyes can point out area for improvements in your approach and suggest new directions."

Click here to view archived Graduate School stories.