Personal Connections Make the Difference for Graduate Commencement Speaker

Arkita Chakrabarti at a glove box

Arkita Chakrabarti knows the importance of mentors. After developing an interest and skill in chemistry in high school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at her home in India. She then came to the United States for a master’s program at the University of Buffalo. The experience increased her interest in interdisciplinary research, and she started her PhD research at Drexel in 2018. This June she is thrilled to round off her time at Drexel as the 2023 Graduate Commencement Speaker.

Pursuing a PhD can be a daunting experience, but her passion for chemistry, coupled with chemical engineering principles, were crucial to her PhD research. Her dissertation, titled “Strain-induced crystal phase selectivity in nano-scaffolded cesium lead iodide”, involves halide perovskites, a cheaper alternative to silicon in solar cells

Also instrumental to her time at Drexel was the advice and encouragement from her advisor, Professor Aaron Fafarman, who made sure to teach Chakrabarti celebrate all of her small wins. “I could not have asked for a better mentor for my grad school experience,” she said. “I have never felt like it was my journey alone as I navigated through the many hurdles and failures in research because he was always around to help me figure out what to do next.”

Apart from research, Chakrabarti enjoys teaching and has mentored undergraduate students in their research and classes. She has also been an active student leader and served as the treasurer and then vice president of the Chemical and Biological Engineering Graduate Students’ Association (GSA). During her tenure as vice president, helped create community among Drexel graduate students through organizing social and academic events. Though there was a lot of work to do and logistics to figure out, seeing everyone enjoy them made them her favorite memory at Drexel. She also has received three awards and two fellowships – the George Hill Jr. Endowed Fellowship in 2018 and the R Gautam ‘76 PhD Fellowship this past February. After graduation, she intends to continue research into semiconductor materials for solar panels, and eventually plans to join academia.

As she prepares to continue her research after graduation, she will carry fond memories of the program that guided her through the final part of her higher education. “The chemical engineering department fosters a very supportive and nurturing culture towards its students," she said. “Such an environment helped me learn a lot in terms of research without feeling pressurized or overtly competitive.”