Air Management Co-op Provides Huge Opportunity to Explore Nanoscale Materials


Prastuti Upadhyay, a sophomore studying materials science and engineering at Drexel University, has always been captivated by things too tiny to see with the naked eye.

"Ever since I was a kid, I've been totally fascinated by how different materials behave differently on the nanoscale," Upadhyay said. "Whenever I thought about how stretching a rubber band didn’t break it but accidentally dropping a ceramic mug caused it to shatter, I was always thought, 'Why does that happen?'"

Her passion for materials science was solidified during her high school years when she delved into physics and chemistry. “Starting to see how materials work, even on an introductory level, it was like a light bulb moment. I knew right then and there that engineering, especially materials science, was where I belonged," Upadhyay explained.

Upadhyay is currently applying her curiosity for materials on co-op in Air Management Services with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health. She is gaining hands-on experience in air quality management and safety, learning about industry standards, legal nuances of contracts, and researching permits.

"Delving into the nitty-gritty of air management and safety right here in the city, and getting hands-on experience, has been an absolute thrill," Upadhyay said. "And, since this is my first co-op in the real world, I won't lie, there have been some bumps along the way, adjusting from a classroom schedule to a full-time work schedule. But…that's all part of the adventure, right?"

Prior to her co-op, Upadhyay gained undergraduate research experience at the Drexel Nanomaterial Institute (DNI) under the guidance of Yury Gogosti, PhD, Distinguished University and Charles T. and Ruth M. Bach Professor, and the mentorship of postdoctoral researcher Stefano Ippolito. Her work focused on the fabrication of MXenes, a family of tiny two-dimensional materials, into hydrogels and aerogels.

Upadhyay's co-op experience has provided her with ample professional development opportunities, from networking with other working engineers to honing her work ethic. As she continues her journey at Drexel, Upadhyay looks forward to bringing the knowledge gained from her co-op back to the classroom and her undergraduate research.

"The experiences that I have had so far have provided me with diverse work ethic exposure, experience in unique work culture, networking opportunities, and provided me ample opportunities to develop professionally,” she said. “These experiences have given me the confidence to explore my interests and reaffirm my choices in my major.”