Saurabh Vilekar

Home: India
Degree: PhD candidate, Chemical Engineering

Why I choose WPI:

My research interest and WPI’s involvement in cutting-edge research in the area of clean energy were the dominant factors for me applying to WPI. Professor Ravi Datta and Professor Ed Ma are both stalwarts in their respective areas of Pd membranes and fuel cells. I wanted to work with one of the two toward my doctoral dissertation.

Why I’m proud to be a WPI student:

What I have gained from WPI is more than just academic education. I am not only proud to be a WPI student but also proud to serve as a teaching assistant and an instructor at WPI. It has most certainly sharpened my research as well as my teaching skills and instilled in me the desire to venture a career in academics at some stage.

What I feel are WPI’s greatest strengths:

I think being a small school is a blessing in disguise. I've come to know faculty members closely, not only in my own department but from other departments, as well—something that would seldom happen in bigger schools. I was able to access every resource on campus. I have to say that even though WPI’s library may not be the biggest around, the library staff surely is the best. They have been of immense help with acquisition of journal articles. It is hard to fathom how else I would have been able to perform a thorough literature review. The inception of Graduate Research Day has given the graduate students the opportunity to showcase the breadth of research that is and will remain WPI’s biggest strength.

As a teaching assistant, I have also seen the undergraduate curriculum at WPI and I sincerely believe the project-focused approach is great. I have always enjoyed working with the undergrads toward their MQP projects and their steady influx certainly has contributed to the vibrant atmosphere in the lab.

Research projects I’m involved with at WPI:

I have been working with Professor Datta toward developing fundamental understanding of the kinetics and mechanisms of the catalytic reaction steps involved in the process of converting a fuel into hydrogen rich stream suitable for a fuel cell, as well as the electro-catalytic reactions within a fuel cell. This is not only conceptually appealing, but could provide a sound basis for the design and development of efficient fuel processor/fuel cell systems, that would allow hydrogen to become the energy-vector of future and provide a long-term solution to our ever-increasing and pressing energy needs.

How professors at WPI have impacted my life:

Professor Datta has been pivotal in shaping not only my professional but also my personal growth. His passion, dedication, and enthusiasm for research are contagious and have motivated me throughout my stay at WPI. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him and learned a great deal from him, all of which is impossible to pen down on a mere scrap of paper. All I can say is that I strive hard, not only to be a better researcher, but also to be a better person like him.

What I hope to do when I graduate/What my ideal job would be:  

I have been working now for over a year for Precision Combustion Inc., a clean energy technology company in Connecticut. Here I get the opportunity to apply my skill set and fundamental knowledge gained at WPI to develop novel, compact, practical, integrated fuel processors using PCIs patented Microlith® technology.

Extracurricular activities/Associations:

I have been an active member of the Indian Student Organization and Graduate Student Government. I enjoy all the bowling/gaming nights, watching the Super Bowl, and attending barbecues around the campus.

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