Sarbajit Banerjee and Luisa Whittaker spent the past four years building a materials chemistry lab whose work has caught the attention of scientific agencies including the National Science Foundation.
Both joined UB in 2007, drawn by the university’s academic program and Buffalo’s affordable cost of living.
They met that fall and began collaborating almost immediately.
Banerjee, an assistant professor of chemistry, describes Whittaker, a Fulbright scholar and PhD student from Panama, as a “brilliant” student with a creative mind.
Whittaker, who completed her doctorate this year, calls Banerjee easygoing and accessible—qualities she prizes in an adviser. She thrives on his energy: “If you have a mentor who is excited about research results, then you’re excited, too,” she says.
As a member of Banerjee’s team, Whittaker was lead author on six papers in peer-reviewed journals. She is now a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University.
Banerjee, too, has found success.
He has parlayed start-up funding from UB into a productive research program focused largely on synthetic compounds that could form the basis of “smart” windows that reflect heat from the sun on hot days, but absorb heat in colder temperatures.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has contacted him to discuss developing his ideas.
Awards he has received since 2009 include the Research Corporation for Science Advancement’s Cottrell Scholar Award, the American Chemical Society ExxonMobil Solid-State Chemistry Fellowship and the National Science Foundation CAREER award, all of which recognize promising, early-career scientists.
Banerjee says one of the most exciting aspects of research at UB is the institution’s interdisciplinary nature.
He and Whittaker have collaborated frequently with physicists and engineers in UB’s strategic strength in Integrated Nanostructured Systems, one of eight, cross-discplinary research areas that the university is advancing under the UB 2020 long-range plan.
“This UB 2020 initiative has created a lot of new energy at UB,” Banerjee says. “There’s a lot of young, fresh blood. There's a good, collaborative environment. We get very good students.”