Sapna Ramesh ’21 Earns Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

The award recognizes her research into alternative energy storage systems


Goldwater Scholar Sapna Ramesh ’21 presents her research to Professor Peter Kinget.

For promising research into better batteries for accommodating alternative energy, chemical engineer Sapna Ramesh ’21 has been named a 2020 Goldwater Scholar, the preeminent award for American undergrads in engineering, mathematics, and the natural sciences. Ramesh is one of just 396 college students selected for the honor from over 5,000 top applicants.

A researcher in chemical engineering assistant professor Lauren Marbella’s lab since 2018, Ramesh has focused on characterizing interfacial degradation in water-in-salt electrolytes for lithium and sodium ion batteries, and building her expertise in electrochemistry and battery fabrication. She’s also co-author of a new paper, “Recovery, Recycling and Reuse of Composite Battery Electrode Materials,” set for submission soon.

“Developing energy storage materials and systems is important because we need places to efficiently store energy harvested from alternative sources to be used at our convenience,” Ramesh said.

Conferred by the federally-endowed Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, the award will provide her with $7,500 in educational expenses. And, she’ll gain access to the Goldwater alumni network of thousands of researchers from throughout the scholarship’s 30-plus years.

“I’m grateful to have received this incredible honor, and it was really awesome to receive some good news during these times,” she said.

This summer, Ramesh will head to Minneapolis to intern in R&D for 3M, if conditions permit. In the meantime, she’s continuing her coursework and research at home upstate in Rochester, catching up on her reading, and beginning to learn Hindi. She plans to eventually earn her PhD in chemical engineering in a lab focused on incorporating materials science for alternative energy applications. Ultimately, she hopes her work can help enable a complete transition away from fossil fuels.

“Receiving this award has truly increased my confidence as a researcher,” Ramesh said. “I’m grateful to have had a mentor like Professor Marbella to guide me in realizing my future goals as a scientist and, needless to say, am looking forward to returning to campus to continue running my experiments!”

Two Columbia College juniors were also named Goldwater Scholars. Biochemist and statistician Ethan Chen ’21CC plans to study the fundamental mechanisms that govern CRISPR to inform new tools, while neuroscientist Abhishek Shah ’21CC is interested in the intersections of neuropsychiatry, memory, and learning.

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