CISTAR Fellows Directory

Purdue University


Nkem Azuka

Thrust 1


Anik Biswas

Thrust 3


Christian Borrero Villabol

Thrust 3

I completed my B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM) in May 2021. At UPRM, I researched within Dr. Nelson Cardona Martinez's group for two years. My projects within this group focused on the characterization of different types of biomasses, the catalytic conversion of cellulose into levoglucosenone, and the extraction of pectin from cacao pod husk. In Summer 2019, I participated in the CISTAR REU program at Purdue University where I worked within Dr. Gounder’s group synthesizing cobalt oxide catalysts for light olefin oligomerization. I also completed an internship at AbbVie Biotechnology Ltd. in Spring and Summer 2020. Aside from academic interests, I enjoy listening to music, hiking, swimming, and playing volleyball.


Christian Breckner

Thrust 2


Bonn Cao

Thrust 2

My research focuses on catalytic processes to convert renewable biomass-derived molecules to transportation fuels. I received my degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering in University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. During my undergraduate studies, I spent one summer with Dr. Jane Wissinger researching and designing a green micro-emulsion copolymerization reaction for college education. Then, I spent one year working under Dr. Xiang Cheng to investigate the dynamics, trends, and similarities between explosion-driven cratering and impact-driven cratering in granular substances. My interest, however, shifted to catalysis in my senior year after learning reaction engineering. Combining my new interests and my eagerness to help the environment, I joined Gounder group in spring 2021 after coming to Purdue. Aside from academics, I enjoy board games, badminton, playing video games, and travelling.


Yu-Hsiang Cheng

Thrust 1


Che-Yu Chou



Sergio Damasceno


PhD Visiting Scholar (current) Purdue University, Chemical Engineering, Ph. D. (current) Federal University of ABC (UFABC), Nanoscience and Advanced Materials M.S. (2019) São Paulo State University (Unesp), Materials Science and Technology B.S. (2018) Federal University of Alfenas (Unifal-MG), Chemical Engineering I joined the Gounder group in May 2022. My research will focus on catalyst investigation for low temperature automotive emission catalysis and metal-modified zeolites catalyst for ethanol upgrading reactions. I completed my B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the Federal University of Alfenas (Unifal-MG) in March 2018, whereas I researched within Dr. Neide Mariano and Dr. Sandra Nakamatsu group investigating, by electrochemical tools, the corrosion properties of stainless-steel alloys for oil industry application. During my undergraduate studies I also joined the research group of Dr. Carlos Cesar Bof Bufon and Dr. Murilo Santhiago at the Brazilian Nanotechnology National Laboratory (LNNano) at CNPEM as a trainee, developing flexible electrochemical carbon-based sensors for NADH detection. These studies were a part of my master’s degree project in the same center in a partnership with São Paulo State University (UNESP), where I obtained the degree of MSc in Materials Science and Technology. My interest area for a PhD project shifted to materials for energy, whereas I joined Dr. Andre Ferlauto’s research group at Federal University of ABC (UFABC) in a partnership with the Center for Innovation on New Energies (CINE). This research focus on the development of ceria-based catalysts for methane conversion to light olefins. Aside from research, I enjoy cooking with my friends, listening to Brazilian popular music, and weightlifting.

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Ricem Diaz Arroyo

Thrust 2

Graduate Student - B. S. (2019) University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Chemical Engineering I joined the Gounder group in fall 2019 and my research will focus on olefin oligomerization to fuels as part of the CISTAR project. During my undergraduate at UPR-Mayaguez, I started my research career with Prof. De Jesus focusing on filtering pharmaceutical compounds from river water. My other research experiences include an internship at Cornell University with Prof. Kirby and Prof. Cardona working with cancer cells drug resistance and pectin extraction from cocoa husk, respectively. Other than academic research, I worked at Lilly del Caribe in the Process Optimization and Process Engineering department scaling down a drying process. Also, I worked at HP Inc. investigating the rheology of inkjets in the Research and Development Department. Aside from research, I enjoy dancing salsa, cooking and weight training.


Will Shuaikang

Thrust 4


Sopuruchukwu Ezenwa

Thrust 2

Sopuru Ezenwa is a PhD candidate in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering at Purdue University where he works with Prof. Rajamani Gounder on investigating Brønsted acid zeolite catalysts for selective arene conversions. At Purdue, he also works with Prof. Fabio Ribeiro and Prof. Ray Mentzer on investigating safety practices and developing tools to promote safer cultures in chemical labs. Sopuru obtained his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University in 2018 where he worked with Prof. Prashant Deshlahra on computational and experimental studies of metal oxide catalysts for selective alkane oxidative dehydrogenation. He further aims to apply his diverse background knowledge, expertise, and skill set to understand, conceptualize, and better design advanced materials and complex systems that tackle some key challenges in sustainable chemical and energy production. Outside research, his interests of include playing soccer, cooking, hiking and volunteering in STEM outreach activities.


Shan Jiang

Thrust 3


Ted Kim

Thrust 2

B.S. (2022) University of Houston, Chemical Engineering B.S. (2017) University of Texas at Austin, Chemistry I joined the Miller group in Fall 2022, where my research focuses on light olefin oligomerization, hydrogenation, and paraffin dehydrogenation using non-zeolitic catalysts as part of CISTAR. Prior to this, I earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin. During my time there, I conducted research in Dr. Stephen Martin's group, studying compounds that prevent sigma 2 protein degradation in the brain. After graduation, I worked as a chemist in a pharmaceutical company before deciding to further my education. In 2022, I obtained a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Houston, and I conducted research in Dr. Peter Vekilov's group studying the growth of various amyloid beta protein variants and the factors that influence them. Outside of lab, I enjoy playing/watching sports, reading, and playing video games.


Akash Nogaja

Thrust 4


Hwiyoon Noh

Thrust 1


Luke Pretzie

Thrust 3

B.S. Bioengineering, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2018. M.S. Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 2021. Current research interests: Analyzing methane activation over graphene-edge models using Density Functional Theory. Edge-passivation phase analysis using edge free energy minimization calculations. Zeolite-templated carbon geometry analysis.


Edwin Rodriguez

Thrust 4


Justin Rosa-Rojas

Thrust 3


Joanna Rosenberger

Thrust 1

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Diamarys Salome Rivera

Thrust 2


Angel Santiago-Colón

Thrust 3

I joined the Gounder group in fall 2020. As part of the CISTAR project, my research will focus on the design of stable and selective metal-zeolites for methane conversion routes. I obtained my B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM). My research career started at UPRM, in the pharmaceutical research field, with Dr. Carlos Velázquez. My interest in catalysis was developed while working with Dr. Nelson Cardona-Martínez at UPRM, studying the kinetics of levoglucosan (LGA) dehydration to levoglucosenone (LGO). Also, I worked in Dr. George Huber's research group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, exploring the stereoselectivity of the hydrogenation of bio-renewable Cyrene. In addition to my research experiences, I worked at Eli Lilly and ExxonMobil as an engineering intern. Aside from research, I enjoy playing guitar, watching movies, and playing sports.


Evan Sowinski

Thrust 2

I joined CISTAR in January 2019 after graduating with my B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University. During my undergraduate, I did four years of research on plant cell wall morphology with Dr. Nicholas Carpita at Purdue. My current role in CISTAR is to operate the technology module units at Purdue, which serve to connect fundamental thrust research with overarching CISTAR goals by taking data at more realistic, industrially relevant conditions. The two units I use perform propylene oligomerization and propane dehydrogenation. I work closely with graduate students, faculty, and industry advisors to run experiments that increase the TRL of CISTAR-developed technologies.


Yufei Zhao

Thrust 4

University of Texas at Austin


Marium Balogun


I received my Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kansas in May 2020. Currently, I am a third year graduate student in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. I am in the Brennecke research group and my research focuses on gas separations using ionic liquids and membranes. I am part of the C2C-5 project that looks into the separation of CO2 from natural gas at high pressure conditions. I am also part of the CISTAR SLC team as the mentoring and professional development coordinator. In my free time, I enjoy relaxing, yoga, nature, and exploring new adventures.

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Qining Chen

Thrust 7

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Matthew Davenport

Thrust 6


Ioannis Giannikopoulos

Thrust 7


Joel Graves

Thrust 3


Tiffany Cheng

Thrust 6


Jon-Marc McGregor

Thrust 3


Justin Rosenthal

Thrust 6

Justin J. Rosenthal obtained both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering at Texas Tech University under the guidance of Dr. Mahdi M. Malmali, where his research focused on novel mixed matrix membranes for pervaporation applications of dilute aqueous organic solutions. Currently, he is a graduate student pursuing his Ph.D. in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin where he is co-advised by Dr. Benny D. Freeman and Dr. Joan F. Brennecke. His interests are centered around separation technologies with a present focus on ionic liquids and membranes. Presently, he is working on developing reverse selective materials for fractionating the light hydrocarbons present in natural gas streams in an effort to reduce the carbon emissions that result from the energy intensive cryogenic distillation required for this separation.


AlKiviadis Skouteris

Thrust 7


Noah Wamble

Thrust 6

Northwestern University


Sai Praneet Batchu

Thrust 2

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Pavlo Kostetskyy

Thrust 2


Xiao Kun Lu

Thrust 2

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Xinrui Zhang

Thrust 3

University of New Mexico


Ryan Alcala

Thrust 1


Isabel Ibarra

Thrust 6

University of Notre Dame


Bo Wei Cynthia Chen

Thrust 6


Yoonrae Cho

Thrust 2


Russell Clarke

Thrust 1


Kanishka Ghosh

Thrust 4


Denver Haycock

Thrust 1

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Si Li

Not Listed

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Alba Scotto d'Apollonia

Thrust 2

B.S. and M.S. University of Naples Federico II (Italy), Chemical Engineering (2018 and 2022) I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Notre Dame, where I joined Dr. Hicks’ group in the Spring of 2022. My research focuses on the design of single-site heterogeneous catalysts for the oligomerization of light olefins, as part of CISTAR Thrust 2. Specifically, my work involves the use of polyoxometalates as platforms to isolate single transition metals with the objective to produce stable and effective catalysts for olefins upgrade.


Agboola Suleiman

Thrust 6


Madelynn watson



Sandra Weber

Thrust 6