Outstanding Collegiate Member

Thivani Senathiraja

Iowa State University

For scientific research contributions in support of renewable water and energy technologies; for embodying hard work, integrity, and compassion; and for serving as an advocate of both SWE and STEM education.

Thivani Senathiraja is a Ph.D. student in chemical and biological engineering at Iowa State University (ISU) whose research aims to advance basic science related to the design of functional materials and the development of morphology, composition, and property transport relationships of multiblock ionomers by tuning their intermolecular interactions. The project seeks to tailor the properties of ionomers so they can assemble into heterogeneous nanoscale structures. Systematically designing the spatial arrangement is key to understanding ionomers’ structure and property relationships, and may solve global challenges by contributing to renewable water and energy technologies.

Senathiraja is currently the president of the Iowa State University GradSWE Section, where she strives to nurture and empower graduate engineering students. Active in the section since her second year of graduate school, she served as outreach chair and national coordinator in FY20 and FY21. She is also an ardent supporter of STEM education. She promotes it by organizing and volunteering at several campus outreach programs targeted at young children, young adults, and high school teachers.

Senathiraja co-founded the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and served as its treasurer. Some of her activities include the 21st Women in Science Conference held at the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education at UNL; the Young Nebraska Scientists camp organized by UNL; and the Boone Family STEM Festival organized by the Des Moines Area Community College.

Senathiraja has received numerous awards, including the WE Local Guiding Star Award in FY23. She earned first place in the FY21 WE Local Virtual Graduate Collegiate Competition and was selected to participate at the SWE Collegiate Leadership Institute in FY20.

She is an active member of the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Division of the American Chemical Society (PMSE, ACS) and The Electrochemical Society (ECS). She has presided over several ACS national meetings and volunteers at the PMSE membership desk. In 2022, she was a student ambassador during the 241st ECS meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she worked closely with the ECS staff and met many fellow ECS members. In the last two years, she has participated in six conferences and has been recognized for her contributions on several occasions.

Senathiraja holds a B.Tech. in chemical engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, in India, where she received the Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children Fellowship for excellent academic performance throughout her undergraduate studies. Senathiraja published her undergraduate research in the International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology as the lead author of “Adsorption of selective fluoroquinolones by cysteine modified silane magnetic nanocomposite from the aqueous phase.”

As time permits, she loves reading novels, traveling, and experimenting with healthy recipes.