Surya Mallapragada
Dr. Surya Mallapragada
Professor, Iowa State University
Ames, IA

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Close Up
  • Describe what you do in your current work situation.
    I teach chemical engineering undergraduate and graduate students and I do research in the area of polymeric materials for medical applications
  • Why did you choose engineering?
    I was interested in math and chemistry, so chemical engineering seemed a great choice for me.
  • Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
    B.Tech, Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India Ph.D. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
    In addition to my normal teaching activities (one or two chemical engineering classes a semester), the rest of my time is usually spent on research activities. I direct a group of undergraduate and graduate students on various research projects. The general theme of my research has been to make new polymeric materials or to modify existing polymeric materials to make them suitable for controlled drug release or for tissue engineering applications. So these involve projects like developing patterned biodegradable polymers to help nerve regeneration and to make new environmentally sensitive smart polymers for drug release. I am also a Program Director of the Materials Chemistry and Biomolecular Materials program at Ames Laboratory, a Department of Energy Laboratory in Ames, IA. So part of my time is spent in administration.
  • What do you like best about being an engineer?
    Engineering involves a lot of problem-solving. So that is the fun and challenge of being an engineer.
  • Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
    My research work in drug delivery and tissue engineering, and the work would not have been possible without my talented students.
  • What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
    I was lucky in the fact that I picked chemical engineering and it turned out to be the right choice for me. However, my first semester at college was a rude shock - being away from home for the first time, being in a relatively male-dominated field (at least when I went to school), etc. But things are improving now, at least in chemical engineering. There are a lot more female chemical engineers than there were in the past. We are still not at the 50 percent mark yet.
  • Please tell us a little about your family.
    I have a very close relationship with my parents and they have been extremely supportive and encouraging all my life and made me into the person I am. My husband also has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering (we met in graduate school) and he teaches in the same department at Iowa State. So we are colleagues at home and at work. It is great to have a spouse who understands what you do and who you can communicate with about your work. My work is certainly a huge part of my life, so it is important to me to have a life partner who can understand what I am talking about.
  • What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
    My short-term goals are to establish myself as a strong researcher in the biomaterials area. My long-term goals are to be recognized as a leader in my research field and to help percolate the research to the graduate and undergraduate teaching that I do. I also have lots of undergraduate (and even a few high school students) involved in my research.
  • What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
    My parents - especially my father. He always encouraged my early interest in chemistry and has been very supportive throughout.
  • What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
    Believe in yourself.
  • Any other stories or comments you would like to share with EngineerGirl visitors?
    My long-term goals are to be recognized as a leader in my research field and to help percolate the research to the graduate and undergraduate teaching that I do.
  • Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
    I love reading, painting etc.
Latest Questions
  • Lily, Toronto, Canada asked Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University

    Added Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    Hello! I'm a student in the eleventh grade who is very interested in chemical engineering - I was simply wondering what the a typical day on the job looks like and if there are more qualitative/quantitative lab experiments (or perhaps both?). Also, if it's more of a teamwork or individual effort for a project. Thank you so much and have a lovely day :)
    Related to Chemical, Internships & Jobs, Preparation for College, Working with People
    Answers 0
  • Sukhada, Amt asked Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University

    Added Saturday, June 13, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    Hello, I have just passed my 12th with decent score here in India and had opted for iit....I cracked it but with the rank I got ,I would not get any good iit. That's why I might have to look for nits and other Colleges now. I love chemistry and maths and that's why I have inclination towards chemical engineering.But everyone around me including my dad (who is also an engineer) and teachers are telling me that it is not very promising career option and it is very different from college ...
    Related to Internships & Jobs
    Answers 1
    Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University
    Answered Saturday, June 13, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    Sukhada, congratulations on doing well on your 12th and the JEE. I have a chemical engineering background and if you are interested in chemistry and math, chemical engineering seems like a good fit for you. Regarding career options in chemical ...

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  • Rania, Columbia

    Added Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    Hi! I'm 17 years old, and I want to become a chemical engineer. I was accepted to colleges that do not have engineering as a major. I realized late that I wanted to become a chemical engineer instead of a chemist and the issue is that I have a scholarship for college but cannot switch the college I am attending to. Is it possible to major in chemistry and still become a chemical engineer or should I opt for a master in chemical engineering? Or can I take classes outside of college during ...
    Answers 1
    Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University
    Answered Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 1:42 PM
    It is possible to major in chemistry as an undergraduate and become a chemical engineer, if you pursue a graduate degree in chemical engineering. Taking more calculus and math courses during your undergraduate study while pursuing a chemistry degree will ...Read More
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