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

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Close Up
  • What I Do
    I teach chemical engineering undergraduate and graduate students and I do research in the area of polymeric materials for medical applications
  • Why Engineering?
    I was interested in math and chemistry, so chemical engineering seemed a great choice for me.
  • School Days
    B.Tech, Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India Ph.D. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • My Day At 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.
  • Best Part
    Engineering involves a lot of problem-solving. So that is the fun and challenge of being an engineer.
  • Proud Moments
    My research work in drug delivery and tissue engineering, and the work would not have been possible without my talented students.
  • Challenges
    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.
  • My 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.
  • Dreams and 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.
  • Inspiration
    My parents - especially my father. He always encouraged my early interest in chemistry and has been very supportive throughout.
  • Want to be an Engineer?
    Believe in yourself.
  • Additional Thoughts
    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.
  • Hobbies
    I love reading, painting etc.
Latest Questions
  • Lim Shi, Malaysia asked Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University

    Added Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    1) Do chemical engineers need to work with machines and operate the chemical plant? 2) Does a research engineer work in offices or chemical plant? 3) Does a chemical engineer need to do maintenance work?
    Related to Chemical, Choosing a Degree, Special fields and Interdisciplinary, Work Environment
    Answers 1
    Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 8:38 AM
    1) No, there are many different kinds of jobs that chemical engineers do. Some, like sales or research and development, do not require them to operate plants or work with machines. 2) Typically in a lab setting 3) No, typically not.
  • Vivian, Hawaii asked Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University

    Added Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 7:17 AM

    Hi. I am in the middle of my sophomore year at Whittier College and I finally feel sure that I want to become an engineer (either geotechnical or chemical). However my school has a 3-2 Engineering Program where you do 3 years at Whittier and finish your degree by doing 2 years at USC. But because I just discovered a new found interest for engineering, it is too late for me to join my school's engineering program. So what I want to know is, if I double major in math and physics, how will it ...
    Related to Math & Science, Merging Fields
    Answers 1
    Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University
    Answered Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 7:17 AM
    Since you are a sophomore, I think it is better to just transfer to another school and shoot for an engineering degree. If your interest is in Chemical engineering, you will need additional courses in chemistry, in addition to math/physics. Surya
  • Cheryl, Shanghai, China

    Added Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Hello, I am a student in Shanghai, China. Next year I will be in 10th grade, which is first year of high school in my country, second year in high school in the United States. I wish to get a college degree in chemical engineering in the US, and I have three years ahead to prepare for it.I am aware that good American colleges have very high expectations on foreign students, especially asians. So, besides getting very high grades on my courses, what else can I do to impress them?Thank you.
    Answers 1
    Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University
    Answered Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    In addition to grades, your SAT or ACT scores are important. If you have any significant extracurricular activities and/or leadership experiences, that would help as well to show the breadth of activities that you have been involved in, and to show that ...

    Read More
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