Ph.D. Graduate Discovered His Love for Research at UToledo

December 17, 2021 | Graduate News, News, Student Success, UToday, Alumni, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Kirk Baird

Govind Sharma Shyam Sunder left his home in India in 2015 to pursue a Ph.D. at another university near Cleveland.

Then the University of Toledo stole his heart.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: UToledo recognizes the Class of 2021 with a series of stories featuring students receiving their degrees at fall commencement.

Shyam Sunder fell in love with the potential research opportunities his friends at UToledo shared with him and which he read about.

“I became more and more fascinated with the real-world applicational research at The University of Toledo,” he said. “I came for an open-house meeting at UToledo and met all the professors and had one-to-one and group meetings with them. I really liked the passion they had toward science and the new approaches.”

A month later, on New Year’s Eve of 2015, Shyam Sunder had extra cause for celebration: earlier that day he learned that he had been selected to join the chemistry Ph.D. program for fall.

“That’s the reason I remember the date,” he said.

And he’ll have another reason to celebrate this New Year’s as well. He will have his Doctorate in Chemistry; Shyam Sunder, 34, defended his Ph.D. in July and finished the program in August. He has been working at Waters Corp. in Milford, Mass., as a Systems Qualifications Scientist since October.

Shyam Sunder is co-author of five journal articles and has a patent.

Shyam Sunder

“Sharma joined the doctoral program in chemistry at UToledo five years ago eager to expand his knowledge of analytical chemistry,” said Dr. Jon Kirchhoff, Distinguished University Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“His desire and commitment to learn new methods, explore novel chemistry and gain experience with the excellent instrumentation available in the department set him apart.  The knowledge he gained and his growth as a scientist led to his co-authorship on five journal articles to date from his dissertation — three as first author — and ultimately was key to him obtaining the position at Waters Corporation, which is one of the leading scientific instrument companies in the country.”

Shyam Sunder said while he was working through his undergrad and master’s degrees in India, he wanted to become an analytical scientist. The Flint water crisis in 2014, however, caused him to rethink this future career, with the motivation to help in the removal of heavy metals and other toxic chemicals from drinking water sources.

“When I came to UToledo in 2016, I began to explore labs and choose an advisor. I was excited to talk with Dr. Kirchhoff, who became my advisor and helped me join his lab,” Shyam Sunder said. “I’m so glad that I did and that I made the right decision because the growth in my learning curve was steep.”

“When I was new to the University of Toledo, I was good at theoretical knowledge of instrumentations and techniques. Then I got real-world experience. Dr. Kirchhoff was so encouraging and kept motivating me to learn new things.”

Kirchhoff said that Shyam Sunder’s discovery and development of a new air-stable polymer for the extraction of rare earth elements, which was published this year, was a major contribution to the scientific literature.

“I am very proud of his accomplishments and know he will be an excellent representative for UToledo alumni.  He is an even better person and made a very positive impact on the undergraduate students he taught as a teaching assistant and his fellow graduate students.  He will do great things in his career.”

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