Taking Back the Climate with Carbon Dioxide: One Research Scholar’s Quest
Lakewood, N.J., September 1, 2016—With climate change having an impact throughout the world, Prasad Lakkaraju, Ph.D., often finds himself thinking about carbon dioxide (CO2). The Georgian Court University chemistry professor, who began teaching at the university in 1995, wants to “recycle the carbon dioxide and make useful molecules out of it,” he says.
Dr. Lakkaraju has six peer-reviewed publications and several conference presentations on these issues, including the co-authored “High Temperature Raman Spectroscopy Study of the Conversion of Formate into Oxalate: Search for the Elusive Carbonite Intermediate” with recent Georgian Court graduates Charlie Ryan and Anna Mead, among others. Dr. Lakkaraju also presented that paper with Charlie and Anna at the March 2016 meeting of the American Physical Society. He also holds two approved U.S. patents with four others pending. Since 2002, he has had research collaborations with Princeton University, where he pursued two sabbaticals. The primary goal of his research is to use solar energy to run reactions and to turn CO2—one of the key elements contributing to global warming—into “value-added chemicals” that are less damaging to the environment.
“The benefit of this is that you can basically move the operation anywhere. You don’t need a power grid,” says Dr. Lakkaraju. “Global warming is an important issue that we want to address, and we can use solar energy to run these reactions.”
As a teacher and scholar, some of the pressure to find new grants and keep publishing is diminished, but he faces the challenge of teaching dense material to his students in a way that they can understand and to use different resources—a video of a famous researcher’s presentation or an online experiment—to keep them interested. In addition, he maintains open communication and accessibility to help them, including regular office hours. By creating a classroom environment where questions are not only welcomed but also expected, he is able to engage his students and help them master the material. He says students may be reluctant to ask questions initially, but once they begin to feel more comfortable with the material, their curiosity and interest grows. That’s how he knows he’s getting through to them. As a result of this dedication, Dr. Lakkaraju was the recipient of the Virginia Graham ’31 Award for Teaching Excellence at Commencement 2016, which meant he delivered the keynote address at Convocation 2016 on September 1.
“I think about how I would want to learn the content. How would I like to be taught? That’s the way I teach it,” he says.
This article also appears in Faculty Focus 2016, Georgian Court’s report of faculty scholarship and creative activity. Story contributed by Gwen Moran.
Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court expands possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 33 undergraduate majors and more than 10 graduate programs. In 2015, GCU was named #25 among MONEY® magazine’s “Top 50 Colleges That Add the Most Value” and a Best Bang for the Buck School by Washington Monthly. GCU has also been recognized by The Economist and Colleges of Distinction and is a Military Friendly® School. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at Hazlet, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.