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Bill and Sophia Starnes stand with arms around Assad Khan at the Inn at Virginia Tech

Chemistry’s Assad Khan named 2019 Graduate Student of the Year

(Above) Left to right, Bill Starnes, Assad Khan, and Sofia Starnes.  

Department of Chemistry doctoral student Assad Khan was named the 2019 Graduate Student of the Year for his academic achievements, focused and selfless service, and commitment to citizen scholarship.

Khan worked in the lab of Assistant Professor Guoliang (Greg) Liu, where he studied plasmonic nanoparticles and polymer nanocomposites with potential applications in energy-efficient optical coatings for windows, electronics, and acoustics. Originally from Pakistan, Khan said he was led to Blacksburg by his deep curiosity about the use of polymeric materials for energy-related applications.

Khan has authored nine peer-reviewed publications and given nine oral presentations at national conferences and countless poster presentations. He was the first recipient of the William H. Starnes Jr. and Sofia M. Starnes Graduate Fellowship in Chemistry, established to recognize outstanding research achievement by a chemistry graduate student. Khan would later meet Bill Starnes (Chemistry, ’55) — considered to be the world’s leading expert in the chemistry of vinyl plastics, particularly polyvinyl chloride (PVC), one of the most common plastics in commercial products — and Sofia at the depart­ment’s Celebration of Chemistry in May.

“He not only does great science himself, but also leads his fellow group members in many aspects, from challenging the scientific frontier to patrolling a safe lab, and to mentoring younger students in the lab,” Liu said of Khan.

Many undergraduate students shadowed Khan as part of their requirements. Khan said he sees his role as a mentor to undergraduate students not only an opportunity to refine and develop his interpersonal skills outside the lab, but also as a chance for collaboration. “Driving and mentoring a team of dedicated and invested young scientists and engineers proved an astounding experience for myself and them,” he added.

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