Current Graduate Student Profiles

As prospective students, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering would like to give you the opportunity to connect with current graduate students. Use these students as resources for questions, welcoming faces, and new friends. They are genuinely excited to see you succeed and to help you navigate campus, Ames, and graduate student life as best as possible. Meet a few of our graduate students below and reach out to them for questions, concerns, or advice.

Utsav Dey 

Hello! I am Utsav, a second-year Ph.D. student working under the esteemed supervision of Prof. Shan Jiang. My doctoral research revolves around the intricate domain of synthesizing polymeric Janus particles, with a specific focus on their utilization in self-stratifying antimicrobial coatings. Through my academic pursuits, I strive to address key challenges and advance my knowledge in the realms of functional materials design and surface engineering.

Beyond my research, I find joy in traveling, photography, and music. Also, I cherish moments of socializing, as connecting with individuals from different backgrounds fuels my creativity and enriches my scientific journey.

Group website:


Naya Hendeniya


Hello, I’m Naya, a Ph.D. student in the department of MSE entering my second year. I am working in Dr. Boyce Chang’s research lab. I earned my bachelor’s in MSE from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. My current research is based on understanding the process-dependent kinetic fundamentals of supramolecular block copolymer self-assemblies.  

Apart from the lab, I’m involved in a couple of outreach projects, including ScholarX, where I get to mentor undergraduate students from Sri Lanka and help them develop their career paths. 

I like walking around Ames and taking pictures of wildflowers. I also like reading ( both research papers and fiction, of course!). Sometimes I feel like cooking or baking and if I try a new recipe,  my lab group sure gets to be the guinea pigs. 

Manish Kumar

Headshot of Manish Kumar

Hello, I am Manish Kumar, a 3rd year Ph.D. student in Dr. Pathak’s Materials Science and Engineering research group. I finished my undergraduate study (Bachelor of Technology, B.Tech) in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at the National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal, India. I am currently working on “Structure and Properties of the Solder Joints Produced in Microgravity and Terrestrial Environments.”

Apart from research, I like to go hiking, biking, and playing cricket. I also spend my free time reading books and watching space documentaries and taking pictures of sun, moon and stars.

Group website:

Heshani Walgamage

Hello! I am Heshani, a first year Ph.D. student in the department of MSE. I completed my bachelor’s from university of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. Currently, I work in Dr. Alina Kirillova’ lab. My research focuses on synthesizing and 3D printing of biodegradable shape changing polymers to make medical implants and scaffolds.   

I like to explore (specially food!) with my friends, read books and watch movies.  My current favourite free time activity is watching my favourite anime. 

Brad Swan 

Hello! My name is Brad Swan, and I’m a second-year Ph.D. student in Dr. Chris Cornelius’s research group, where our focus is on the processing and characterization of polymer membranes. I’m specifically working on developing polyelectrolyte membranes for ion transport systems, with applications such as fuel cells, carbon capture, water desalination, redox flow batteries, and electrodialysis. Originally from the Twin Cities area in Minnesota, I’m currently living in Des Moines with my wife and kids. While family life and fatherhood occupy the majority of my free time, I love running Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, exploring regional and state parks with my dogs, and doing my best to keep up with the Marvel cinematic universe

Masha Lebedeva

Hi! My name is Masha, and I am a first-year master’s student working in Dr. Jun Cui’s group. I completed my bachelor’s in MSE at Iowa State, specializing in metals and electronic materials. My research focuses on soft magnetic materials utilized in electromagnetic motors and shape memory alloys for elastocaloric cooling applications. When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy spending time outdoors and cuddling with my pets. Some of my current hobbies are rock climbing, hiking, and skydiving.

Jacob Wheaton

Hello, I am a Ph.D. candidate working in the Glass and Energy Materials Group in the MSE department. I received my B.S. in Materials Engineering and French in 2020.  In my research, I am working to develop novel glassy materials for use as solid-state electrolytes in next-generation batteries.  My research also involves studying novel cathode compositions to pair our glassy electrolyte with a high-capacity sulfur cathode. I am involved in the glassblowing club on campus, the Gaffers’ Guild, and have been blowing glass for most of my time at Iowa State. I also enjoy watching films, biking, and taking photos in my free time.

Group website: