Chemistry Graduate Student Receives Switzer Fellowship

  • Aug 20, 2021
  • Caltech

Eshaan Patheria, a graduate student pursuing a PhD in chemistry, has been selected to receive a 2021 Switzer Environmental Fellowship. The fellowships, offered by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, provide funding and leadership training to "emerging environmental leaders." Patheria is one of 20 fellows selected this year.

Each fellow receives a $15,000 cash award from the foundation and joins a network of nearly 700 Switzer Fellowship alumni. Since its establishment in 1986, the program has aimed to empower individuals who are effecting positive change in environmental science, public health, economics, journalism, urban planning, and other fields.

Patheria, a member of Kimberly See's research group, is pursuing research on batteries that are both less expensive and capable of storing more energy than current battery technology. His goal is to improve batteries while also making them more sustainable by using elements that are abundant and widely available.

"One of the defining challenges of our time is to eradicate energy poverty and meet energy demand without incurring adverse environmental effects," he says. "The only way to do so is via renewable energy like solar and wind. Unfortunately, solar and wind generate electricity intermittently and require batteries for energy storage for uninterrupted power supply. Thus, my research aims to develop low-cost, energy-dense, and long-lasting next-generation batteries for renewable energy storage at scale. Specifically, I work to discover new materials composed of abundant elements that exhibit charge/discharge mechanisms that can dramatically surpass current commercial technology."

Patheria's interest in sustainability has also led him to work on renewable energy projects for communities in the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, and India. He has also volunteered with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit that provides solar panels and job training for underserved communities in the U.S., Mexico, Nicaragua, and Nepal.

After growing up in Dublin, Ireland, and Mumbai, India, Patheria received a bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard. After he finishes his graduate work at Caltech, he plans to continue research in renewable energy with the goal of helping to accelerate the deployment of new technologies by working at the nexus of academia, industry, government, and nonprofits.

"It's incredibly exciting to be able to join the Switzer Network," he says. "My research in renewable energy science and past work addressing energy poverty have led me to appreciate the many cross-sector challenges in the environmental arena. I feel extremely lucky and humbled to join a community of individuals working across sectors towardthe common goal of positive environmental change."

For more information about the 2021 Switzer Fellows and the program, visit http://www.switzernetwork.org/become-fellow/2021-switzer-fellows.