Princeton U award to Indian American to study cleaner chemicals


The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) has selected six Princeton University graduate students for research awards directed to projects that relate to climate science, including one Indian-American in the chemical engineering field.

Makoto Lalwani, Princeton University Doctoral student who was among 6 graduate students to receive the 2019 Walbridge Fund Graduate Award for Environmental Research. Photo: LInkedin

Makoto Lalwani and five other graduate students, Hannah Bradley, Katja Luxem, Ian Miller, and Liana Wait were selected for the 2019 Walbridge Fund Graduate Award for Environmental Research, which provides up to $10,000 for fieldwork, travel, conference participation, and other research costs.

Lalwani, a graduate student in Chemical and Biological Engineering, is working on a project entitled, “Dynamic Control of Microbial Consortia for Sustainable Chemical Production” with his adviser, José Avalos, assistant professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

According to a July 9 press release on the PEI news website, Lalwani will work on trying to make chemical production more environmentally friendly. His aim is to engineer microbes controlled by light that could lead to the cleaner and more sustainable production of chemicals without the traditional reliance on fossil fuels, the press release said.

Lalwani’s area of research success could directly affect and improve the daily lives because of the ubiquitous use of plastics. The manufacture of fuels, plastics, dyes, and other common chemicals often relies on environmentally unfriendly methods such as petrochemical processing, whereas Lalwani aims to manipulate various vital functions of microbes using different colors of light, which should enable robust and customizable control of engineered microbial communities for making biofuels, bioplastics and pharmaceuticals, PEI said in the press release.

Lalwani is doing his Ph.D. at Princeton. A valedictorian from the Archbishop Mitty High School, in San Jose, California,

Lalwani earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, he was in the 2015-16 ChemE Car Executive Team.

Earlier awards he has received include the Melvin J. Heger-Horst Undergraduate Fellowship; the D.K. Lieu Outstanding Officer Award; Dean’s Honor List; the Edward Frank Kraft Award for Freshmen, and the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship Award.

He knows English, Japanese and Spanish,



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