Hemshikha Rajpurohit, a doctoral student in the University of Georgia College of Engineering, has been awarded the Beverly Hirsh Frank Graduate Fellowship for Women in Science. The university-wide award is presented annually to a single graduate student and is designed to support and encourage exceptional graduate-level study and research.
Rajpurohit’s research combines biology and engineering design. She’s exploring the use of bacterial fermentation to produce several chemicals currently produced through a traditional chemical-based route.
“I hope that generating these materials through fermentation processes will lead to more sustainable processes for the materials we use in our society,” said Rajpurohit. “Also, my lab is making contributions to our fundamental understanding of bacteria, how they eat sugars, and how they convert those sugars into other materials.”
Rajpurohit, who began her studies at UGA in 2018, employs two approaches in her research. First, she modifies the metabolism of microbes so they generate more products from the sugar used as their nutrient. She then uses emerging processes to encourage the microbe to generate more products with the low-cost starting material.
As an undergraduate engineering student at Panjab University in India, Rajpurohit became interested in biology and how science could be used to make products for health, fuels, materials, and other everyday items. Her interest in sustainability stemmed from her studies at Anna University, where she earned a master’s degree in biotechnology.
After working on a project generating second-generation biofuels from sustainable crops at a research institute in India, Rajpurohit decided to pursue a Ph.D.
“The University of Georgia has been a great place to work on developing biological strategies to address real-world problems,” she said.
Rajpurohit credits her major professor, Mark Eiteman, for supporting and encouraging her work and the work of other graduate students in his lab. In addition to supervising her research, she says Eiteman has helped improve her scientific communications skills. He’s also helped her to not stress out when things don’t go as expected.
“Dr. Eiteman will just encourage me to think about what happened and come up with a plan to study what happened to improve my understanding of the process.”
The fellowship is named in honor of Beverly Hirsh Frank, who graduated with honors from UGA in 1954. She was a member of Sigma Delta Tau and she was inducted into Mortar Board for her leadership skills and academic achievements. She went on to receive a graduate degree from Radcliffe College. Frank remained a staunch supporter of UGA until her death in 2020 as evidenced by her support of women in the sciences through the fellowship that bears her name.
“I am truly honored to be named for the Beverly Hirsh Frank Award,” said Rajpurohit. “My parents and siblings were all very excited for me, too. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to study here.”