Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram, a freshman Chemical Engineering (ChE) major and member of the Commonwealth Honors College, is already leaving a permanent mark on UMass Amherst and the College of Engineering as what the Italian Renaissance called the “Uomo Universale,” or “a man who can do all things if he will.” Besides earning the Chancellor’s Award and making the Dean’s List during the fall of 2020 in a very demanding engineering major, Lakkavaram has been working as a staff writer for the UMass Daily Collegian, writing regularly for Planet Home (a website for everyday solutions to help protect our planet), and is serving as a research intern in ChE Associate Professor Wei Fan’s lab.
In addition, in his spare time, Lakkavaram plays the Tabla, a traditional drum instrument in Hindustani classical music that he studied in his home country of India before attending UMass.
Lakkavaram explains that his career interests lie in STEM-related fields, but he has a passion for writing as well, so he tries to combine the best of both worlds in most of his work. Some of his favorite topics to write about include renewable energy (the industry in which he wants to work), plastic pollution, oil, and gas.
In pursuit of his future career in chemical engineering, Lakkavaram was selected by faculty to work in the Fan Porous Materials Research Group to assist with research into zeolites in the production of biofuel from biomass.
Meanwhile, Lakkavaram interned in 2019 for the Reseda Life Sciences company by conducting experiments independently and collecting data to determine the critical micellar concentration of natural substances for this company focused on the development of eco-friendly and non-toxic surfactants. He also used multiple analytical methods such as potential analysis, pH analysis, and electrochemical analysis for his experiments and completed all data collection in preparation for summarizing his results in a presentation.
At the Collegian, Lakkavaram has completed a series of well-written, well-researched, timely, and provocative articles based on some of today’s most controversial national headlines, as well as other issues vital to UMass students in general and international students especially.
To see issues of national import tackled by Lakkavaram for the Collegian, have a look at these two articles about a couple of this fall’s most talked about topics across the United States:
- The process behind mail-in ballots: How does it work, and can it lead to voter fraud?
- Amy Coney Barrett’s SCOTUS confirmation: What does UMass have to say?
At the Collegian, Lakkavaram has also focused on problems of critical importance to incoming students during the pandemic:
Just because Lakkavaram is a freshman at UMass, however, don’t assume he is a novice to writing. He’s been at it for years. Currently, he is also very active on the ecological website Planet Home, where he has recently posted such Earth-friendly articles as "How Jellyfish Can Help Us," "A Love Letter to Renewable Energy," "Hydrogen Electric Flights," and "People Over Plastic."
While Lakkavaram was still living in his home country of India and attending Bangalore International School, he was the editor-in-chief for a publication called BIS Buzz, the school’s e-magazine, from 2019 and 2020. In that capacity, he managed the entire staff, wrote, edited, and proofread articles, and coordinated the design and photography sections, among many other duties.
During his time at Bangalore International School, Lakkavaram also foreshadowed his busy and productive schedule at UMass by serving as the head of marketing for “Alpha-Time to Innovate,” a national high-school-level hackathon. Meanwhile, he also designed an experiment for “Chemistry Silk Fibers Internal Assessment” to understand how the chemical treatment of silk fibers affects their tensile strength and completed a certification course for different analytical methods at the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology.
It seems obvious at this point that, as Lakkavaram plays his beloved Tabla during his down time, he will also be working on a steady drumbeat of engineering and journalistic accomplishments that will make the College of Engineering proud. (February 2021)