From Science Fiction Fan to a Force for Sustainability

Abhishek Roy

Lead R&D Manager, Senior Research Scientist

My Story Is Energy and Water

To Abhishek, fundamental science and a market-facing mentality are crucial to progress – but so is imagination. Inspired by the “bigger visions” within science fiction, he embarked on a career that’s featured many real-life breakthroughs for the sustainability of our planet.

Ask Abhishek what steered him toward a career in science and he’ll tell you about his insatiable curiosity and supportive mentors. But it was something else that kicked his interest level into hyperdrive.

“My father used to take me to Star Wars and Star Trek films – I think Star Wars was the one that got a lot of people inspired and fascinated by science,” Abhishek says.

Abhishek couldn’t grow up to be a Jedi Knight, but what he calls the “big visions” presented by science fiction left an impression on him. He ultimately made his own real-life story into a science career that’s helping sustain the natural resources here on Earth. He’s motivated to solve significant challenges facing humanity: the long-term availability of energy and water.

“My story is energy and water,” he says. “The energy-water nexus intrigued me even before I worked for Dow. I’ve always been fascinated by water, how it fits into sustainability, and how we can use that science in ways that can lead the human race in a better direction. My research in graduate school was about sustainable energy.”

Abhishek’s work with Dow has fit well with this fascination. By helping Dow develop ECO technology, he addressed a major challenge in water purification: making the process energy-efficient. ECO does just that, reducing the energy needed for the process by as much as 50 percent. With energy such a costly and valuable resource, the technology can get more water to people in need.

Taking Pride in the End Result

To Abhishek, the practical value of Dow’s chemistry – how it will ultimately benefit the end user – is just as important as the work itself. It’s a philosophy that has long influenced his approach to science.

“Whenever I am thinking about the next chemistry we should be working on, the challenge is understanding how it could be applied to a current market need,” Abhishek says. “If that need isn’t there, then we aren’t doing the right thing.”

After all of the research and hard work spent addressing those needs, seeing how the results impact real people is a gratifying experience. One memorable example for Abhishek was seeing a Dow reverse osmosis system used in a friend’s home to purify water. “There was an instant pride that came to me,” Abhishek says. “That level of satisfaction is very hard to get.”

Abhishek credits his application-oriented approach to the mentorship of his graduate adviser at Virginia Tech University, the late James E. McGrath. McGrath is considered a father of polymer science.

“Not only was Professor McGrath knowledgeable about fundamental science, he also kept thinking, ‘What will its impact be on the real world?’” Abhishek says. “I think that’s very rare in academia. It’s the mentality he passed along to his students. It’s good to have challenges. That is how we improve and grow. In a sense, these challenges tell us the next chemistry we should work on.”

Awards

2014 Edison award for Dow’s ECO technology

Aquatech China 2014 – Best Innovative Membrane award for “tankless” residential product

Invited speaker for 2015 GAFOE symposium – recognition by NAE as outstanding scientist under age of 45

Guest invited editor – special issue in Polymer Journal on water purification membranes, 2015

Outstanding Recent Graduate Alumnus, Virginia Tech, 2014 (Internal award)

Dow Sustainability Innovator Award, 2014

American Chemical Society Glenn award for the best paper presented before Fuel Chemistry division, Fall 2008 national meeting, Philadelphia, 2008

American Chemical Society award in recognition as Outstanding Graduate Student in the field of Polymer Chemistry, Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research, ACS Spring National Meeting, Chicago 2007

American Chemical Society Best Poster Award for Research, Excellence in “Challenges for the Hydrogen Economy” – Fuel Chemistry Division, ACS Fall National Meeting, San Francisco, CA, 2006

Article featured in cover page of special issue on “Polymers in Fuel Cells” in Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics, 2006

Graduate Research Award, 2008, College of Science, Department of Chemistry, Virginia Tech

Debesh-Kamal scholarship (2003-2004): The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata, India – Awarded to outstanding students for pursuing graduate study abroad

Invited Lecture: ACS Workshop & Conference – Italy 2014 (Invitation-based conference)

Invited Lecture: ACS Workshop & Conference – Water Purification 2013 (Invitation-based conference)

Invited Lecture:  Georgia Tech University, Penn State & Virginia Tech

Invited Lecture: ACS Workshop and Conference: Advances in Polyolefins, 2011(Invitation-based conference)

Associations

American Chemical Society

Arrowood, T. L.; Desai, A. A.; Jons, S. D.; Paul, M.; Roy, A. Thin film composite membrane derived from tetrafunctional acyl halide monomer. 2013-US491762014014662, 20130703., 2014

Paul, M.; Arrowood, T. L.; Cieslinski, R. C.; Jons, S. D.; Rosenberg, S.; Roy, A.; Tomlinson, I. A. Membrane derived from polyfunctional amine and combination of different polyfunctional amine-reactive monomers. 2013-US491802014014666, 20130703., 2014

Qiu, X. S.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Peery, M. H.; Rosenberg, S.; Roy, A.; Tomlinson, I. A. Method for solubilizing carboxylic acid-containing compound in hydrocarbon solvent. 2013-1384484120140264162, 20130316., 2014

Roy, A.; Arrowood, T. L.; Badami, A. S.; Cieslinski, R. C.; Gerhart, B. B.; Hawn, D. D.; Jons, S. D.; Paul, M.; Peery, M. H.; Qiu, X. S.; Rickard, M. A.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A.; Zu, C. L. Composite polyamide membrane with carboxylic acid functionality. 2013-US491822014014668, 20130703., 2014

Roy, A.; Arrowood, T. L.; Badami, A. S.; Cieslinski, R. C.; Hawn, D. D.; Jons, S. D.; Paul, M.; Rosenberg, S.; Wu, H. Composite polyamide membrane with improved structure. 2013-US491832014014669, 20130703., 2014

Roy, A.; Arrowood, T. L.; Cieslinski, R. C.; Hawn, D. D.; Jons, S. D.; Paul, M.; Peery, M. H.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A.; Zu, C. L. Composite polyamide membrane with increased carboxylic acid functionality. 2013-US491782014014664, 20130703., 2014

Roy, A.; Arrowood, T. L.; Cieslinski, R. C.; Hawn, D. D.; Jons, S. D.; Paul, M.; Peery, M. H.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A.; Zu, C. L. Composite polyamide membrane with increased carboxylic acid functionality. 2013-US491782014014664, 20130703., 2014

Roy, A.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Peery, M. H.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A. Process for preparation of mono-hydrolyzed acyl halide compounds in-situ. 2013-1384484020140264161, 20130316., 2014

Roy, A.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Peery, M. H.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A. Composite polyamide membrane derived from carboxylic acid containing acyl halide monomer. 2013-1384483920140272134, 20130316., 2014

Roy, A.; Arrowood, T. L.; Desai, A. A.; Jons, S. D.; Paul, M.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A. Composite polyamide membrane with substituted benzamide monomer. 2014-US101232014109947, 20140103., 2014

Roy, A.; Maeda, Y.; Paul, M.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A. Composite polyamide membrane including tri-hydrocarbyl phosphate. 2014-US101212014109945, 20140103., 2014

Roy, A.; Maeda, Y.; Paul, M.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A. Composite polyamide membrane. 2014-US101222014109946, 20140103., 2014

Zhang, C.; Desai, A. A.; Jons, S. D.; Paul, M.; Rosenberg, S.; Roy, A.; Qiu, X. S. Composite polyamide membrane derived from monomer including amine-reactive and phosphorous-containing functional groups. 2012-US469832013032586, 20120717., 2013

Qiu, X. S.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Peery, M. H.; Rosenberg, S.; Roy, A.; Tomlinson, I. A. Method for preparing high purity mono-hydrolyzed acyl halide compound. 2012-US552692013048764, 20120914., 2013

Qiu, X. S.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Peery, M. H.; Rosenberg, S.; Roy, A.; Tomlinson, I. A. Method for solubilizing carboxylic acid-containing compound in hydrocarbon solvent. 2012-US552652013048763, 20120914., 2013

Rosenberg, S.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Paul, M.; Qiu, X. S.; Roy, A.; Zhang, C.; Desai, A. A. Composite polyamide membrane prepared by interfacial polymerization on porous support. 2013-US200722013103666, 20130103., 2013

Roy, A.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Peery, M. H.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A. In-situ method for preparing hydrolyzed acyl halide compound. 2012-US552642013048762, 20120914., 2013

Roy, A.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Peery, M. H.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Tomlinson, I. A. Composite polyamide membrane derived from carboxylic acid containing acyl halide monomer. 2012-US552712013048765, 20120914., 2013

Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Paul, M.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Roy, A. Composite polyamide membrane. 2012-US219472012102942, 20120120., 2012

Mickols, W. E.; Paul, M.; Roy, A. Sulfonated poly(aryl ether) membrane including blend with phenyl amine compound. 2011-1303739320120223010, 20110301., 2012

Paul, M.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S.; Roy, A. Composite polyamide membrane. 2012-US219502012102943, 20120120., 2012

Roy, A.; Jons, S. D.; Koob, J. D.; Paul, M.; Qiu, X. S.; Rosenberg, S. Composite polyamide membrane. 2012-US219532012102944, 20120120., 2012

Winniford, W.; Cong, R.; Stokich, T.; Pell, R.; Miller, M.; Roy, A.; Van Damme, F.; Degroot, A.; Lyons, J.; Meunier, D. Chromatography of polyolefin polymers using a graphitic carbon stationary phase. 2010-US615262011084786, 20101221., 2011

Winniford, W. L.; Cong, R.; Stokich, T. M., Jr.; Pell, R. J.; Miller, M. D.; Roy, A.; Van Damme, F.; Degroot, A. W.; Lyons, J. W.; Meunier, D. M. Chromatography of polyolefin polymers using graphitic stationary phases. 2009-64311120110152499, 20091221., 2011

Seo, M.; Moll, D.; Silvis, C.; Roy, A.; Querelle, S.; Hillmyer, M. A., Interfacial Polymerization of Reactive Block Polymers for the Preparation of Composite Ultrafiltration Membranes. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2014, 53 (48), 18575-18579

Roy, Abhishek; Miller, Matthew D.; Meunier, David M.; de Groot, A. Willem; Winniford, William L.; Van Damme, Freddy A.; Pell, Randy J.; Lyons, John W., Development of Comprehensive Two-Dimensional High Temperature Liquid Chromatography -Gel Permeation Chromatography for Characterization of Polyolefins, Macromolecules (Washington, DC, United States) (2010), 43(8), 3710-3720

Lee, Hae-Seung; Roy, Abhishek; Lane, Ozma; Lee, Myoungbae; McGrath, James E; Synthesis and characterization of multiblock copolymers based on hydrophilic disulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) and hydrophobic partially fluorinated poly(arylene ether ketone) for fuel cell applications; Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry (2010), 48(1), 214-222

Roy, A.; Yu, X.; Dunn, S.; McGrath, J. E., Influence of microstructure and chemical composition on proton exchange membrane properties of sulfonated-fluorinated, hydrophilic-hydrophobic multiblock copolymers. Journal of Membrane Science 2009, 327, (1-2), 118-124

Roy, A.; Hickner A. M.; Einsla R. B.; Harrison L. W.; McGrath, J. E. Synthesis and characterization of partially disulfonated hydroquinone-based poly(arylene ether sulfone)s random copolymers for application as proton exchange membranes, Journal of Polymer Science: Part A: Polymer Chemistry 2009, 47(2), 384-391

Roy, A.; Hickner, M.A.; Lane, O.; McGrath, J.E. Investigation of Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) Processing Parameters on Performance for Wholly Aromatic Hydrocarbon based Proton Exchange Membranes, Journal of Power Sources 2009, 191(2), 550-554

Xiang, Y.; Roy, A.; Dunn, S.; Yang, J.; Good, A.S.; McGrath, J.E. Synthesis and Characterization of Sulfonated-Fluorinated, Hydrophilic-Hydrophobic Multiblock Copolymers for Proton Exchange Membranes, Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry 2009, 47(4),1038-1051

Badami, A.S.; Roy, A.; Lee, H-S.; Li, Y.; McGrath, J. E. Morphological Investigations of Disulfonated Poly(arylene ether sulfone)-b-Naphthalene Dianhydride-Based Polyimide Multiblock Copolymers as Potential HighTemperature Proton Exchange Membranes, Journal of Membrane Science 2009, 328(1-2), 1156-164

Badami, A.S.; Lane, O.; Lee, H-S.; Roy, A.; McGrath, J. E. Fundamental Investigations of the Effect of the Linkage Group on the Behavior of Hydrophilic-Hydrophobic Poly(arylene ether sulfone) Multiblock Copolymers for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells, Journal of Membrane Science 2009, 333 (1-2), 1-11

Roy, A.; Lee, H-S.; McGrath, J. E. Hydrophilic-hydrophobic multiblock copolymers based on poly(arylene ether sulfone)s as novel proton exchange membranes - Part B, Polymer 2008, 49(23), 5037-5044

Roy, A.; Lee, H-S.; McGrath, J. E, Hydrocarbon based BPSH-BPS multiblock copolymers as novel proton exchange membranes, ECS Transactions 2008, 6(26), Membranes for Electrochemical Applications), 1-7

Lee, H-S.; Roy, A.; Lane, O.; McGrath, J. E. Synthesis and characterization of poly(arylene ether sulfone)-b-polybenzimidazole copolymers for high temperature low humidity proton exchange membrane fuel cells, Polymer 2008, 49(25), 5387-5396

Yang, J.; Li, Y.; Roy, A.; McGrath, J. E. Viscometric behavior of disulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) random copolymers used as proton exchange membranes, Polymer 2008, 49(24), 5300-5306

Paul, M.; Park, H.; Freeman, B. D.; Roy, A.; McGrath, J. E.; Riffle, J. S. Synthesis and crosslinking of partially disulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) random copolymers as candidates for chlorine resistant reverse osmosis membranes, Polymer 2008, 49(9), 2243-2252

Lee, H-S.; Roy, A.; Lane, O.; Dunn, S.; McGrath, J. E. Hydrophilic-hydrophobic multiblock copolymers based on poly(arylene ether sulfone) via low-temperature coupling reactions for proton exchange membrane fuel cells, Polymer 2008, 49(3), 715-723

James, C. W.; Roy, A.; McGrath, J. E.; Marand, E., Determination of the effect of temperature and humidity on the O2 sorption in sulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) membranes. Journal of Membrane Science 2008, 309, (1+2), 141-145

Paul, M; Roy, A.; Riffle, J. S.; McGrath, J. E, Crosslinked sulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) membranes as candidate for PEMS ECS Transactions 2008, 6(26, Membranes for Electrochemical Applications), 9-16