Thara Rangaraj

About Me: High school chemistry Teacher. I graduated with Masters degree in Chemistry from WPI, and have MAT degree from Clark university. I have taught Chemistry to sophomores and AP Chemistry to Juniors and seniors in Leominster High School. I find it highly gratifying to teach chemistry when I see students get really excited about a lab or an application of Principles of Chemistry in everyday life. Hobbies include gardening, art and music appreciation.

About the Lab: The lab I will be working with is in the Department of Chemical Enginering. I will work with the group headed by Professor Timko, assisted by Professor Alex Maag and  Graduate student Madison Reed.

Project: The Project work involves Chemical Recycling of the Plastic, PET ( Polyethylene terePhthalate) using water based hydrolysis under given conditions of temperature and pressures. This research will align with the UNSDG of ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’.

Weekly Updates:

  • Week 1: Introductions to all the participants, graduate students and program facilitators. Overview of the RET links, websites, navigating the PD site Padlet etc. Presentations of the overview of the PD Component and the Research components. Collaborative activity with the group on Engineering design using simple materials. Two hour interactive Lab Safety presentation and discussions. Presentation of introduction to Integrated HQ STEM education and videos of HQ STEM classroom labs/activities followed by discussions. Later, Professor Maag facilitated a tour of all the labs in the Chemical Engineering department, as well as introduction to the lab equipments that will be used in this research project. Reading the research literature/ Thesis of work done this by a former graduate student which gave me a good insight into the chemistry behind the research of water based hydrolysis of PET.
  • Week 2: The research experiment involves setting up experiments at different conditions of temperature and pressures. Graduate student helped me get familiar with the reactor which includes a hot sand bath, with regulators for pressure and temperature setting. We decided on the criteria for the experimental conditions and ran couple experiments. Collected data, conducted analysis to see the effectiveness of the run.
  • Week 3: Discussed the results of the previous runs and based on it decided to run a few more experiments under diffrent set of conditions. Record the results in an excel sheet for review on % yields and % conversion.
  • Week 4: Along with the research work in the labs , we also have been meeting together as a research group on Tuesdays facilitated by Professor Erin Solovey and on Wednesdays for Professional development lectures by Donna Taylor. During these meetings we have had hands on experience in EDP (Engineering design Process), High Quality STEM integration to science concepts, glimpse into Literature Review, Reading Research Papers etc. This week on Wednesday we did a session on Performance Assessment, in which we came together in small groups in developing a Rubric. We developed a rubric and each group shared feedback and suggestions on our rubrics. It was interesting and useful in determining the criteria for the rubric as this was a good takeaway for classroom use.
  • Week 5:Wrapping up the research – Prepared excel sheets with data collected during the labs, graphical representation of the data and data analysis to conclude on the research findings. Finished making the poster for presentation and shared with other RET participants to get feedback. It was a great learning experience creating the poster and collaborating with all other participants. We learned about other participants journey and research areas. The PD meetings provided real time experience in creating lesson plans with elements of high quality STEM integration in addition to incorporating equity, inclusion and diversity. The weekly feedback provided helped tweak the lesson plans. This Friday as part of the experience we visited the labs in Gateway park which is WPI’s cutting edge high tech innovation labs. We got to see the labs which are developing robotic arms, mock medical facilities that were using medical interventions during an MRI and various other Bio technology innovations. We also visited the cool Fire Protection Engineering lab and witnessed some of the research in action.

Poster and Lesson Plan:

Lesson Plan Handout)

(Link RET Poster)