Published March 15, 2021

Student Spotlight: Utkarsh Chaudhari

Utkarsh Chaudhari
Ph.D. Candidate in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University

Utkarsh is originally from Pune city in India. He earned his Bachelor’s degree (B.E.) in Chemical Engineering from Pune University in 2017 and started his Master’s degree (M.S.) in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University (MTU). In Spring 2019, he completed his MS degree and started PhD in Chemical Engineering Department at MTU from Summer 2019 under the supervision of Dr. David Shonnard. He is the recipient of the award ‘AIChE Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year’ for two consecutive years 2019 and 2020. He was also recognized by the University Senate and the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs for his outstanding job and efforts in remote learning at MTU in May 2020. His research area includes biofuels production, systems analysis of plastics in a circular economy, life cycle assessment, techno-economic analysis, process simulation and optimization. He worked on the REMADE project with Dr. David Shonnard on Systems Analysis of PET and Olefin Polymers in a Circular Economy. We asked him about his experience:

Q: How did you become interested in the field of Systems Analysis and the Circular Economy?
Current global plastic waste crisis made me wonder how plastic waste is currently being managed and what are the challenges in managing plastic waste? Who are the major stakeholders involved in plastic supply chain system? What plastic recycling technologies are available presently and how can circular economy be implemented in plastic waste supply chains?

Curiosity, eagerness to learn, and my passion for reading about waste management techniques, sustainability and circular economy led me to take a closer look at plastic waste supply chain.

Q: How has your experiences working on a REMADE project changed your understanding of the challenges it’s addressing?
Before working on the README project, I had limited knowledge on plastic waste supply chain and lacked from technological, environmental, economic, and social perspectives, which are of utmost importance and greatly valued in today’s world. Working on the REMADE project has provided me a great opportunity to learn in-depth about plastic material flows and main stakeholders involved in the plastics waste supply chain. It has also helped me to understand the need and importance of implementing a circular economy in plastic waste supply chains from environmental, economic and social perspectives. I developed high level understanding of different mechanical as well as chemical recycling technologies of waste plastics that create highly valuable materials. I also realized that collaboration among different stakeholders involved in plastic waste supply chain and optimizing the plastic material flows are the keys to solve global plastic waste crisis.

Q: What’s your advice for the new generation of students considering careers focused on the Circular Economy?
With growing awareness about climate change and need for reducing overall environmental impacts, circular economy and sustainability are ever-growing and never-ending field of studies that can be integrated with multiple engineering as well as management degrees. You can apply sustainability and circular economy principles in literally any field of study. I strongly believe that pursuing a career in this area has and will have a great importance in today’s as well as future world to make our planet more sustainable, waste-free and a safer place.