The Charger Blog

Triple Major Looks Forward to Pursuing Doctorate in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Dan Masi ’20, who will graduate this spring with three bachelor’s degrees, has written three academic papers – one of which has already been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. He will be pursuing his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University in the fall.

April 17, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Dan Masi ’20.
Dan Masi presented his research at the AIChE National Conference in Pittsburgh.

When Dan Masi ’20 first began working with Prof. Dequan Xiao, Ph.D. on a research project nearly two years ago, he was hoping it would be a valuable learning experience that would help him get into graduate school. His research has done that – and much more.

Masi, who is triple majoring in forensic science, chemistry, and chemical engineering, has gone on to work on multiple research projects. He even co-authored an academic paper detailing one of those projects that has been published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

"I was very happy when I found out my paper would be published," he said. "It was nice to see all my hard work pay off. It was also exciting because I knew this would bring me closer to my goal of getting into graduate school."

"The enthusiasm for learning and the passion for creativity that students such as Dan bring to the classroom and research labs is an inspiration to all of us."Dequan Xiao, Ph.D.

Masi’s work has focused on studying computational chemistry, analyzing energy barriers, and researching transition states between a catalyst and reactant. He has submitted his most recent research to Angewandte Chemie International Edition, a peer reviewed journal, where it is under review.

"Computational catalyst design is a ‘holy grail’ in chemistry, chemical engineering, and material sciences," said Dr. Xiao. "Developing novel theoretical and computational chemistry methods for catalyst design can lead to sustainable resolutions to many important challenges, such as carbon dioxide reduction, biomass conversion, and methane conversion."

Masi, who has been actively involved in research with the University’s Center for Integrative Materials Discovery under Dr. Xiao’s supervision, is currently preparing his third paper – and his first as lead author.

Image of Dan Masi '20
Dan Masi prepares a catalyst in the lab.

His project focuses on trying to find safer and more efficient ways to degrade synthetic polymers (e.g. plastics) by using a catalyst he helped develop in the laboratory. The polymers and catalyst are put into a high-pressure reactor with methanol and hydrogen, and after the reaction, Masi assesses how well the polymer breaks down.

"It is always a great joy for professors to witness the growth of our students in every step of their undergraduate education and professional development," said Dr. Xiao. "The enthusiasm for learning and the passion for creativity that students such as Dan bring to the classroom and research labs is an inspiration to all of us."

Masi’s hard work continues to pay off, and he has achieved his goal of getting into a doctorate program. After receiving acceptances from several schools, he has decided to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Vanderbilt University, beginning this fall.

"My experiences at the University of New Haven have enabled me to improve my technical writing and to feel more comfortable presenting in front of people," said Masi, who hopes to work for a pharmaceutical company or start his own business in the field one day.

"Doing research under the supervision of Dr. Xiao in the Center for Integrative Materials Discovery has provided me the opportunity to practice what I learned in the class, and it helped me find my passion for pursuing state-of-the-art research."