College:College of Engineering and Computer Science
Degree Program:Materials Science and Engineering PhD
Udit Kumar has always been an out-of-the-box thinker. In seventh grade, his chemistry teacher taught him about the Criss-Cross Method for Writing Chemical formulas. He was so fascinated by the idea that he could create any compound or material, and it was the moment that inspired him to pursue a career in science. Though much has changed since then, Kumar’s aspirations remain the same, and his passion for materials science has only grown.
Kumar earned a bachelor's degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, India, and a master’s in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials science from IIT Bombay, India. He chose to pursue his doctoral degree at UCF after attending an Indian ceramic society conference where his current advisor, Professor Sudipta Seal, presented his work and highlighted his lab's research work. Kumar appreciated how his lab's focus aligned with his own interests and approached the professor, who encouraged him to apply to UCF.
Now, Kumar a senior PhD student in the Materials Science and Engineering program is working on several cutting-edge projects. One such project addresses the prevalence of fog-related road accidents in Florida. Kumar recognized the need for an accessible, real-time fog monitoring system on highways to warn drivers before they enter a foggy area. Alongside a team of researchers, he developed roadside camera-based fog sensors that can monitor fog situations in real-time without human intervention and that could display messages to keep drivers safe.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Kumar recalls reading media reports of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPEs), which inspired a new project. Kumar set out to create self-cleaning anti-COVID PPEs, working to invent a material capable of converting white light to UV light locally and deactivating viruses. The revolutionary research received funding from the National Science Foundation and has garnered significant attention. For his efforts, Kumar won an award at the Nano Florida Conference and received the best poster award for a graduate student at the UCF Student Scholar Symposium in 2021. He has published numerous research papers on his findings and filed a patent on his coating for capturing and killing viruses on surfaces.
In recognition of his work at the university, Kumar has received many awards and accolades. In 2021, he was awarded a Student Government (SGA) scholarship, the Graduate Presentation fellowship, and the Undergraduate Studies Award scholarship. This year, he received the Dr. Austin L. Grogan scholarship and the David T. and Jane M. Donaldson scholarship from the College of Engineering and Computer Science to continue his research.
Kumar credits the faculty at UCF with making his success possible and supporting him in his research endeavors and beyond. He describes how Professor Seal reached out to him when he got sick with COVID-19 while working on his anti-COVID-19 PPE research, which he sees as poetic justice. “The way he supported me was very admirable. He called me more than my mother did during that time,” he says. He also praises Professor Parag Banerjee, whom he describes as “one of the most talented researchers” he has seen in his life, and Professor Raj Vaidyanathan, whose courses he particularly enjoyed.
Kumar appreciates the plethora of experiences and opportunities that UCF has provided him over the course of his studies. He is highly involved in campus life and has been a member of the Materials Science and Engineering Department Student Advisory Committee, the UCF ASM Chapter, an ally in the Pride Student Association, and served as Treasurer of the UCF Materials Advantage (MA) Chapter. In addition, he is a mentor in the F-Learn Program, through which he assists undergraduate students with their own research.
He also values the connections between academics at the university and external industry experiences, which have allowed him to work on projects funded by FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation), and SRC (Semiconductor Research Foundation) with people from Intel, IBM, and Tokyo Electron (Tel) on board. “It is fascinating to experience working with these many talented people and an excellent opportunity for me to learn from them,” Kumar says.
After graduating, Kumar aims to join a research team at a national laboratory or a research and development organization. He wants to explore research on an industrial scale and diversify his experience before returning to academia. His dedication to scientific discovery and mentoring students drives his decision; to eventually work at a university. “As my previous generation raises me, it is our responsibility to raise the next,” he says.
- Won award at Nano Florida Conference
- Best poster award for a graduate student at 2021 UCF Student Scholar Symposium
- Student Government (SGA) scholarship, 2021
- Graduate Presentation fellowship, 2021
- Undergraduate Studies Award scholarship, 2021
- Dr. Austin L. Grogan scholarship, 2022
- David T. and Jane M. Donaldson scholarship, 2022
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