In 1993, Parans Paranthaman, Ph.D., arrived at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to begin postdoctoral research through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). Now, he arrives at the lab daily to fulfill his duties as a Distinguished Corporate Fellow and a group leader of materials chemistry in the Chemical Sciences Division.
Crediting positive mentors for his successful career, Paranthaman feels it is his turn to take on such a role. As a result, he regularly hosts students and faculty of various academic levels through ORISE research opportunities.
“The influence that mentors have on their mentees is tremendous, and I hope to positively inspire and encourage those that I mentor,” Paranthaman explained. “This is another way of giving my scientific knowledge back to the community.”
Paranthaman’s research focuses on the design, synthesis and fabrication of new materials and their translation into novel energy technologies. Examples include superconductor wires, electrodes for batteries, flexible thin film solar cells, lithium extraction from geothermal brine and additive manufacturing of magnets.
Paranthaman considers the ability to positively influence and motivate students the most rewarding aspect of his job. Every student who has researched under his wing has graduated from college, and more than 60 percent of those students have pursued graduate degrees.
His influence often extends beyond the mentees. After spending a summer alongside Paranthaman, high school chemistry teacher James Davis introduced research related to synthesizing nanoparticles of various oxides in his classroom in North Carolina. Since then, Davis’ students have participated in research competitions and won a regional state fair.
“Mentoring is a great learning experience for both the mentors and mentees,” Paranthaman explained. “Learning never stops, so I have been able to share my knowledge as well as gain new perspectives from my mentees.”
In 2017, Paranthaman was named a Corporate Fellow for his contributions to his field and to future researchers.
“All I can say is that after collaborating with so many young scientists, we’re in good hands,” Paranthaman said. “The upcoming generation is made up of smart kids and hard workers.”