If in future years Danika Kartchner’s name shows up in the news under headlines heralding technological breakthroughs achieved by advances in chemical, materials or energy engineering, Arul Mozhy Varman won’t be surprised.

Kartchner is self-motivated and willing to put in the work to overcome challenges, and has a genuine passion to continuously learn and contribute to the development of green technologies that could help bring about a more sustainable world.


That’s how Varman, an assistant professor of chemical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, describes Kartchner, a recent ASU chemical engineering graduate whose accomplishments to date have now earned her a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarship.

Much of the work that has helped make Kartchner a Fulbright Scholar was done in Varman’s Synthetic and Systems Biology Laboratory, where she has been on a team of student researchers developing engineered microbial systems for the sustainable production of chemicals, fuels and pharmaceuticals using renewable resources.

Kartchner has been the “rare undergraduate who quickly adapted to the rigors of the research world,” says Varman, who teaches in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of the seven Fulton Schools. Her report based on research in his lab won the school’s Outstanding Honors Thesis Award.

Kartchner explored producing bio-based industrial solvents from renewable resources that would reduce reliance on crude oil through a process that “has the potential to become a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative” than current processes, she says.

Varman deems the project “a classic example of integrating biological and chemical engineering approaches toward finding innovative solutions.”

Read more on Full Circle.