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Chemistry Alum Works to Improve Lithium-Ion Batteries

Darius Allen Shariaty, class of 2016, now works at Miltech UV International in Stevensville, MD. Allen's undergraduate research at UK focused on new binders for silicon anodes in lithium-ion batteries.  In addition to a patent application, his work recently led to a publication in Journal of the Electrochemical Society on which he is the first author. At Miltech, Allen works to develop polymer binders using UV curing methods.

This interview is part of a series conducted by the department called, “UK Chemistry Alumni: Where Are They Now?” This interview was coordinated by Dr. Susan Odom.

What made you decide to apply to UK? To accept the offer for admission?   

I enrolled at UK in the middle of a transition period of my life. At the time, I was a member of touring band, and so rather than approaching enrollment as a grand experiment, I needed more of a home base. Lexington is a city I love, full of people that I love, and UK's scientific programs were strong. So, it was a natural choice.  

Your pathway to chemistry is among the most unique I know of.  Could you tell us what prompted you to study to chemistry and in a formal academic setting?

In my mid-twenties, before school, I started playing chess for the first time in my life, and rapidly became a strong tournament player. That experience led me to a realization: More than just about anything, I loved understanding and solving problems. I wanted to use this skill for a more meaningful purpose, and the physical sciences attracted me for how their study has shaped the modern world. 

What course or courses were the most useful or interesting?

I've got to pay my respects to General Chemistry I & II, because it was in those classes that the veil began to lift, and my surface-level understanding of the physical world first deepened.  The most useful would have to be those lab classes which allowed for the most independence and creativity, namely the more advanced inorganic and organic lab courses. The most interesting would have to be quantum chemistry. I have spent quite a few late nights trying to wrap my mind around the implications of the de Broglie equation. 

How did research affect your outlook on the chemical sciences?

Research is a dirty, difficult, failure-ridden process that takes confidence and support to pursue. The discourse surrounding it, and its aim to improve peoples’ lives, is lofty. But in the end, research itself benefits from a child-like sense of wonder and hunger for discovery. In terms of profession, this quality is rare, and is a major reason for why I love it. 

Your hobbies range from garage chemistry to stand-up comedy.  Could you choose one hobby and tell us a bit about it?

Nowadays, I do improv on my friend Gary’s show Self Help Radio. Can I do a plug? It’s There, I make up characters and act them out every week. It is, basically, another way to celebrate a child-like sense of fun. However, unlike research, it’s devoid of the pressure of trying to improve the world as a whole, as well as the risk of accidentally dashing some piranha solution on your lab coat. 

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