Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with Dr. Andita Das (SMU Chemistry)

by Aya Bellaoui ’24Anindita Das

This summer we talked with a few of the faculty who hired students to be part of the Office of Engaged Learning’s Summer Research Intensive. Dr. Anindita Das is a new assistant professor in the department of chemistry at SMU who is working with 3 post-doctoral fellows, 2 graduate students and 8 undergraduate students to create renewable energy and deliver drugs using atomically precise nanomaterials. Dr. Das and her students have been working on these highly interdisciplinary projects in collaboration with various other research groups at SMU including the Lippert Lab.

Dr. Das attended Osmania University 2004-2007 for her Bachelor of Science, the University of Prune 2007-2009 for her Master of Science, Carnegie Mellon University for her PhD in 2010-2015, and Northwestern University for her post-doc in 2016-2020. She is an expert in biocompatible nanomaterials synthesis, materials chemistry, nanoparticle characterization techniques, inorganic chemistry, and catalysis.

What led you to conduct your current research?

The field of nanotechnology is making itself present in many kinds of scientific research areas. Dr. Das learned about the field when she moved to the United States ten years ago. For her PhD at Carnegie Mellon University, she got to know about the exciting field of designing materials at the nano scale and then and using this to address challenges in a variety of fields such as, renewable energy and drug delivery. That was the beginning of Dr. Das’ journey.

A major limitation in the field of nanotechnology pertains to the inherent structural inhomogeneity associated with conventional nanoparticles which precludes an atomic-level understanding of their structure-property relationships (e.g., exact catalytic and biological mechanisms). During her PhD, Dr. Das developed strategies to make nanomaterials with atomic precision and molecular purity in order to understand catalytic mechanisms at the atomic level.

What challenges have you encountered throughout your research and how have you worked to overcome those challenges?

Dr. Das says that there is always more to learn. For example, in Organic Chemistry I and II, they do not usually teach you about nanoparticles and how to address issues pertaining to renewable energy or drug delivery. There are techniques you are taught in chemistry courses that you may never use in research, and there are techniques that you will learn about throughout your research which will not be taught in school. So you have to learn throughout the process and adjust. It is all about applying what you learn in school to real-world problems.

What are you currently researching and why? What is the essential question that motivated you to conduct it?

There are different projects within the lab being conducted by different people. The main goal of lab is to circumvent some of the current challenges in the field by developing multifunctional atomically precise nanomaterials to answer critical questions in areas like catalysis, energy storage, targeted drug delivery and sensing, wherein efficiency and reproducibility heavily rely on materials that can be synthesized without batch-to-batch variations.

For example, we are currently collaborating with the Lippert group to develop novel nanoclusters which are capable of exhibiting chemiluminescence, which can help detect diseases at earlier stages. Another important criteria for using nanomaterials for bio-applications is that the probes need to be biocompatible. For instance, the FDA requires that all the drugs and probes that are used to diagnose diseases to be cleared out of your body after its action is done. Hence, our group is focusing on developing nanomaterials which are less than 2 nanometers in size so that these can be cleared from the kidneys after their intended use.

We are also involved in several other projects, such as making new kinds of catalysts based on metal nanoclusters for sustainable reactions including electroreduction of carbon dioxide (which is the main reason for global warming). In this regard, we have synthesized and characterized several new metal clusters with different surface structures and are currently evaluating their catalytic performance.

What resources have you needed to further your work? Have those resources been accessible?

We use the library to try to track down articles that aren’t easily available through other sources. It has also allowed us access to thousands of articles on nanoparticles. Also, in order to accurately study the properties of these interesting materials which lie at the interface of small molecules and solid-phase materials, these need to be analyzed by several techniques such as X-ray diffraction, NMR, FTIR, fluorescence microscopy, etc. Given the highly diverse research groups at SMU, these resources have been easy to access which has allowed our new group to establish various collaborations with the neighboring research labs.

What one piece of advice would you give someone who is interested and conducting an experiment or research project?

Do not be afraid to reach out to professors conducting research in areas you are interested in getting involved with. Take your chances.

Thank you, Dr. Das!


Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

The Incubator is a client of Boulevard Consulting!

The Incubator@SMU is excited to announce that we are a client of SMU’s Boulevard Consulting! Kim Commerato (faculty of CCPA in Meadows) will lead her students through an experiential, capstone-level, real-life exercise to help the Incubator deliver an exciting—and effective—public relations, media relations and branding plan. The Incubator currently has over 50 companies led by undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff. Who knows about the amazing work achieved by our companies and the potential of the Incubator itself? Not as many as we hope to reach. We are looking forward to changing this through the plan and support that this amazing opportunity will achieve. Professor Commerato and the students of Fall 2021 cohort of Boulevard Consulting—thank you for this amazing opportunity!

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

Building the Future of Disease Prevention Technology

[Dallas, Texas July 2021] Irewole (Wole) Akande is an Engineer and Entrepreneur. Currently a full time MBA candidate at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Irewole Akande, is leveraging innovative technology to save lives and reduce the spread of infectious diseases around the world through his healthcare technology startup – City Health Tech. Co-founded by Akande and Northwestern University alumnus, Ibraheem Alinur, in 2017, City Health Tech has developed cutting-edge wireless handwashing technology to guide users through effective handwashing techniques, improve hygienic behaviors, and use data collected to prevent the spread of diseases in the community.

In early 2021, Akande had an unfortunate bout with COVID-19. It occurred when so many good things were happening. City Health Tech had just got their first investor, and the company was to launch their product development of their first product Opal™. Unfortunately, COVID set product development back by over three months.

In Akande’s words: “After the initial disease passed, I was hit with a second round of long-haul symptoms that have severely affected my heart with little to no medical explanations on what is going on or if I’d ever be able to run again. As a result, I have developed severe health anxiety. This feeling is especially crippling because I had never fallen ill before COVID.”

As soon as Akande got good enough, he threw myself right back into working on City Health Tech Inc. with a very different mindset. One of a survivor with a burning desire to prevent others from experiencing what he and millions around the world did. “Prevention is better than cure,” has a whole new meaning to him. And protecting his community is a vision that now defines him.

He insists: “The future of healthcare is prevention. The future of healthcare is public health. The future of healthcare is technology. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. And whatever winding path I take, I will keep me building the future of disease prevention technology.” And he is committed to his goal as in less than a month, City Health Tech will be releasing their first batch of products to strategic partners in the food handling, life sciences, and education spaces.

Akande, is a recipient of the Lucy Billingsley Future Texas Business Legend Award from the prestigious Texas Business Hall of Fame (TBHF). The award is presented to the best and brightest business student entrepreneurs in Texas that exhibit entrepreneurial aspirations and a propensity for leadership and innovation.

City Health Tech is promoting health literacy and more hygienic habits while collecting informative data through its proprietary and revolutionary IoT health communication device, Opal. Opal is a digital assistant that allows schools and organizations to analyze, track, and encourage healthy hand hygiene practices in their community through a variety of health communication/programming. By installing Opal in schools, office buildings, hotels, restaurants, life science buildings, and food manufacturing facilities, customers can encourage healthier habits within their space and collect key hygiene data that can be leveraged to better prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The company which recently relocated to North Texas is looking to deepen its connections within the state of Texas. The founders were selected as one of only 7% of applicants into Newchip’s (based out of Austin, TX) competitive seed accelerator program. They hope to develop the company and expand their fundraising capabilities with expert mentors as they raise their seed round from angel investors or venture capitalists.

Akande credits the Southern Methodist University for providing him a unique space to grow and scale City Health Tech. Being in Texas has allowed him to tap into the unique resources and opportunities provided by the state. The company is looking for partners and investors within the North Texas area as they look to grow and scale their company.

Contact: Irewole Akande | City Health Tech

Phone: 3125326660

Email: |

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

Make Sister Shaq’s Sweet Tea a Habit

Raleigh DewanRaleigh Dewan is a junior at SMU double majoring in Creative Writing and Marketing with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and minors in Italian, History, and Public Policy and International Affairs. At SMU, Raleigh is a Hunt Leadership Scholar, BBA Scholar, Hilltop Scholar, Pre-Law Scholar, Hegi Career Leader, and a member of the University Honors Program. On the hilltop, Raleigh serves as the Internal Development Chair of Program Council, a member of the Campus Services Student Advisory Board, and is President of the Engaged Learning Student Board.

Raleigh is the founder of Sister Shaq Sweet Tea—a sweet tea company that uses confession worthy, American-grown tea to expand local awareness of human trafficking and empower its victims to regain their independence. He believes the knowledge and experience from participating in the Tower Scholars Program will allow him to better comprehend and advocate for the most effective public policy aimed at fighting human trafficking.

For more about Sister Shaq’s, visit Sister Shaq’s Website

SMU in Four Student Academic Engagement & Success

Early Progress Reports (EPR) and Midterm Progress Reports (MPR) updates for faculty


Dear SMU Faculty, 

After receiving faculty feedback about how we collect early and mid-term grade reports, we have made some minor changes to the process this year. In the past, we only asked for designated student populations during the early intervention period. Faculty indicated this often left them wondering what to do about the other students in their class who were at risk and communicated it was more difficult to record the information for only a subset of students. Therefore, beginning this fall we will ask you to identify at risk students in the early intervention period for all undergraduate students.  

You will receive a notification from the Registrar’s Office that early intervention (EPR) grade rosters are open on Wednesday, September 21 and are due on Tuesday, September 28 at midnight. Mid Term (MPR) grade rosters will be open Friday, October 15 and are due on Sunday, October 24 at midnight.  

The second piece of feedback we received from faculty is that you often do not have a graded assignment prior to having to report EPR grades. We understand this and therefore suggest that performance measures can include participation, attendance, and/or a grade. What is most important is that you, as faculty report a deficiency when a student needs to know that their grade or engagement in a course is deficient. You can make this distinction by selecting FA “Failure to Attend” or FT “Failure due to Testing”. Instructors with graded assignments might instead choose to enter deficient letter grades C-, D+, D-, F or indicate that the student does not currently have a deficient grade. 

These early reports provide an excellent time to remind students about course expectations and to positively acknowledge what has already been accomplished. In addition to your efforts, outreach from academic advisors and academic support personnel takes place for students who have multiple deficiencies. We hope to reach students who struggle in the early parts of the semester in order to offer resources to turn around their academic performance and experience.   

Thank you for helping us to make the process better. And thank you, in advance, for your assistance!  


Dr. Sheri Kunovich  


Calendar for Grade Reporting 

Early Intervention (EPR) grade rosters open from September 21-28 at midnight 

Mid Term (MPR) grade rosters open from October 15-24 at midnight