Kalpana Katti, Ph.D
For Kalpana Katti, University distinguished professor, department of civil engineering, science has been a long-term calling. She says her favorite subjects in school were English Literature and Physics, and she knew at a young age that she belonged to an academic world. “I grew up in a very academic environment, my parents are both scientists, everybody I knew had a Ph.D. I thought that was a way of life,” she says.
Katti received her undergraduate degree in Physics at the University of Delhi, India. She went on to get an M.S. in Solid State Physics in Kanpur, India, and received her Ph.D. in Material Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research areas include bone tissue engineering, biomimetics, nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, biomaterials, vibrational microspectroscopy and multiscale modeling in bio-nano composite systems.
Since moving away from such large metropolitan areas, Katti has learned to appreciate life in Fargo, although she admits it was a big adjustment at first. “The first year I wanted to leave, it was too cold, the year of the blizzard, but I think I was amazed at the niceness of the people. That was very different from bigger cities I’ve lived in.” Katti says that she appreciates that Fargo has some of the qualities of the bigger city but still has a small town feel, and notes that the city is growing bigger and more diverse.
She says her inspiration comes from biology and her research focuses on using materials found in nature to create synthetic materials. Katti has made headlines for her research in nanotechnology and for her studies on the strength of nacre, otherwise known as mother of pearl. Currently, she is looking at biology for inspiration in creating bone replacement materials through biomimetics. While most researchers in the field study synthetic materials, Katti has been looking to nature and is trying to find a way to encourage the body to make new bone. She is working on making mesh-like structures out of synthetic materials called ‘scaffolds’ in conjunction with human bone cells. Using this method, Katti says the bone cells grow around the structure and create new bone. This is challenging because the bone needs to grow at the same rate as the deterioration of the scaffold. Katti says she finds this research fascinating.
Katti has come a long way since starting out at NDSU 11 years ago. She began with a lab devoid of the materials she needed as a scientist, to receiving grants that have allowed her a lab that would rival any in the country. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the NDSU Peltier award for Innovations in Teaching, the NDSU College of Engineering Researcher of the Year award, and the National Science Foundation CAREER award. She was also appointed national chair of the academic affairs committee for the Materials Research Society.
Katti says what she likes best about NDSU is the immense growth rate, how it started small and that she gets to experience how it is growing. She has taken part in creating new courses on Biomaterials and Nanotechnology for graduate students at NDSU and says she has some of the best students at NDSU in her classes. She finds teaching very rewarding, and claims the following motto: “A good teacher is just two things, knowledgeable and caring. I try to stay as knowledgeable as possible and I am always caring.”