Student Profile

Hansen Tjo |iCons

Hansen Tjo, 2021

Major: 

Chemical Engineering

Hometown: 

Tangerang, Banten Province, Indonesia

iCons helped me appreciate translating scientific knowledge into real-world impact.

What is your current research?
Working with Professor Sarah Perry in the Department of Chemical Engineering, my research focuses on understanding complex coacervation in polymer-surfactant systems. Complex coacervation is an associative phase separation process driven by the electrostatic interactions between two oppositely charged macromolecules. In particular, my project looks into how charge densities of both the cationic polymer and the anionic surfactant micelle affect the resulting phase behavior, with the goal of developing a charge density based framework with which to predict materials self-assembly. This has the potential to expand the suite of coacervate platforms available for applications such as the stabilization of vaccines, while also advancing our understanding of complex coacervation physics.

How has iCons helped you in your academic career?
iCons has provided me with invaluable teamwork experience and an eye-opening perspective on what it takes to create social impact from science. Beginning in the sophomore year ‘Integrated Scientific Communication’ course, I was joined by like-minded peers interested in recycling campus-generated food waste into clean bioenergy; together, we founded the iCons Biodigester Team aiming to improve campus sustainability through anaerobic digestion solutions. We learned key scientific communication skills from delivering cogent chalk talks and presentations, to writing concise policy briefs on our goal to implement a full-scale biodigester on-campus. All this enabled us to win the 2018 iCons Annual Energy Debate, and submit a Sustainability & Innovation Engagement Fund grant proposal for the construction of a campus pilot-scale biodigester, which was funded in 2020. Since then, we have expanded the iCons Biodigester Team membership, and have begun construction of the pilot-scale biodigester in partnership with the Department of Chemical Engineering. Indeed, working with the iCons Biodigester Team has impressed upon me with what can be accomplished with both individual drive and diversity in perspectives.

The iCons experience also provided a rare outlet for students to explore the socioeconomic elements of renewable energy technologies in depth. This compelled us to recognize the fact that many barriers to green technology implementation lie not only in the underlying science, but also in key economics and politics. Thus, besides learning crucial collaborative skills, going through the iCons program has fomented my growth as a scientist appreciative of the nuances in translating scientific breakthroughs into real-world impact. I firmly believe these lessons and experiences are more than crucial to addressing the layered scientific challenges of today.

Why did you choose UMass Amherst?
I chose UMass Amherst as I wanted to attend college in New England and experience cold weather for the first time. I was also interested in the kind of undergraduate liberal arts education unique to the U.S. higher education system.

Tell us something that is interesting or unique about you?
I once hiked up a volcano back in Indonesia.

What do you hope to do after UMass Amherst?
I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering after I graduate, where I hope to address problems across renewable energy and environmental sustainability.