Graduate School honors Ph.D. student Christopher Browne for work on water and energy problems

Tuesday, Mar 30, 2021
by Scott Lyon

The Graduate School has awarded Christopher A. Browne a Wallace Memorial Fellowship in Engineering, funding his Ph.D. work for the 2021-2022 academic year.

This year the Graduate School selected 27 total honorific fellows, with six coming from the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Honorific fellowships of this kind recognize advanced Ph.D. students whose research shows exceptional promise. Fellows do not teach classes during their award year, and the funding comes with no stipulated outcomes, giving Browne an opportunity to pursue his research without the need to meet external benchmarks.

He studies problems in global water security, especially the remediation of contaminated groundwater. Working with his adviser, Sujit Datta, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, Browne has developed techniques to assess the flow behavior and potential use of polymer solutions to clean up polluted aquifers. Most recently, Browne discovered that polymer solutions can generate “elastic turbulence” – a chaotic flow state generated by molecular elasticity – in porous media, and is exploring the implications of these chaotic flows for removal of trapped contaminants.

"His research addresses an open fundamental question that is both fundamentally interesting in fluid dynamics and transport studies and has potential to make an impact in water and energy applications," Datta said. "I expect that he will be a star in his research career."

Currently in his fourth year of the Ph.D. program, Browne has already published four journal articles as a first author or co-first author and has one paper forthcoming in a leading journal. In his third year, he mentored an undergraduate student, Audrey Shih, who went on to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Stanford University. He is continuing to mentor undergraduates in Datta's laboratory this year, and he works with K-12 school children in a variety of community programs that seek to make science more accessible to young learners.

Browne arrived at Princeton in 2017 after receiving his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University. He is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a Mary and Randall Hack '69 Fellowship, and a Gordon Wu Graduate Fellowship. Last year the department gave Browne the Kristine M. Layn Award for outstanding research achievement.