Abhijit Chatterjee never thought he’d call Alaska home. But his academic interests laid out a path that ultimately led him to Kodiak where he is currently a post doctoral fellow at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center.
Chatterjee grew up in Kolkata, India, where he earned his bachelors in chemistry and then later pursued a bachelors and masters in food technology and biochemical engineering. In 2007 he embarked on a huge adventure, and decided to move well beyond the borders of India to pursue a PhD in civil and environmental engineering at university of Alaska in Fairbanks.
“I shouldn’t say that I wanted to come exactly here because Kolkata (Calcutta) is a pretty tropical place and in summer time temperature goes above +40 Celsius, and in Alaska it’s -40 Celcius.”
But during his master’s thesis, Chatterjee was working on a water treatment project that involved removing metals using a bacterial absorption process called bioabsorbtion. He said he was always interested in pursuing a PhD in the United States and found the program at Fairbanks fit his interests most.
“Here in UAF we have a
similar project where, that’s actually my PhD, that’s instead of using
expensive absorbent we tried to use some inexpensive natural absorbent
to remove the metals from the water, and that project was advertised at
the time. And I thought, well, that’s kind of similar to what I have
done and that’s why I applied to that project. That’s how I got here to
Chatterjee then heard about research being done in Kodiak, and
decided to make the move to Alaska’s biggest island after he earned his
“In fishmeal we use a lot of
different commercial antioxidant, and one particularly is the
ethoxyquin. Now what we’re trying to do here is instead of using that
ethoxyquin, we’re thinking that if we could replace it with a natural
antioxidant. So that’s basically the tag line of our project.”
He said ethoxyquin works well, but it might have some
health consequences. In general, he said his goal is to use more
natural products than artificial ones, which is what he his trying to do
with natural antioxidants for fishmeal here in Kodiak.
Chatterjee said he has enjoyed his time in Kodiak so far, which is a
little less than two months total. He said Kodiak is definitely warmer
than Fairbanks, and he’s happy about that.
“I was not much of an
outdoor (person) when I got here. But being here for so many years, it’s
like Alaska taught me how to love nature and other outdoor (things)
like hiking, camping, fishing, and skiing. I was not familiar with these
words when I was in Kolkata. So that’s one great thing to be close to
nature. I really liked it. And I like the people here.”)
Chatterjee said after the project here in Kodiak he might apply for
another advanced research project, but he also wants to pursue academia
and isn’t sure where that might take him. He said he’d be happy staying
here in Alaska, but also wouldn’t be opposed to working in a different
state, or even a different country.