Prof. Bhattacherjee obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Sciences at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, India. For her doctoral dissertation on weak hydrogen-bonding interactions in molecular complexes, she won the Best Thesis Award (2015) in the Department of Chemical Sciences. Her post-doctoral research in Berkeley blazed a new trail in femtosecond, time-resolved dynamics in small organic molecules such as hydrocarbon and heterocyclic rings, against which theoretical methods for core-level spectroscopy can now be tested. She has expertise in photocatalytic reactions in solutions and phase transitions in novel deep eutectic solvents. She has held a Marie Curie Fellowship (2018), was a finalist for Panofsky Fellowship (2020), and shared nominations for USERN Prize (2020) and Falling Walls (2020) in Physical Sciences. Alongside research, her passions are in developing education, research, and mentoring programs for students in inclusive and equitable workspaces.
Excited electronic states in molecules and materials are important because these states have energies comparable to activation barriers associated with most chemical reactions. However, even today, such chemistries remain underutilized because of experimental difficulties in resolving atom- or site-specific excited state dynamics. The challenges are substantial – for one, excited electronic states are often delocalized over multiple atoms making site-specific changes amenable to only theoretical methods; two, the changes proceed on extremely fast time scales that require femtosecond time resolution; and last but not the least, ‘coherent artifacts’ in most ultrafast spectroscopies fuzz out the ‘time-zero’, rendering the critical Franck-Condon region intractable. Research in the Bhattacherjee Lab aims to develop ultrafast core-level spectroscopy to utilize the full potential of excited-state photochemical reactions for applications in energy and catalysis.