Growing up in Sugar Land, Texas, Shomik Verma was immersed in the sights, smells, and sounds of Indian culture. Whether it was watching movies at Bollywood Cinema 6 on the weekends, having meals at his favorite restaurants in Hillcroft, or playing tabla at Indian classical music concerts, he always felt a deep connection to Indian culture. There was a strong emphasis on education, and on many weekends, he could be found at math competitions with fellow Asian Americans.
Shomik started noticing some interesting patterns at the math competitions he attended—oil and gas companies would often sponsor them, and the conversations his petroleum engineer father had with his friends often turned to the geopolitics of energy. Indeed, Shomik lived in the oil and gas capital of the world, with parents who were from the coal capital of India. He was caught between two worlds—the fossil fuel industry that enabled his way of life, and the growing threat of global warming he learned about in school. To help reconcile these worlds, in high school, Shomik decided to do a project with the international company Schlumberger on carbon capture and storage, helping identify suitable sites for carbon dioxide storage. While he was hoping to gain clarity, he instead learned that the stored carbon was often used for enhanced oil recovery, which only muddied the waters.
When Shomik lost his uncle to black lung he decided it was time to devote his life to clean energy. While studying mechanical engineering at Duke University, he helped lead the Duke Electric Vehicles team to two Guinness World Records for fuel efficiency, for both battery electric and fuel cell vehicles. In the UK, as a Marshall Scholar he worked on improving the efficiency of solar cells, completing an MPhil in materials science with Professor Aron Walsh at Imperial College London on designing novel photon conversion materials using computational chemistry and machine learning, and with Professor Rachel Evans at the University of Cambridge on embedding these materials in 3D printed parts that could couple with solar cells.
Now, Shomik is pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering at MIT with Professor Asegun Henry, where he is working on energy storage to make variable renewable energy sources such as solar more reliable, and on a next-generation power plant based on thermophotovoltaic power conversion. After his PhD, Shomik hopes to use his skillset to decarbonize industry and make cheap, clean, and reliable energy available to all.