Zachary Buras


Graduate Student


I grew up in the small Northern California towns of Redding and Marysville.  In high school, thanks to the inspiration of several excellent teachers, I developed an interest in math and chemistry.  As high school graduation approached I became aware of the field of Chemical Engineering.  With only a vague notion that this field would combine two of my favorite subjects, I decided to pursue a college degree in it at UC Santa Barbara.

My choice of college and major proved to be fortuitous for two reasons: 1.) It’s hard to imagine a location more like paradise than Santa Barbara, especially for a college student and 2.) The Department of Chemical Engineering at UCSB, though small, is full of incredible people and I had the privilege to learn from them.  By my sophomore year I was very happy with my choice (although trying to wrap my head around thermodynamics rocked that confidence slightly) but I wanted to apply what I had so far only learned in the classroom to the real world.  I found the perfect opportunity to do just that when I joined the research group of Professor Mike Gordon.  While part of the group I studied platinum-silver alloy catalysts for the partial hydrogenation of acetylene and in the process learned a great amount not only about catalysis, but also many other wide-ranging scientific fields.  More than anything, by surrounding myself with great minds and the newest science and technology I learned about my own ignorance, a realization that every know-it-all teenager like myself must accept to move into adulthood.  I stayed in Professor Gordon’s lab for the next two and a half years and towards the end of that time I realized that I still wanted to learn so much more, so I decided to go to graduate school in Chemical Engineering at MIT.

My research in Professor Green’s group focuses on experimentally measuring rate constants for radical reactions that are relevant to combustion of alternative fuels.  These values will then be used in combustion simulations, which can be compared to real combustion results in order to increase understanding of this very important chemical process.  In my free time I enjoy running, hiking, reading and going to concerts.