Meet Rice’s Graduate Ambassador Neethu Pottackal

Pottackal shares her interest, experience, and advice to prospective graduate students

Rice University

Meet Neethu Pottackal. Pottackal is a third- year Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice University. Pottackal is from New Jersey and is a Rice Graduate Ambassador. Ambassadors are students who represent the university and help prospective students gain knowledge of student life as a graduate student at Rice.

Pottackal chose Rice as a graduate school because of her research passion for bringing both food science and materials science together to find innovative food solutions and technologies for the future. Her research focuses on sustainable food coatings to extend shelf-life and reduce food waste, as well as 3D food printing to explore futuristic designs and food properties. She also completed an internship on 3D Food Printing in the Netherlands.

When she is not conducting research, she serves in various leadership roles within the Rice community. She is a part of the Rice Innovation Fellow at Lilie and a National Science Foundation Fellow on campus. She is also a part of the American Chemists' Oil Society (AOCS) SCIG Leadership Team and the New Jersey Governor's STEM Scholar Advisory Council.

Pottackal advises prospective students to make sure they do an adequate amount of research before committing to any school, program, or lab.

“Finding the right fit in terms of your research interests, PI, lab group, and environment is most important,” said Pottackal. “Make sure to do your research on the school and program, as well as talking to and learning from faculty and current graduate students.”

Pottackal advises current students to avoid the trap of comparison in all aspects of their graduate journey.

“There will be days when things seem to be going according to plan and days when it doesn't seem that way at all,” said Pottackal. “All you can do is try to see challenges as a learning opportunity to strengthen your mindset and even re-shift your perspective.”

Pottackal advises both prospective and current students to be open-minded during the graduate school journey.

“Seek to not only just grow academically as a student and researcher but also to learn more about yourself by embracing new opportunities outside of the lab and expanding your network and support system,” said Pottackal.

Outside of academics, Pottackal loves music and trained as a flautist. She played for the New Jersey all-state and regional band.

She enjoys being in a city with so many food places and cuisines to explore, as well as numerous attractions that are in close proximity to her. She enjoys taking walks on Rice’s campus and at Hermann Park. Her favorite museum in the Museum District is the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Graduate ambassadors can be contacted via email at Neethu Pottackal can be contacted directly by email at