Bronco researchers are making substantial moves that not only expand their own knowledge but innovate student learning experiences. 

Sidharth Lalla taking colony counts of bacteria in professor Rakesh Mogul’s research lab. (Taylor Johnson / The Poly Post)

Professor Rakesh Mogul of the chemistry department conducted research for NASA recently.

Mogul reflected on how he took a chance to work with NASA for a summer fellowship, where there was no guarantee to get hired. 

His leap of faith paid off and he has been working closely with the agency ever since. 

Mogul, who is in his 13th year teaching at the university, researched the microorganisms coming from spacecraft assembly facilities and how they survive. 

“If you have a spacecraft that is somewhat dirty with microorganisms and you sent it to Mars or somewhere else you can contaminate that environment,” Mogul said.

Though it can be hard to fuse his research and lectures together, Mogul tries to teach his students to expand their knowledge beyond the subject in itself and connect to something bigger.

Mogul worked with other Cal Poly Pomona faculty and students to conduct this research, that would later be featured in Forbes. 

Third-year graduate student Sidharth Lalla, worked on the same project for his senior thesis. 

“Every kid always wants to be an astronaut,” Lalla said. 

Projects like these have given Lalla a good sense of what he will be working with outside of his academic career and insight to what kind of research he enjoys more. 

Lalla said he appreciates CPP’s emphasis on research and said he feels such an element provides an upper-hand against other applicants in the future. 

Though adjusting to it all can take some getting used to, Lalla said it is important to find a balance that works for each person.

Assistant Professor Gregory Barding of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department also worked alongside Mogul and Lalla on research for NASA. 

Barding said the project was a fulfilling experience.

Ending his fifth year of teaching at the university, Barding has more than 10 years of experience in research. 

Barding said he tries to tie his research and lectures together, which can add another level of depth for his students.

“With such a wide variety of students here, there is such a strong desire to do,” Barding said. “To help foster that growth in students and to see such a phenomenal growth is very satisfying.” 

All the researchers agreed that working on such projects can open the door for other opportunities, as being involved in research allows them to meet others within the field and work together on projects. 

Overall, Lalla said his research at CPP has provided him a “very valuable experience.”

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