Zachary Ahmad


I am gay and I am a materials scientist and polymer engineer.//


I am a first-generation PhD student in Materials Science at Caltech, funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. At Caltech, I aim to contribute to the development of wearable sensors and soft robotics for biomimetic and health monitoring applications.

Growing up as a gay kid in rural Mississippi, a career in science was something that I never thought was possible for me. After several family hardships delayed college, I challenged myself to enroll at the age of 24 and work to succeed in the ever-evolving world of STEM. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Polymer Science and Engineering and a minor in Chemistry from The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in May of 2022. At USM, I performed research in the lab of Dr. Xiaodan Gu where I studied conjugated polymer blends for electronic applications and specialized in X-ray diffraction techniques. My research there resulted in 1st place awards in two regional conferences, 6 published research articles, and the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

After earning a Ph.D. in Materials Science, I plan to pursue a career in academia as a research professor and principal investigator in the field of skin-inspired devices. It is my goal to operate my own lab while also using the tools gained from my years as a Ronald McNair Scholar to welcome and mentor young minority researchers as an openly gay man.