Top Stories

Our final profile features Asish Ninan Chacko, who is entering the Ph.D. program in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Learn what it was like to grow up in a village in India located below sea level, what Asish hopes to learn about chemical synthesis, and why he loves Taylor Swift!

By Chava Nerenberg, Graduate Programming Assistant
Wednesday, September 30th, 2020 - 9:00am

This is our final profile for the 2020 Incoming Grad Series, which featured backstories and fun facts about 8 students who are part of the entering class at UCSB.

Asish Ninan Chacko is entering the Ph.D. program in Chemistry and Biochemistry, where he will focus on green and sustainable chemistry. He comes to UCSB from India, where he completed a five-year BS-MS dual degree in Chemical Sciences from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata. Read on to learn more about his background, why he chose UCSB, and some surprising fun facts--including why people from his home village are sometimes called amphibians!


Asish was born and brought up in Kuttanad, a traditional village in the state of Kerala, India. The village is located 2.7 meters below sea level and its economy is dominated by paddy cultivation. Asish told us that hundreds of years ago, his ancestors cleared a vast flooded and forested delta, took the mud from the river to build raised areas, pumped out the water (all without the use of electric pumps!), and cultivated paddies. They settled in these artificially raised areas while continuing to protect their paddy fields from the river.

To this day, people in the village still cultivate paddies, and Asish grew up watching his fellow villagers fight against the raging river to protect their crops, homes, and livelihoods. This instilled in him a permanent sense of hope and a fighting spirit.

He says his village is a culturally rich and naturally beautiful place. To pursue his dream career, he moved away when he was 18, and for the past five years, he has lived in Kolkata while pursuing a BS and MS in Chemistry. Asish will be attending classes online for Fall 2020, but hopes to be on campus at UCSB by Winter 2021.


Asish was attracted to the rich and diverse research taking place in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSB. He told us that some of the pioneers in the field of green and sustainable chemistry (which is his primary research interest) are at UCSB.

He admits the excellent weather in Santa Barbara was also a major factor in deciding his home for the next five years, as he doesn't like harsh climates. He says the weather in California is very close to that in his home village, and that this was a huge relief to him. He is excited to come to Santa Barbara in the near future and to explore UCSB's beautiful campus.


Asish told us that like many scientists, he just wants to make this world a tad bit better through his research! He aims to make the chemical synthesis process efficient and sustainable and wants to explore the possibilities of using enzymes for performing chemical reactions in water. He notes that chemical synthesis occurs everywhere in nature and that he thinks we can learn a thing or two by observing these natural reactions.


Asish especially enjoys fishing and swimming, which he has been doing since early childhood. He told us that at times 90% of his village is underwater and that others in India joke that residents of his village are really amphibians because they are so comfortable in the water.

Asish loves to cook, especially non-vegetarian food, and sometimes collects mussels from the river bed, which he says are incredibly tasty.

In his teenage years he loved supercars and still has a vast collection of photos of different cars. During quarantine, he is trying to learn how to play the guitar.

He is also a huge Taylor Swift fan. He says he really enjoys her songs and also loves the fact that she has turned into an inspiration for millions around the globe.

Welcome, Asish!

Thanks for tuning in to the 2020 Incoming Grad Series! Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost for more series, announcements and events, and career and funding opportunities--all targeted to graduate students.