Sona portrait
Sona Dadhania Voorhees, NJ School of Engineering
Quantitative Studies

When she came to Penn, Sona knew she wanted to be an engineer but was undecided on a major. Penn Engineering’s structure allowed her to talk to students from all different engineering disciplines. That insight, combined with advice from Dr. Peter Davies, professor and former department chair of Materials Science and Engineering, helped her find the right path. For Sona, majoring in materials science and engineering because it is the perfect combination of chemistry, physics, and math.

In her first year, Sona created Let’s Talk Nano! a video explaining nanotechnology through stop-motion illustration. The video won her the 2016 Science Ambassador Scholarship, awarded to distinguished female students studying STEM and funded by Cards Against Humanity. Sona created the video as a simple, friendly way for younger students to connect with and understand nanotechnology. She hopes it will inspire younger students to study science and engineering.


Sona says her dream job is to be a research and development innovator. With a demonstrated and developed interest in cutting-edge research, she is already well on her way. Sona’s research focuses on using gold nanoparticles in polymer thin films, a field that is believed to be very promising as polymers are very versatile and nanoparticles offer many different functionalities depending on their application. For example, gold nanoparticles have been previously researched and incorporated into cancer treatments and other medical applications. In her work, it’s believed that incorporating gold nanoparticles into polymer thin films will significantly improve their optical properties, thus potentially innovating the field of displays and/or spectroscopy. She plans to be part of the big developments that are ahead for advanced research in nanotechnology.

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Through the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program, Sona worked with Russell J. Composto, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education. In the summer of her first year, she worked at the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter in the Composto Lab, primarily researching polymer nanocomposites, or polymer films containing nanoparticles. While there were many unexpected findings over the course of her research, she became intimately familiar with the tools of her trade, such as chemical preparation, nanoparticle synthesis, and materials imaging/characterization methods.

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Sona smiling outside
Creative & Performing Arts

Sona is a member of Penn Raas, a South Asian cultural competitive dance team that specializes in Indian folk dance. Penn Raas is Penn’s only co-ed competitive Garba-Raas dance team and travels all over the country to compete. With a standard practice schedule of six to eight hours a week, Sona found a strong connection with her fellow dancers, who have become close friends. In addition to dancing, Sona loves to sketch and paint.

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