Inventive by nature, engineers by calling: Luca Mazzaferro, EG23

Luca Mazzaferro, EG23, explores the potential of polymers for enhanced water treatment and improved burn dressings.
Luca Mazzaferro, EG23, graduate student in chemical engineering leans against a wall outside the Science and Engineering Complex at Tufts

Luca Mazzaferro, EG23

Luca Mazzaferro is a chemical engineering graduate student working with Ayse Asatekin, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering. Mazzaferro’s research focuses on designing novel membranes that enhance water treatment with many potential applications, including biological separations. His contributions also include conducting research developing new polymers that have shown groundbreaking promise as on-demand dissoluble burn dressings. The lead inventor in two provisional patent applications, he is interested in entrepreneurship. He has worked closely with ZwitterCo, a start-up that has commercialized a technology developed at Tufts.


“Invention is at the core of what polymer scientists do: we synthesize polymers that have never existed before. A polymer is a long chain made up of multiple chemical units called monomers and, depending on what monomers you pick and how you design your final polymer composition, you can tailor your material to have the desired properties for a given application. This level of freedom is what I like about polymer science. There is still a lot to be discovered in the polymer field. At the moment, the inventions we are creating can tackle a range of problems, from health to environmental issues, such as wastewater treatment.

“One thing that helped me a lot here at Tufts was that anytime I had an idea, my advisor would say: ‘Go for it. See what happens.’ When you're still a little bit of an amateur scientist and you don't really know what you're doing, that encouragement is so important. There were a lot of ideas that didn’t work. The first two years, I tried so many things. But from my perspective, that means I was able to learn a lot and at the end, fortune does favor the bold. 

“I grew up in Brazil. If you think of innovation where I come from, you think of the United States. I always wanted to pursue a Ph.D. and I knew that the U.S. had the best researchers and institutions.

“I’m most excited by the discovery part of what I do. But I am particularly thrilled if our invention has potential to be used in the real world, by solving problems and improving quality of life. It must be incredible to see your invention being used and improving people's lives. I think there’s a lot of growth ahead, especially in biotech, green technologies, and manufacturing.

“At Tufts, when I'm in a social environment where everybody's sharing cool ideas and talking about interesting things that they're developing, I always get motivated; I get a burst of energy. If I can't fall asleep at night, it is likely because I'm having more ideas that I want to explore.”