Many roads converge in the Hub City, some beginning as far away as Russia. Julia Shamshina, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Texas Tech University’s Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute, has taken a unique path to Lubbock, Texas.
She began her journey at the D. Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia in Moscow, Russia, receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering. From there, she made her way overseas to the University of Alabama to pursue her doctorate in organic chemistry.
While studying there, she and her team found obtaining funding from industry professionals or investors for her biopolymer research was difficult. Because of this, they decided to take their research from discovery to the commercial scale and began their own startup, 525 Solutions, in 2012.
Her work centered around the use of chitin materials for new products. At her startup, she started an internship program and found her passion for working with students. Students were a priority when she began working with McGill University in 2016, as an academic associate in green chemistry along with her startup. In 2021, she finally made it to Lubbock, Texas, as a faculty member at Texas Tech.
“Because our company was a startup it didn’t survive,” Shamshina said. “It’s pretty common, so I’m not ashamed to talk about it because we tried.”
Shamshina said she is excited to be working in academia full-time to devote more of her time to working with students. Currently, Shamshina mentors one undergraduate student, with plans to add three more international students by August. She has also begun mentoring a high school student who is working to create bioplastics for her senior project.
Shamshina’s current research focuses on the use of cellulose in chitin and other biopolymers, like cotton, in new products. She is creating bioplastics to reduce the 490 million metric tons of synthetic plastics produced in 2020. Reducing plastic consumption is a large undertaking, but Shamshina tries to take her research one step at a time.
“I see research as incremental,” Shamshina said. “You wouldn’t be able to have your cell phone if all of the individual pieces hadn’t been created first.”
Shamshina’s coworkers admire her determination and her desire to better others as well as the environment. Brendan Kelly, Ph.D., an assistant professor of cotton fiber phenomics, said Shamshina is one of the department’s most successful and highly decorated individuals, and she brings a new and unique perspective to the university because of her industry experience.
Dr. Julia Shamshina spent this semester working with a high school student on her senior project, creating bioplastics.