Samantha Bunke is a Ph.D. student in the chemical engineering department at Stanford University and a member of the Tarpeh Lab. Her lab reimagines waste streams as resources for valuable components in order to create material-specific circular economies and to reduce the environmental impacts of chemical manufacturing. Samantha’s research focuses on designing electrochemical-assisted recycling of PET plastic for selective monomer recovery. Samantha is also conducting a life cycle analysis of a lithium-ion battery recycling company, Redwood Materials, to compare against conventional refinement of battery materials from raw sources, such as mined ore.
Outside of research, Samantha enjoys getting involved with her community at Stanford. She served as a member of the Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory Council (DGSAC) within the Engineering School, as well as the chair of the Student Trust Task Force under the chemical engineering department’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee. In addition, Samantha is currently working with Stanford Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) as a sustainability intern, where she is helping guide the vision for a new zero waste innovation center on campus. The role of this facility will be to process organic matter for compost, conduct waste characterization studies and provide onsite opportunities for upcycling waste. The facility will not only help Stanford reach its goal for 90% divergence from landfills by 2030, but it will also serve as an education center to provide opportunities for students to pilot resource recovery technologies and to transform the public’s perception of waste.
Prior to attending Stanford, Samantha earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. As an undergraduate, Samantha helped design algae-derived bioplastics for overcoming the wide-scale problem of plastic waste accumulation in landfills and nature. She is applying her background in plastics to her research collaboration with the DeSimone and Waymouth labs at Stanford, which aims to develop a circular plastic economy using polymer design, additive manufacturing and electrochemical recycling.