For me, to be even writing this essay is a privilege that I never thought of getting while growing up. In a small town in India, my family was close to destitution when my father stopped providing any kind of funds to support his home-maker wife and the four children. Our dinner would be cooked with the money that my mum brought home after a long day of work.
That was a day, and then there is today. I am sitting on a comfortable chair in a country foreign to me with a MacBook – writing in English proficiently under a 24-hour running air-conditioner. What I have received is still a dream for numerous children around the world and this is the gap I want to address in my near future. Our family would have never come out of poverty, if there was no third-party influence. This taught me not to take what I get for granted; therefore, I am on a mission to change the world where DREAMS become a REALITY, whether it is through engineering, research or education. The only profession that enables me to combine all of these is a professorship.
My role model is my mum, who even in such harsh situations chose professions like teaching in schools or riding her second-hand Indian scooter to remote villages over 30 miles from our house to teach about family planning. This attitude of working for the society and giving back to the ones in need is what she has inspired in me. I have been continuously trying to find opportunities where I can help the ones around me. Hence, this year I applied for Davis Project for Peace funding for US$10,000 to support these same villages that my mum used to visit and won the grant. Here, I will lead along with my team of 5 women to support and educate these rural women about menstrual health and menstrual cup with an objective of empowering them. We also plan to reach out to certain schools and companies to promote the wide array of benefits of using a menstrual cup and making it more accessible.
When I was in 11th grade, I made a promise to myself, maybe rather naively – whenever I start earning money I will donate 10% of it. As a freshman, I was fortunate enough to land a job in the United World College Scholars Office. It got harder to save these 10% but I remained dedicated. I even missed my doctor’s appointment many times to remain positive towards the goal. At the end of the year, I saved about US $150. This might not be a huge amount here but when I took it back to India, it was very substantial. For the first time, I could help others through my own earned resources. Also, I collected all the free T-shirts that I received from OU as a freshman – over 30 of them – and took them to India to distribute. From my free will to help, some people have now willingly donated money or T-shirts so I can find the best way to spread it. Throughout this time, I have summed up to about $1500 and over 50 T-shirts.
Since my freshman year, whenever I have visited India, every morning I choose a random destination in my hometown to walk. I would find people ranging from young to aged sleeping on plastic bags at the sides of the roads, and shirtless. Many, if not all of them needed support. I helped some to buy food and some to buy medicines or spectacles. This experience made me realize that service should be done in an organized manner otherwise I would keep discovering more and more people who require an outsider’s (third party) help. This is why I created a page called ‘Money Spent Right’ where I encourage people to save a percentage of their salary and share their stories anonymously, so we can continue to inspire and empower. This whole community is willing to create a global change.
I realized that another method of contributing to the society is by getting involved in research and pursuing a profession in academia. I spoke to Professors Janet K. Allen and Farrokh Mistree and decided to get involved in their Systems Realization Laboratory under the mentorship of their PhD candidate, Anand Balu. I made an initiative to get to know more graduate students to be able to frame myself in that learner’s mindset and prepare myself for graduate school. I also joined the Graduate Student Community (GSC) at AME. My perspective, since I made this change, has expanded in various dimensions. I started off by discovering more about what the future of manufacturing industries will look like. By conducting thorough research in this topic, I produced an essay that I submitted in the NSF/ASME Design Essay Competition. Through this, I won a travel grant to participate in a poster fair at the IDETC 2017 conference to present my findings. Since the spring 2017, I have been heavily involved with research in the design field and materials. Here I have been pushed to learn more about microstructures during hot rod rolling and computer modelling using ANSYS and ABAQUS. In order to formulate a decision support problem, I have also had to learn FORTRAN to run compromise Decision Support Problem. Using all of the above specified skills, we just published our recent paper – “Robust concept exploration of materials, products and associated manufacturing processes.” In this paper, we left out recrystallization modelling and that is our current focus. This should also convert into another conference paper by the end of the this summer. All of my research experiences have convinced me to pursue graduate studies while focusing towards a career in academia. I am really looking forward to these future endeavors.
I have also been a part of the OU Robotics Club since my freshman year. For the last two academic years, I have been the secretary of the club. In this club, we organize internal robotics competitions between the peers. The officers of the club help in leading a group. This has been a perfect opportunity for me to transfer the skills I have in robotics to train others who find building robots exciting and want to learn how to. I have also been fortunate enough to have had professional badminton training during my High School in Singapore and have continued to play in the badminton club at OU and won various tournament medals. Given my skills, I initiated a badminton training session free of cost every Saturday so that I can help people of different levels to become better players. Players including beginners and intermediate, and students, faculty and staff join the training. I am also the president of the OU Badminton Club. To help organize the sooner open 2018, we raised about $2000. In part of this fundraising, I alone helped to raise $1250.
Overall, along with working hard towards my studies, I have been trying my best to lead people to become happier by getting them to involve in service while I do the same thing.