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Undergraduate scholars from India expand research and leadership skills

This summer, seven top undergraduate students from India joined the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering as part of a two-month selective program aimed at introducing students to research and the academic process in the United States.

2018 RIYA Scholars2018 RIYA Scholars, back row: Ayush Garg, Vivek Boddapati, Savyaraj Deshmukh, Karthik Boddapati; front row: Saksham Jindal, Saeel Pai, Mohd Babar

The Research Internship for Young Academics (RIYA) program is designed to facilitate cutting-edge research experiences for undergraduate mechanical engineering students from high-ranking institutes in India.

“The intent of this unmatched program is to provide world-class internship opportunities to some of the best undergraduate students in India, while exposing them to modern aspects of mechanical engineering and enhancing their critical thinking skills,” said Professor Emeritus Raj Singh, founder and director of the RIYA program.

Students participating during summer 2018 worked individually and closely with mentors in Ohio State’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to investigate an array of contemporary projects.

RIYA group with Prof. Raj Singh and Mentor Luke FredetteThe 2018 RIYA group with Prof. Raj Singh and Mentor Luke Fredette during one of their team discussions.Singh explained the process. “The group's activities are addressed during a Friday mentoring session where topics include ethics, entrepreneurship, how to make presentations, the graduate school admission process and the like,” he said. “All RIYA interns make two presentations – one in mid-June on problem formulation and one in mid-July on project accomplishments. These are arranged in a technical symposium style to expose them to best professional and scientific practices.”

“Partnering with a variety of department laboratories is a boon to students,” said Program Mentor Luke Fredette, post-doctoral researcher. “This year we collaborated with five laboratories to match students’ interests and introduce them to new ideas.”

Research topics this year included work in the subjects of automotive engineering, acoustics and vibration, biomedical engineering, material characterization, computational methods, fluid flow imaging, nonlinear dynamics and dynamic design process.

RIYA Scholar Vivek BoddapatiRIYA Scholar Vivek Boddapati"The best part about the RIYA program was the freedom and flexibility offered to us in choosing our projects,” said program participant and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras student Vivek Boddapati.

Saeel Pai, also from IIT Madras, appreciated the opportunity to learn about a variety of research fields. "The RIYA program exposed me to areas of research way beyond traditional mechanical engineering."

But it’s not just a deeper knowledge of research that the students take away from the summer internship. The program also aims to impart knowledge of career-oriented interpersonal and leadership skills.

RIYA “has improved my decision-making and critical-thinking skills, as well as helped me become a well-rounded individual,” commented Mohd Babar, undergraduate student from IIT Dehli.

RIYA Scholar Saeel PaiRIYA Scholar Saeel PaiBy design, RIYA positions students to have a successful career in an academic or industrial research and development setting. During the internship students give presentations of their projects, learn to formulate research questions, conduct experiments, participate in lab discussions and report achievements and barriers discovered in their work.

Karthik Boddapati’s comments encapsulate the value of RIYA’s comprehensive programming. "The RIYA program acted as the perfect bridge between my undergraduate and graduate studies,” said the IIT Hyderabad student. “It helped me get a broader perspective on how research is conducted in the U.S. and I am now confident about getting into mainstream research after my bachelor’s."

Several of this year’s students plan to continue their research projects after returning to their undergraduate institutions. They will focus on scientific publications in collaboration with their Ohio State mentors, a testament to the program’s success and its legacy.

RIYA is generously funded through the Singh Family Fund and other endowments. To support the RIYA Scholars Award Fund, please visit: https://www.giveto.osu.edu/makeagift/?fund=646627.

See more photos from the 2018 RIYA cohort: https://www.flickr.com/photos/132816870@N02/albums/72157697767030041.

by Holly Henley, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering