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From gears to blood vessels: Indian scholars excel during their summer at Ohio State

For the fifth consecutive year, the Research Internship for Young Academics (RIYA) program provided comprehensive research experiences for undergraduate mechanical engineering students from India. Four high-achieving students joined laboratories in The Ohio State University Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, where they took part in real-world investigations.

photo of four scholars2019 RIYA Scholars“This is a very unique program,” commented program founder and director, Professor Emeritus Raj Singh. “The students start with a passion for research, but without significant experience. We pair them with laboratories of interest where they quickly learn problem-solving skills in an active research environment.”

This year’s research projects focused on the subjects of nonlinear vibration, vehicle seat isolation, planetary gears and blood vessel permeability.

Abishek Verma, who joined the Gear and Power Transmission Laboratory, enjoyed “working in the lab and tackling real-life issues with machines." He said, "It was a first-time experience for me to work on something experimental rather than theoretical.”

The Microsystems for Mechanobiology and Medicine lab was the home base for Shashwat Agarwal. “The RIYA program exposed me to many different experimental techniques,” he said. While investigating blood vessel permeability “I learnt cell culture, design of the experiments and micro fabrication.”

Team effort

Mentorship is a key component of the highly sought after program. Not only are students paired with mentors in their assigned laboratories, they also attend a weekly group session with Singh. Topics include ethics, research process, making presentations and planning for graduate school.

“The RIYA program has offered me an opportunity to improve and apply the fundamental concepts that I have learnt throughout my undergraduate curriculum,” said participant Ajinka Pawar. “It has also given me a chance to understand the importance of academics, research [and] entrepreneurship via group sessions with other RIYA scholars and professor Singh, and allowed me to grow professionally.”

The program’s success wouldn’t be possible without the commitment of faculty and research staff.

“Over the years the number of labs participating in the program has increased," said Singh. "Faculty and researchers have seen the work ethic and analytical capabilities of the top-ranked interns from elite institutions and realize what a benefit they can be to their labs.”

RIYA scholar Harshit Bansal appreciated the support he received in the Acoustics and Dynamics Laboratory. “I liked the overall structure of the RIYA program that perfectly introduce[d] me to the basics of qualitative research [and] provide[d] me with the opportunity to interact with personalities varying from academics to the industrial background,” he said.

Lessons learned

The culmination of the 10-week program is an in-depth, technical conference-style presentation and question-and-answer session given by each student. This not only enhances their soft skills, but also provides opportunity for feedback from faculty and graduate students on their research approaches and findings.

photo of people in a conference roomAhmet Selamet, left, encourages the four 2019 RIYA Scholars, center.Professor Ahmet Selamet, RIYA mentor and previous department chair, recognizes the program’s significance. “This visionary program truly excels in both the meticulous selection and the dedicated mentorship of its scholars,” he said. “The intense learning experience of its participants toward leading-edge research is simply unmatched.”

The entire experience can serve as a catalyst for continued research and discovery. Students often credit the program with influencing their career paths and an overarching objective of the program is preparation for graduate school.

“The RIYA experience is a step forward to pursue my graduate and post graduate studies later,” described Agarwal. “Having been given this wonderful opportunity to work on such a diverse set of skills has made me more confident than what I was previously… At a later stage, I intend to use my research and start my own venture in healthcare.”

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. To read more about the current year participants, visit: https://mae.osu.edu/riya.

by Holly Henley, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering