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Please tell us about yourself

Growing up, Gayatri Adi loved watching her father fix things around their home in Pune, India.

“I used to repair little things and Gayatri would watch me,” Hemant Adi remembers. “She always wanted to know how things worked.”

Little did father and daughter know those moments would lead Gayatri on a journey thousands of miles from home to the middle of the United States.

What did you study?

Gayatri Adi is the first graduate from the Cummins College of Engineering for Women (CCEW) in Pune (Instrumentation and control engineering) to get her PhD at Purdue University in West Lafayette (Mechanical Engineering), Ind. through a partnership established by Cummins, Purdue and CCEW.

After she finishes her work at Purdue this spring, Gayatri will start work in June for Cummins’ Advanced Engine Controls Team in Columbus, Ind. She will be following in her father’s footsteps, working for the same company where he has been a mechanical engineer for more than 30 years.

How did you end up in an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career around vehicle engines?

“It is a little surprising that I’m going to be working in the same company as dad because when I was an undergraduate, I was studying instrumentation and control engineering so my focus wasn’t really on engines,” Gayatri says.

“But after coming to Purdue I found out that control theory can be used for very interesting applications related to engines and that’s how I ended up working in the same field as my dad.”

Hemant Adi says he was not surprised his daughter became an engineer. Her older sister, Ketaki, got her undergraduate degree in electronics and telecommunications engineering in India and has a master’s in computer science from the University of Texas – Dallas.

“I was sure she would not just follow my footsteps into engineering,” he said of Gayatri, “but would surpass me.”

Tell us about your work at Purdue?

It doesn’t take long to see that Gayatri Adi is at home around the six-cylinder diesel engine she works on in Associate Professor Greg Shaver’s laboratory at Purdue. For much of the past five years, she has spent between eight and 10 hours a day in the lab, five or more days a week.

Shaver and his team of 13 graduate students (including Gayatri) are studying ways to modify diesel engine control systems with technology that would significantly reduce fuel consumption and emissions, and increase engine efficiency.

Gayatri’s research for her doctorate focused on the use of electronic controls to enable an engine to detect the percentage of biofuel being used and how the engine can most efficiently work with it. Such controls could be critical with the use of fuels made from renewable sources like corn, soybeans, sugar cane, algae and even waste cooking oil.

What would you like to say about your CCEW/Purdue experience?

While Gayatri doesn’t see herself as a trailblazer, her success is a significant milestone for Cummins College of Engineering for Women. Established in 1991 with a grant from the Cummins India Foundation, the college has given more than 4,000 women in India the opportunity to pursue careers in the male-dominated world of engineering.

Gayatri said she believes there are many more opportunities for women who want to study engineering today than when CCEW opened 20 years ago. She chose the college simply because she wanted to go to a good school close to home.

Since 2003, Cummins, CCEW and Purdue have been working together to provide CCEW graduates the opportunity to apply to continue their studies in West Lafayette. Twenty-five college graduates have gone on to become Cummins Fellows at Purdue, receiving financial support through the Cummins India Foundation for one year until they join a professor’s research team to pursue their master’s degrees.

Gayatri said the fellowship funded by the Cummins India Foundation was critical because unlike many graduate students she didn’t have to worry about funding for her first year at Purdue. (Watch a short video of Gayatri talking about her time at Purdue) She had the luxury to look for a project that aligned with her interests, ultimately joining Shaver’s team.

Meanwhile, members of the partnership between CCEW and Purdue say they continue to be pleased with the way the initiative is working.

“It is an honor to see the program that (Cummins Vice President and Chief Technical Officer) John Wall and I started continue to thrive including graduating Dr. Adi this year,” said Jay P. Gore, founding and former director of the Energy Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park and the Reilly University Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

“Gayatri has worked hard,” he added, “and always with a smile.”