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What is your educational background?
I did my high school in the western part of India, Vadodara, Gujarat, where I am from originally, and then completed my bachelor’s in technology in electronics and communications engineering from SRM University in Chennai, India.
What made you decide to pursue an offbeat and unconventional career such as Energy Systems?
I have always been a curious kid. Science has always fascinated me. I was always interested in technology, and energy and sustainability as a topic felt like the right thing. I feel that the world needs better energy management and there are many parts of the world that do not have access to proper electricity and advanced cooking techniques. Since I have a background in electronics, this field relates with me as well as provides me access to many different courses that help me understand this part of the world. The freedom of choice in the MEng Energy Systems (degree) has helped me explore subjects from the Physics Department, Material Science and Engineering Department, Technology Entrepreneurship, Landscape Architecture and many other fields.
Did you consider other institutions for the program, and why did you choose Illinois?
I did consider a couple of other top institutions but I had an unwavering hope of studying in one of the top schools of this country. Also, John Bardeen, who is the cofounder of the transistor and was a UIUC faculty member and two-time Nobel prize winner, was always an inspiration in my undergraduate years. I knew that this institution will expect the best from me and bring the best out of me. UIUC (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign) has always been my destination. Despite my background in ECE and my grad courses in Energy System, this college gave me wings to pursue my other passions in science which included me being part the PV/Electrical lead at the Solar Decathlon Team and for a brief time work as a Verilog assistant for the UIUC CERN- Large Hadron Collider team. So, the college has helped me pursue my passion in energy systems while allowing me to explore my interests in physics, research and technology in general.
Have you considered what project you want to do as part of the degree program?
I opted for the curriculum option for the project but coincidentally the class that I took ended up being the reason for my project and current research. (website: https://www.sunbuckets.com/ )
I am currently researching with Sun Buckets, which was founded by UIUC Prof. Bruce Litchfield and other UIUC alums. I work with Professor Litchfield for my independent study on Sun Buckets, which is a chargeable solar stove that utilizes thermal storage and can be used even after the sun has set. As part of their engineering team, I conduct embodied energy analysis, materials analysis, manufacturing, prototype designing and solar tracking. Sun Buckets prototypes operate in parts of the U.S., Haiti and India, as well.
Having said that, I am also working with SEDAC – Smart Energy Design Assistance Center, which conducts energy audits and analysis and provides energy saving recommendations to different public institutions as part of UIUC and the 360 Energy Group Collaboration (website: https://smartenergy.illinois.edu/ ). The institution’s executive director is Prof. Brian Deal, whose class I took as part of my curriculum.
What do you hope to do with the degree once you earn it?
This question is a tricky one to answer. At this point I am very comfortable with many options open in the energy community, and I have options ranging from SEDAC and other company interviews. I am also considering spending some time continuing my research with Sun Buckets as they try to solve the energy problem in regions that face difficulties in cooking efficiently either because of unavailability of resources or just primitive technology.
Another option is continuing the path of academia and understanding the reasons and crisis that the world is facing. I am very open to new experiences and exploring different avenues in the field of energy, technology and science.