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May 28, 2008
By Sue Putnam
She's racked up what seems like every student award that exists, is working on her doctorate in mechanical engineering, co-founded green technology company NanoVation, Inc., and is spending the summer writing her dissertation and interning at GE Global Research in Albany, New York.
So what does Rashi Tiwari, the 2008 Graduate Research Scholar, want to do next?
"I want to learn how to play the drums."
Tiwari, 26, grew up in Varanasi, India, the only child of parents who wanted her to go to medical school. But independent thinking seems to run in her family. One grandfather was a freedom fighter and one grandmother opened and ran an elementary school, an uncommon thing for a woman to do in India at the time.
"She was such a strong lady," Tiwari says. "I always admired her strength and dedication, and just the way she had with people."
The award-winner believes her parents pushed her into "positive competition" and told her she could achieve whatever she wanted if she was determined. Her father is an avid reader and she remembers reading a biography of Gandhi with him.
"There were so many lessons I learned from that, and it made me think about not having any limitations," she says. "When I reach a challenge, I ask myself if somebody else can do it, why can't I?"
Tiwari hopes to earn her doctorate by the end of the year and attend Harvard Law School after that. Under the guidance of mechanical engineering chair and professor Kwang Kim, Tiwari's current project deals with electroactive polymers. After receiving her undergraduate degree in instrumentation and control engineering from Pune University in India, she came to the United States.
"I came to Nevada because of the faculty," she says. "And it's not just their qualifications that are impressive. They're good people as well, plus the University has such a diverse population - so many people from so many countries, yet it's a small community that makes you feel like it's home."
When Tiwari is done with school, she's not sure what specific field she'll choose to work in, but she is certain she wants to be able to help other students. And whether she learns to play the drums or not, her advisor has no doubts about her success.
"Rashi is an example of graduate students for whom I am always looking," Kim says. "She is smart, self-motivated, knows what experiments are needed to prove important findings, knows how to treat her colleagues, and has own career objectives. She has the complete package to become a successful engineer."
Sue Putnam is a communications director in University Communications.