Trojan Family Stories
Pranav Shashidhar Karthikeyan
Drawn towards University of Southern California’s (USC) highly regarded engineering program and research opportunities, Alejandro Rascovan decided to continue his studies as a graduate student at Viterbi School of Engineering after earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Rascovan was awarded the prestigious Fulbright scholarship to pursue a Masters degree in Computer Engineering (2014-2016).
“I did some research and found that Viterbi is a prestigious school for engineering which offered good financial aid,” noted Rascovan. Choosing USC also meant choosing Los Angeles, a city which -- Rascovan felt – offered promising job opportunities and a chance to explore his range of interests. “It is one of the most diverse universities and I feel I went to class with the ‘world’ where I could experience different cultures.” Rascovan enjoys music and his hobbies, while at USC, included playing and learning different kind of musical instruments. During his free time, he also played soccer on USC’s Cromwell field.
Rascovan also had the opportunity to take part in events and projects organized by other disciplines. For instance, he took part in the USC Science Film competition which is an annual festival that brings together students from USC’s science-based programs and film or journalism programs. “I was one of the writers and helped with production. We got to experiment with science as we were trying to explain a difficult concept through filmmaking,” he explains, adding that conducting auditions for the project was an interesting experience for him.
For Rascovan, USC was not only about enhancing his software skills, but also about meeting like-minded people to collaborate on business ideas. He co-founded PeopleSpread –a marketplace to connect social media influencers with advertisers – with Martina Montana who did her Master of Science in Entrepreneurship at USC Marshall School of business. “PeopleSpread has a powerful search engine that lets marketers and brands find the influencers that best resonate with their target audiences and helps them connect,” he explains. The startup participated in several accelerator programs such as Google Sponsored Manos Accelerator program and the Start-Up Chile's S Factory program. It also participated in the USC Greif Center New Venture Seed Competition in 2016 and received a lot of mentorship during the program.
Currently working as a software engineer at Mulesoft in California, Rascovan recalls that his exposure to diverse cultures and networking opportunities at USC played a significant role in his professional growth.Alejandro is: Easy-going, Humorous, Entertaining, Adventurous, Thoughtful
For Amarnath Seshadri, University of Southern California (USC) was at the top of his list for Masters studies, given its superior research and innovation record in the field of engineering. After receiving an undergraduate degree in engineering from India, Seshadri worked at multinational information technology (IT) firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). During his three-year stint at TCS, he felt the need to broaden his knowledge and decided to pursue a Masters degree in Computer Science from USC’s Viterbi school of Engineering (2014 -2016).
Since an early age, computers have piqued his interest. Underlying his curiosity to know more about computers is a desire to examine the impact of computers on our daily life and solving problems. “Especially, to see how they can replicate almost all of the real-life entities within such a small chip. At the end of the day, what matters is that we understand not only how they work but also how they can be used to improve our life,” he says. Seshadri was more inclined towards acquiring programming knowledge and experimented with them, while at USC. “While most students would listen to music when they are bored of coding, I would write small programming codes to get rid of my boredom,” he animatedly explains.
During the second year of his program, Seshadri was a part of Viterbi Graduate Mentorship program where he guided and coached new graduate students to adjust to the life at USC and the city of Los Angeles. “Being an international student, it was a good opportunity to share my own experiences of adjusting to the life here, while mentoring the new students,” he says. Along with the opportunity to satiate his curiosity about computers, Seshadri says USC gave a chance to engage in a wide range of outdoor activities and explore the diverse culture of Los Angeles. Having keen interest in sports, especially cricket, he got involved with the USC’s Trojan cricket club and played a few matches. “I was a bowler in Cromwell champs team and played a tournament in spring 2016 where we finished as runners up.”
While Seshadri appreciates the diverse culture and population at USC, for him, the highly concentrated Indian student population was a huge plus. “Because of this, I didn’t feel that I was far away from my home in India,” he says, adding that he also participated in events and festival celebrations organized by the university’s Hindu Students Organization (HSO) and Association of Indian Students (AIS).
For his summer internship in May 2015, Seshadri got an opportunity to intern at data-warehousing and business intelligence firm Teradata’s office in San Diego. The three-month internship widened his network and gave him a chance to apply the skills he learned at USC in the professional world. After completing his master’s degree, he joined as a senior research software developer for City of Hope, a renowned research and treatment centre for cancer and diabetes in Los Angeles. “The experience of working with people from diverse culturesat USC, opens your mind and has changed the way I look at problems, making me realize that one problem can be looked at through different angles.”Amarnath is: Curious, Adventure-seeking, Logical, Creative, Straighforward
For many students, graduate school is a phase that defines their career choice. Ankit Singhaniya, however, describes his experience as “achieving the childhood dream job”. Growing up, Singhaniya was fascinated by computers and his dream – since then – was to work for California-based tech giant Google. “It was a dream to join Google but I never imagined myself to be capable. I never knew how I could reach this dream,” he says, looking back at his childhood.
Cut to the present day, Singhaniya is a software professional working for Google Search. Singhaniya credits the resources at USC and his own hard work for achieving his dream job. “It (USC) gave me the opportunity to build myself and my dream career.”
After completing his undergraduate studies at National Institute of Technology(NIT) in Nagpur, India, Singhaniya worked for a year at American software major Oracle’s Bangalore office. Through chance meetings with his friends at Oracle, who had applied for graduate studies at University of Southern California (USC), he discovered USC and its prestigious engineering school – Viterbi. “I knew about western culture but I was a bit worried about taking a big step of moving away for so long. But when I attended the meet ups organized by the fellow USC students, it was relieving to know more about the college and the different perspectives,” he says.
Singhaniya describes his first month at USC as an “eyeopener”. While pursuing his Master’s degree in Computer Science (2014-2016), he realized the scope and diversity of opportunities that USC offered him. “Before coming to USC, I was wondering about what to do and when Icame here, there was so much to do – so many different things to learn, an array of subjects to choose from and a diverse community of people to meet.”
During his graduate studies, Singhaniya got the opportunity to intern for Google in the summer of 2015. “The idea was to get an experience in the global technology industry,” he says adding that the experience landed him a full-time job with the tech giant. The career services at USC and Viterbi, Singhaniya says, were also integral to his achieving the dream job. “They helped me with general application guidance and even reviewed my resume several times. The ease with which I could walk into their offices and get consultation, was something I could not get back in India,” he recalls. While at USC, he also participated in the festival celebrations and events hosted by the university’s Association of Indian Students (AIS).
When asked what he missed the most about USC, Singhaniya’s immediate response is “the campus”. “You could sit there all day long and work, ideate, have entrepreneurial talks with the people around – all this adds different dimensions to your life,” he recounts and paints a mental picture of the two years that changed his life.Ankit is: Jolly, Optimistic, Independent, Hardworking, and Kind
Jeffrey West first visited University of Southern California (USC) in 2011 as part of a research project he undertook during his undergrad. During his visit, he connected with USC professors and learnt more about the university and the research opportunities it provided. “I wanted to go to a prestigious school which invested a lot on research projects and USC, I knew, has a track record of funding and doing big research projects,” says West explaining his decision to pursue graduate studies at USC. A year later, he was a part of the USC’s Trojan family, studying Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Viterbi School of Engineering.
Born and raised in Ohio, West did his undergraduate at Ohio Northern University where he majored in Mechanical engineering. In 2012, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue higher studies and spent the next five years at USC. After getting a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (2012-2014), West then pursued a doctoral program in Mechanical Engineering (2014-2017) and earned his Ph.D. Apart from its reputation as a leading research university, West was drawn towards the emphasis placed by USC on its student population and resources for them. “The university invested heavily on student population. During my tenure at USC, they built several new academic buildings and even opened the USC Village which is beneficial for the students,” he says. For West, it was not just USC but its location too was a big draw. “Los Angeles is a big city with huge prospects. With USC having one of the highest international student population, it was easy to meet people from all the over world and learn about different cultures.”
During his five years at USC, West also took on teaching and research assistantships along with his studies. In Spring 2016, he was a part of Viterbi Graduate Mentorship program where he guided and coached new graduate students to adjust to the life at USC and the city of Los Angeles. He also regularly participated in USC Grace on Campus, a weekly Bible study on campus.
West, who is currently working at the research and development wing of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, reminisces the last five years and feels he made the right decision of choosing USC. “Looking back, I feel all my goals were achieved -- getting the degree, getting the job and I am where I wanted to be.” The one bond that West still shares with USC is being a part of the ‘Trojan’ family. “Wherever you go, it’s a bond that keeps all the students connected,” he proudly says.Jeffrey’s Favorite...
In choosing to pursue his PhD at University of Southern California’s (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering, Jonathan Sauder feels he got the opportunity to don several hats. From being a senator for the department’s graduate student association to trying his hand at sailing, fencing and mixed martial arts (MMA), Sauder got the best of several worlds.
“As a graduate student, I could get involved in additional classes and activities beyond the typical engineering course work,” he says. In deciding to pursue his PhD, Sauder was drawn to USC for its attractive fellowship program and that the university was set in the dynamic city of Los Angeles. For him, USC was the best chance to work with a faculty advisor in a topic he was interested in and gain access to networking opportunities that could shape his future.
During his four years of study at USC (2009-2013), Sauder utilized the university’s resources and facilities in the best possible way. “The main thing is what is available beyond the classes – clubs or organizations – really give you a much broader experience in your time at USC,” he says. For instance, he explains how the USC career service played an integral role in polishing his resume and making him ready for the professional world. He even took a special effects class at the university’s film school (Cinematic Arts) to understand the mechanics of special effects and camera tricks.
Sauder, who is currently working as a Mechatronics Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Los Angeles, says USC influenced his approach towards engineering problems and solving them. This helped him crack interviews and landed him summer internship opportunities at Mattel and Microsoft and got him job offers from Intel, Mattel, JPL and Apple post his PhD.
True to his idea of maximizing the experience at USC, Sauder did much more than just engineering. Six years have passed and he can vividly describe every detail of his 2011 sailing trip to Catalina that he took as a part of the additional class he enrolled at USC’s Nautical Science program. Sauder, along with six other students from the university’s graduate and undergraduate school, took the sailing trip where they learned navigation and sighting locations using just a compass. “Imagine having no GPS and finding locations on a physical map using just a compass,” says Sauder as he animatedly explains the trip. “I had the chance to meet students from across different departments of USC – something I wouldn’t have done in my day to day classes.”
Living in the heart of Los Angeles, Sauder even got a chance to volunteer as a member of the Mt Baldy ski patrol where he was trained in wilderness medicine to help injured skiers. “Not many universities have nice weather in the immediate vicinity where you can also be at a ski slope within an hour. The fun thing about USC was I could switch seasons so quickly – I would be in shorts and t-shirts in the morning and within few hours would head up for volunteer work and get bundled up, head to toe, in a thick jacket and snow pants,” he explains while reminiscing his volunteer experience.
Sauder still maintains his ties with the USC and now teaches a subject in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the university’s Viterbi School of Engineering.Jonathan is: Innovative, Hands-on, Resourceful, Enthusiastic, MacGyver
Pranav Shashidhar Karthikeyan has long been fascinated with the healthcare sector and knew he wanted to pursue a graduate degree in Biomedical engineering. He considered some of the prestigious universities in the US, including the University of Southern California (USC). Since his elder brother had done a PhD in Electrical engineering from USC, he had a slight inclination towards USC and hoped his application would get accepted. The admission gods were smiling on him and he was admitted to the Masters in Medical Device and Diagnostic Engineering program at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering in fall 2015.
“Since my brother studied here, he provided guidance on the different masters’ programs that USC offered and suggested the better fit for the career pathway that I chose,” he says. Pranav completed a Bachelors degree in Electronics and Instrumentation from SASTRA University in Tamil Nadu, India. For him, USC was not the first experience of studying in a foreign country. During the final year of undergrad, he undertook a semester abroad program at University of Tennessee, Knoxville where he completed his final year project as a research internship.
The first few months at USC did not turn out the way he wanted as he was down with jaundice for most part of the first semester. But as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining. “The good thing about this experience was that I learnt how to manage everything by myself; to an extent that nothing seemed difficult for me later,” he says. “Moreover, the professors were very cooperative and understanding. They were considerate to give deadline extensions for assignments and even asked me to submit assignments online,” remembers Pranav, who is now working as Software Quality Assurance Engineer 2 at Smith and Nephew, a medical device company in Austin, TX.
Pranav has been closely involved with the Indian community at USC and actively participates in the activities, discussions and events organized by the Hindu Student Organization (HSO) on campus. “HSO is a very open organization and interacting with people from different faiths at USC is nice,” he says adding that he served as the president of the organization during Fall 2016. “Serving as the president of HSO, I got a lot of experience in organization skills here, different from the ones I gained back home. I also made some great friends for life because of HSO.”
For Pranav, life at USC was much more than studies. He got involved in several extra-curricular clubs and kept himself busy. For instance, he pursued his passion for table tennis by joining ‘Ping Pong Posse’, USC's famous collegiate table tennis club. He also got enrolled in USC’s Trojan Cricket Club and participated in USC’s cricket tournament, Cromwell Premier League. “During fall 2016 and spring 2017, our team was the runner up,”he proudly remembers. During the second year of his program, Pranav was a part of Viterbi Graduate Mentorship program where he guided and coached new graduate students. “The main role of a mentor is to ease and facilitate their (new students) transfer from homeland to here, guide them on course work and introduce them to different clubs and advise them about involvement fairs,” he explains.
While Pranav graduated in May 2017, his ties with USC are still strong and you could spot him actively supporting the activities and events organized by the HSO.Pranav’s Favorite...
After spending five years as a mechanical engineer at an aerospace component manufacturing firm, Sean Dempsey realised it was not his true calling. He moved to Mexico and joined The Anglo Mexican Foundation as an English teacher. “I knew I didn’t really enjoy what I did as a mechanical engineer and wasn’t passionate about it. So, I went to Mexico. I liked living abroad and teaching,” says Dempsey. But that wasn’t his true calling either. After a year in Mexico, Dempsey moved to the US and pursued a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering (Water and Wastewater Management) at the University of Southern California (USC).
During his search for his true interest, Dempsey also spent time as a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders USA. “That’s when I developed an interest in water and wastewater management,” he recalls. Dempsey completed his Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After receiving acceptance letters from University of Colorado and USC, Dempsey chose USC for his graduate studies. “USC admissions team was aggressive in the recruitment process and their advisors were very responsive and helpful. They even flew me down to Los Angeles to check out the college and its resources,” says Dempsey. And that’s not the only reason. Having done his undergrad in a “small college town”, as Dempsey puts it, he wanted to do his Masters in Los Angeles which is known for its job prospects, great weather and interesting places to discover.
For Dempsey, graduate studies was a completely different experience and it revealed a different side of his personality. “I was a shy student in undergrad. But I had much better interactions while at USC and got along very well. I enjoyed smaller class sizes and great professors who knew me by my name and gave me constant support,” he remembers. During his first semester at USC, he joined the Salsa club where he learnt the fundamentals of the Latin dance style. In his free time, he also practiced Jiu-jitsu -- Brazilian martial art -- at one of the renowned gyms in Los Angeles.
During his first year at USC, Dempsey worked at the USC Foundation for Cross-Connection Control and Hydraulic Research. “They field-tested backflow preventers. I would put together pipe assemblies of various diameters and test different companies’ backflow preventer prototypes to check that they are in accordance with the standards set by USC.”Later, he also worked with the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering’s Environmental Engineering division. He also completed a fellowship with DIGDEEP, a human rights non-profit which works to deliver clean running water to Americans.
After successfully finishing his graduate studies, Dempsey signed up to take on logistical and water and sanitation projects for Doctors Without Borders USA. Looking back at his decision to switch his line of interest, from mechanical engineering to civil engineering, Dempsey believes he took the right decision at the right time which helped him land internship opportunities and connect with people from different walks of life.Sean is: Disciplined, Pragmatic, Genuine, Goody, Resourceful