An NJIT Grad with Great Potential: Meet Vishagan

Vishagan Ratnaswamy, a recent NJIT graduate who excelled as researcher, will pursue a doctorate in aeronautical engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

Vishagan Ratnaswamy, a recent NJIT graduate who did groundbreaking research in granular science, has won a fellowship to pursue a doctorate in aeronautical engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

Vishagan, who received a master’s (2010) and a bachelor’s degree (2009) in mechanical engineering from NJIT, was also accepted at MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern. But he chose Cal Tech, where he’ll specialize in solid mechanics. 

After his doctorate, he intends to work as a research professor. He hopes to one day design materials for either space exploration (carbon alloys for space rovers), the military (more resistant body armor), or industry (the next generation of carbon fibers).

Vishagan found his calling -- research – while just a freshman at NJIT.  That’s when he started doing research for Anthony Rosato, a professor of mechanical engineering who directs NJIT’s Granular Science Laboratory.

Rosato accepts only top students to work in his lab. And though Vishagan was just a freshman, Rosato, impressed with his drive, energy and intellect and invited Vishagan to work in his lab, where students study the mechanics of flowing granular particles.

Granular science might sound arcane, but it’s nothing of the kind. Rather, products that drive our economy -- drugs, polymers, chemicals and minerals, for instance -- are all granular materials. And the nation’s biggest industries – petrochemical, pharmaceutical and plastics -- use mechanical systems (and mechanical engineers) to move and process granular materials. Vishagan, who understood that granular mechanics would teach him about complex, interacting systems, spent five years doing research in the lab (He did the five-year B.S. /M.S. program in mechanical engineering, completing undergraduate programs in both mechanical engineering and applied math).

Vishagan’s research was in fact so successful that he co-authored three peer-reviewed papers on granular materials, the last of which will appear in an upcoming issue of Physical Review E.  He’ll also present the results of his research at an upcoming Gordon Research Foundation conference in Maine.

“In my 23 years of teaching at NJIT, I’ve had a lot of great students work in my classes and in my lab,” Rosato said.  “But Vishagan is undoubtedly the best overall student I’ve ever supervised.  “He started taking graduate courses with me during his junior year and his work in the lab was outstanding. He’s a real NJIT success story.”

That’s high praise coming from Rosato, whose former students have gone onto do doctorates at top universities such as MIT, Virginia Tech, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Colorado at Boulder.    And all those students, like Vishagan, first honed their research skills in his Granular Science Lab.  It was the experience the students got working in his lab that paved their way to graduate school. 

When he was a senior in high school, Vishagan knew he wanted to do research once in college. He picked NJIT, in large part, because it was a prominent research university, whose professors he hoped would give chance to do research early on in his academic career. 

He was right. Rosato gave him that chance --Vishagan capitalized on it -- and now his future is bright and his potential unlimited. 

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)