With premier ASCE scholarship, UIC student seeks to ‘break the silo of the discipline’


Sindhusuta, a graduate student in civil, materials, and environmental engineering, was recently named the winner of the 2021 Structural Engineering Institute Scholarship from the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

In addition to her academic performance, experience as a structural engineer with Bechtel Corporation, and work as a teaching assistant at UIC, it’s Sindhusuta’s approach to research that helped her earn the scholarship and makes her a standout student.

“I always felt that as an engineer, we need to do better than we have been doing over the last several decades,” she said. “As a concerned and a responsible engineer, I want to contribute to securing the future of engineering, and one way was to pursue a career in research and working toward solutions to our present-day problems.”

Sindhusuta said she did not want to limit herself to only working on civil engineering problems and was eager to “break the silo of the discipline,” which brought her to the multi-disciplinary field of numerical methods and simulations.

“I was awed by the fact that it can be used to find solutions to very complex problems in many fields including biological, mechanical, electrical, geological, and chemical sciences,” she said.

In the lab at UIC, Sindhusuta is working on a complex problem in multi-scale simulation of deep earthquakes. She is using sophisticated mathematical models to examine the relationship between centimeter-scale experiments carried out under high pressures and temperatures at Argonne National Laboratory.

Associate Professor Craig Foster said he was impressed with Sindhusuta’s progress in such a short time. “Ultimately, her work will help explain the mechanisms of deeper earthquakes that cannot be observed directly,” he said. “Sindhusuta is one of the brightest and most dedicated students I have had the pleasure of teaching at UIC. She is not only insightful, but hardworking and organized.”

Sheng-Wei Chi, an associate professor and Sindhusuta’s PhD advisor, echoed Foster’s reaction. “I was impressed by her academic track record and her professional performance as an engineer in a consulting firm after she earned her B.Tech. in India,” he said. “It is uncommon in my research area, computational mechanics, for a B.Tech. student to enter a direct PhD program. However, she proved her exceptional talent and maturity and shows great potential to be a good researcher and future leader.”

In addition to conducting research, Sindhusuta’s contributions as a teaching assistant opened her eyes to teaching, and the ambitious student has her sights set on joining a university as a professor.

“I will try to make every possible effort to significantly contribute to the research community by working on the major problems in engineering through my research and will be able to share my knowledge to students through my teaching,” she said.

Learn more about the ASCE chapter at UIC at https://sites.google.com/view/asceuic.