Alumni Spotlight: David Tran ENG'14 and Sheel Sanghvi ENG'14

“Students should use their time at Rutgers SoE to create a real value for themselves.” – David Tran 

Sheel Sanghvi and David Tran were among the more than 700 students who graduated from the School of Engineering in May 2014. Armed with their new bachelor of science degrees, they have each chosen to follow a traditional post-graduate path. Sheel is pursuing his Ph.D.  in materials science and engineering at the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University. David has recently begun working as a project control engineer at Bechtel in Knoxville, Tennessee.

You’ve each moved away from New Jersey. How do you like your new cities?

David: Knoxville is a little different from Jersey. It’s pretty awesome. People here are very friendly.

Sheel: Chicago is great! It’s a fun town. The people are friendly here, too – but I still kind of miss the attitude people have back in New Jersey.

You were both Materials Science and Engineering majors. Did you know each other at the School of Engineering?

David: Yes. We were both also in Theta Tau, the professional engineering fraternity.

What led each of you to choose Rutgers School of Engineering?

Sheel: I’m from South Brunswick – Rutgers is just a few minutes away. I wanted to stay close to home and go to a top tier university. When I visited campus, I immediately fell in love with it.

David: I’m from New Jersey. My older brother was at Rutgers, so I knew I’d have family and emotional support here. Since I’d gone to Girard College, a boarding school in Philadelphia, I thought it would be nice to see more of my brother. I was also interested in science and math, so engineering was a natural choice for me.

Were you involved in any research projects at SoE?

David: I was involved in various research projects, beginning freshman year. Much of the research I did involved materials science fabrication and was also fiber optics related.

Sheel: I was a James J. Slade Scholar and I did a thesis that explored the potential for using stainless steel pickling liquid – the waste product from making stainless steel that’s full of nasty stuff – as a precursor for battery electrode materials. Basically, I wanted to show that there is a green way to make battery materials.

Are you continuing this research at Northwestern?

Sheel: I’m not continuing it. I will be starting a new project on superprotonic solid acids for fuel cell applications.

Why did you choose Northwestern?

Sheel: It has a pretty large Ph.D. program. There are around 30 or 40 candidates in my class. I also choose it for its reputation – it was the first Materials Science and Engineering department in the country.

Do you think you were well prepared for their program?

Sheel: I can definitely say that Rutgers prepared me well. I’m not behind in classwork at all, and what I learned at Rutgers is being repeated here. I’m  very well prepared.

When did you start your job at Bechtel?

David: I spent the summer looking for a job and studying for the GRE and the FE exams. I started at Bechtel in September. I’m a Bechtel employee contracted through Consolidated Nuclear Security, or CNS, as a Uranium Process Security staff member and project control engineer.

What does your job entail?

David: I’ve been settling into the job, and learning a lot of new things. It’s interesting! It is more about the business aspect of engineering as opposed to the research aspect. It’s industry-based. I manage and control project costs – basically do project management and accounting. I’m learning about the project management aspect of information systems.

What was your biggest takeaway from your SoE education?

Sheel: Rutgers has given me communications and interpersonal skills that let me put myself out there effectively. I know I’ll be successful here at Northwestern because I have these skills.

David: I have a great network of friends and got a great education. Knowing I have friends doing the same kind of things I’m doing is important to me – one of my Rutgers friends is even working for Bechtel in California.

What do you miss most about Rutgers?

Sheel: I miss the community and the people back at SoE. I miss our football program! You don’t feel the same kind of excitement here. I’m still a Scarlet Knight! One cool thing is the Rutgers Club of Chicago – I can watch football games with other alums. It’s a little slice of Rutgers in Chicago.

David: I miss my friends. I was lucky enough to find a great group of friends at Rutgers. But we keep in touch!

Now that you live in Chicago, Sheel, have you converted to deep-dish pizza?

Sheel: I like it, don’t get me wrong. But I miss a good New York style slice of pizza. And, I miss good bagels.

What about Southern cooking?

David: I like food. The barbecue is good. They do a good job with pork, chicken and beef. Seafood is hard to find and there aren’t as many multi-cultural options as there are in New Jersey.

What do you do for fun these days?

David: People play a lot of golf here, so I’m getting into that. I go bowling for fun and I go to events that Bechtel hosts. The University of Tennessee is close by, so I go down there when I want a little college atmosphere. I watch some Food Channel, Travel Channel and Discovery Channel shows when I want to relax and watch TV.

Sheel: My courses are keeping me busy! But I go to the gym, play sports, network and go to events around Chicago. I’m a vegetarian and I like to cook – things like eggplant parm -- when I have time.

Do you have any advice about life after college for current SoE students who will be following in your footsteps?

Sheel: When you move to a new city or go to a new school, it might be difficult because you don’t know people in the area. Just try to remember the solid skills and foundation that Rutgers gave you. And remember that there are friendly faces around to help you.

David: Try to absorb and learn as many technical skills as you can if you want to go into industry. In my opinion, you should network and just grab as much as you can, while you can. Use your time at Rutgers to create a real value for yourself.

Story by Amy Goodfellow Wagner

Photo: Sheel Sanghvi (left) and David Tran (right) at the School of Engineering's Senior Send Off. Photo credit: Terri Huang