by Charles Anzalone
Published July 9, 2020
Esther Jose is a University at Buffalo student success story. She recently presented research on how prescribed fires can clear forests of debris and dead fuel, which can make wildlife fires less intense.
Although data suggests prescribed fires could be an invaluable tool in mitigating the damage, prescribed fires are often banned, due to public perception that prescribed fires could go rogue and turn into wildfire.
“I think in the world we live in, where we are constantly fed information, we could all use some looking into the data on our own to guide decisions,” says Jose. “This is the biggest reason why I love data science. I am able to make the world a better place, with data backing me up.”
Jose studied under Jun Zhuang, professor of industrial and systems engineering, and graduated last May with a bachelor’s of science and an impressive list of awards and presentations.
Before that happened, however, she was a “terrified” 17-year-old freshman from Chennai, India, a city of 8 million people with temperatures usually ranging between 85 and 110 degrees.
Jose says she was raised in a family that was “never sexist, valued education highly, taught me to ask questions and helped me reach my goal of coming to the USA, which is unattainable for most of my peers back home.”
Still, she says, there was no example of a woman engineer at home that she could follow.
At first, she struggled at UB, where she lived in the Governors Complex residence hall. She felt somewhat out of place being in a new country. And she felt lonely in engineering classes where, despite growing numbers of female undergraduate students, men still outnumber women.
“I considered moving back home multiple times,” she says. “I am so glad I didn’t and so grateful for the delightful and supportive people I have been blessed to know and love at UB and in Buffalo.”
“I have made many friendships and been on the receiving end of much kindness,” says Jose, who also credits Jose Walteros, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering, as a mentor.
She also singles out her “adopted” family, who she met her very first week in Buffalo. “When they realized I was barely a 17-year-old who had just travelled over 8,000 miles from home, they kind of took me in,” Jose says. “I lived with them when the dorms were closed, visited them for holidays and even stopped by for dinner when I needed a home-cooked meal. They call me their fourth daughter, and they’ve treated me like one.
“This is why, ultimately, I look back at my four years of education with overwhelming joy, in spite of the many challenges, because so many of the good people of the Buffalo and UB community have stood by me and cared for me through it all,” she says.
Jose says she is grateful to live in a generation that is “rapidly changing and fighting for equality, which gives me hope for the future.”
She enters Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall to pursue a master’s in business analytics.