by Charles Anzalone
Published April 15, 2021
Anoop Kiran, an aerospace engineering student who chose the field because it “drives innovation and inspiration” is UB’s latest recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious and competitive research scholarship offered for undergraduate STEM students.
“The Goldwater scholarship committee could not have chosen a more deserving scholar than Anoop,’” says Kemper Lewis, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “He has excelled in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the community.
“Anoop has set an example of excellence and leadership for other students to emulate, and we are all extremely proud of all he has accomplished.”
Elizabeth Colucci, director of UB’s Office of Fellowships and Scholarships, emphasizes how winning the Goldwater can be a stepping stone to even bigger research and scholarly accomplishments.
“The Goldwater scholarship is an excellent way for our students to prepare for graduate school, and larger and more significant fellowships, especially the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP),” Colucci says. “All five of our nominees are well-positioned to apply and be awarded the NSF GRFP.”
Kiran, who will receive $7,500 for tuition from the Goldwater scholarship, currently works under the guidance of Francis Lagor, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and graduate students at the DRiFT lab. They study the unsteady aerodynamics of a wing encountering a traverse gust, which can be a significant problem for small and agile autonomous vehicles such as Micro-Aerial Vehicles (MAVs).
“Engineering seemed like the perfect balance of math and science classes, combined with problem-solving and analytical skills that I’d enjoyed developing through extracurriculars and projects,” says Kiran, a junior from Nanuet who also won a 2020 Leaders in Excellence Scholarship from the UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association.
“Therefore, thinking about joining the sector that drives innovation and inspiration,” he says he decided to go into aerospace engineering.
Kiran was among the 410 students chosen to receive the Goldwater scholarship from among more than 5,000 applicants — college sophomores and juniors pursuing research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.
By his own admission, his path to the Goldwater has been challenging.
“My path to aerospace engineering has been unconventional,” says Kiran, who came to the U.S. from India four years ago.
“Given the limitations due to government regulations like International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), pursuing my aerospace career goal has been riddled with many challenges that I had to overcome being in a completely new environment.”
That led him to make “a conscious decision to be proactive in research, extracurriculars and professional groups at my university.”
“Sometimes it can be difficult to feel like I belong in aerospace or engineering in general,” Kiran says. “Therefore, winning the Goldwater is definitely reassuring. It gives me confidence, knowing there are people within academia and industry who believe in me, and my ability to do research.”
Kiran praised UB’s undergraduate program, saying he was “truly grateful” for his role models and mentors. “They have provided endless inspiration and hope for me to proceed with my goal.”
UB’s five nominees for the Goldwater scholarship met the challenges of meeting the rigorous application requirements, despite the obstacles posed by the pandemic, Colucci says.
“Many of our students were out of the lab for over eight months, and this made research challenging,” she notes. “But our five nominees certainly engaged with their research as much as possible by working on non-lab aspects.
“The Goldwater Foundation added a question [to the application] about the impact of COVID on the students and the university, which allowed us to talk about this impact. I’m very proud of our nominees, who continued to be engaged despite the challenges.”
Kiran says his goal is to pursue a graduate degree in aerospace engineering, and gaining early research experience while an undergraduate has been instrumental.
“I intend to apply the tools and understanding that I have developed through coursework to tackle even more difficult problems, eventually working at a national aerospace laboratory in the future,” he says.