Star Engineering Student
Earning Two Degrees, Scholar Receives NSF Award to Continue Her Studies
May 19, 2011 :: No. 158
Beena Ajmera will miss one of her commencement ceremonies this weekend. While her cap-and-gown-robed classmates are receiving their diplomas, the double major in engineering and mathematics will be flying to Hong Kong to present a paper at the 14th Asian Regional Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering.
“I originally came to Cal State Fullerton because I could continue living at home in Ontario,” said Ajmera. “But I am so glad I came here because I received such a great education. My very first teacher at CSUF was Dr. [Binod] Tiwari, and he has been instrumental in overseeing all areas of my research.”
Her research has earned Ajmera numerous awards, scholarships and opportunities, most recently a prestigious National Science Foundation scholarship providing $30,000 a year for the next three years as she pursues her graduate education in civil engineering.
From the time she was a small child, she wanted to study engineering.
“My father was an engineer, and some of my earliest memories were of accompanying him to job sites. One of my first toys was an electric drill. My mom was upset because she thought I’d hurt myself, so my father took it away and exchanged it … for a battery-powered model. I don’t think that’s what my mother had in mind.”
However, Ajmera loved the drill. “I remember my brother and I went around taking apart all the door knobs in the house,” she laughed. Since she took the knobs apart, her father taught her to put them back together again.
At Cal State Fullerton, faculty members made themselves available to help her make the most of “one of the best geotech labs” in the area, she said.
“I am working on how the strength of a soil changes with the construction of a building or during an earthquake. I also am working on an environmental-friendly ground modification technique using saline water,” she said. “Right from the beginning, Dr. Tiwari encouraged me to use the equipment in the labs. His confidence in me was inspiring.”
Last year, she won a first-place award at the national American Society of Civil Engineers Geo-Institute’s annual GeoFlorida 2010 with her poster presentations on the shear strength of expansive clays, besting both her fellow undergraduates and doctoral students alike.
Later that year, she finished first in the undergraduate engineering and computer science category at the annual California State University Research Competition at San Jose State University.
“I like competitions. I think they’re fun,” Ajmera said. “It seems like the busier I am, the more fun I have.”
And she is plenty busy, taking enough courses each semester to earn two degrees in 3 1/2 years. Yet she also makes time for a variety of other activities. She was co-captain of the Engineering Relay Team, co-captain of the Engineering Surveying Team, Engineering and Computer Science Inter-Club Council representative, captain of the geotechnical teams for both national and regional competitions and treasurer of the CSUF chapter of American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin. She also works as an assistant to Tiwari, her faculty adviser and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Ajmera’s advice to budding engineering students?
“You need to be ready to work,” she said. “You need to be determined and patient and motivated. There may be times when you feel like quitting, but you need to stay with the program. After a while, it will become fun. It’s a great adventure.”
And in a nod to the College of Engineering and Computer Science, when Ajmera was considering graduate schools, she decided to pursue her master’s degree at Cal State Fullerton. She hopes to complete her graduate studies in one year, before entering a doctoral program.
On Saturday, she’ll be among the thousands lining up for the 8 a.m. universitywide commencement ceremony on the athletics field north of Titan Gym, then will join her classmates at the 10 a.m. College of Engineering and Computer Science exercise on the lawn west of the Engineering Building.
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Valerie Orleans, Public Affairs, 657-278-4540 or firstname.lastname@example.org