ajmeraCaption: Beena Ajmera graduated in May as one of CSUF's top engineering students. 

Engineering Success

Scholar Earns 2 Degrees, Receives NSF Award to Continue Studies

BEENA AJMERA missed one of her commencement ceremonies. While her cap-and-gown-robed classmates received their diplomas May 22, the double major in engineering and mathematics was 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,” Ajmera said. “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,” she said. “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 am also 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 meeting 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 her degree with two majors 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 worked as an assistant to Tawari, her faculty adviser.

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 it in a year before entering a doctoral program.

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