Mechanical Engineering/Statement of purpose-4


                                                  The sharp resounding sounds of the pneumatic pumps seemed to be in tune with my excitement as the new design changes I had made for the Diesel Bleeding process, during my stay as a summer intern in Ford India’s car assembly plant, worked exceptionally well. The new design had cut the process time to one-tenth, drastically reducing the process time to 18s from 180s and also reduced the Diesel consumption involved in the process from 8 liters to 5 liters per car. This exercise of realizing my novel design into a practical, working prototype was one of the most thrilling and satisfying moments of my life.                                                                                      


            Right from school, I have been inclined towards science and analytic thought by my urge to know more things and understand them in greater detail. My ability to assimilate the concepts and new ideas can be seen from my exemplary academic record. A lot of hard work and enthusiasm helped me perform well in the I.I.T-Joint Entrance Examination, where I ranked among the top 1% of the students. Further, an excellent GPA of 9.8/10 amongst my major subjects (Mechanical Engineering), the highest in my class, in a highly charged, motivated and competitive environment during my undergraduate years at IIT Madras, evinces my firm grasp of the fundamental concepts, my motivation, ability and consistency. In order to satisfy this thirst for more knowledge and with a strong will to contribute to science in general and the field of Mechanical Engineering in particular, I am applying to Stanford University for admissions in the Masters Program in Mechanical Engineering for the term starting in fall 2002.


         Life at IIT has been a rewarding experience. I have gained a lot of theoretical as well as application oriented knowledge through the comprehensive curriculum at IIT Madras. A broad range of courses spanning the gamut of Mechanical Engineering have helped me appreciate various fields in Mechanical engineering. Courses like ‘Material Science & Technology’, ‘Fluid Mechanics’, ‘Manufacturing Technology’, ‘Control System’ and ‘Heat Transfer’ were really inspiring. In the course ‘Dynamics of Machines’, along with a couple of classmates, I analyzed a ‘Prosthetic Knee’ based on a six bar mechanism and came up with optimum lengths for each link. In addition, a visit to the industry for doing a process, tolerance and cost analysis of a tapping machine’s Quill as part of the coursework in ‘Manufacturing Planning’ gave me a broader perspective of my courses and their use in industry.          


           The choice of my minor stream ‘Acoustics and Vibration’ and electives like Computational methods in Design and Manufacturing’, ‘Design and Optimization of Energy Systems’, ‘Signal Processing’ show my desire to learn many new things. Apart from academics, I have also had a glimpse of teaching during my stint as teaching assistant for the course “Introduction to Engineering Design” in my junior year, which I enjoyed immensely. With the emergence of computers as a tool in research especially in CAD/CAM, I have also augmented my research abilities by gaining proficiency in several computer languages like C++ and Java. They have helped me to get a good feel for finite element analysis in my CAD course, when I wrote my own C++ programs for analyzing a bridge structure. Finding the natural frequencies, stress and strain gave me a practical insight into the problem. Additionally, using MATLAB, I did a finite element analysis in ‘Acoustics’ to find the mode shapes of a car cabin. New concepts like ‘Muffler analysis’ using the Transfer Matrix technique and Helmholtz Resonator learnt as part of the ‘Acoustics’ course were really interesting.           


             In my first project titled ‘Diesel Bleeding’ at Ford India, I did a lot of experiments and came up with an original technique to pump diesel through the return line of  the car in order to prevent the presence of air in the Bleeding process. As a result (aforementioned), I made the process work better than it did in any other Ford plant. Consequently, FORD is going to recommend this new process to another plant in Brazil. In the second project, I did a tolerance analysis of the various factors involved in the rejection of the ‘Arm Rest’ of the car. At the end of it, my suggestions with relevant reasons convinced the management to modify the Arm rest design and thereby cut down the rejection rates. It was during this period, I discovered that my interests lie not only in the theoretical concepts but also in the experimental aspects. I was thrilled by my newfound abilities to understand and explain many things.           


             My senior year project titled “A Study of Guided Waves in Smart Composite Structures” under the guidance of Prof. Krishnan Balasubramaniam has also been an eye opener. I was exposed to the vast and diverse field of Non Destructive Testing. We plan to have an array of piezoelectric sensors embedded in a composite structure and come up with a method to detect cracks in a passive manner.


            My research interests lie in a lot of varied fields like Design, Manufacturing, Acoustics, Mechatronics and Robotics. I am also interested in exploring emerging areas like Precision engineering, Nano-technology and MEMS. I was introduced to the field of MEMS when I attended a seminar. Following it up by doing some literature survey, I discovered that MEMS is a very interdisciplinary field where all the concepts of micro fluidics, vibrations, material characteristics at micro level, chemical machining, fabrication technology are integrated to develop products like MEMS micro coolers, ultrasonic sensors, micro motors and optical switches. This, I believe, brings forth lot of potential for doing path breaking and top-notch research, the kind of work that I would want to do.


            My undergraduate study in Mechanical engineering has convinced me that I have only touched upon the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I wish to do a Masters program to sharpen the focus of my interests before I decide the field I would eventually do doctoral research in. I intend to explore emerging areas and take part in inter-disciplinary research ventures as well. In future, I hope to strike a balance between my contributions to research, industry and teaching.


             With all my abilities and convictions, I am sure that the graduate program at Stanford University will definitely help me in conducting research and prepare me for a career either in industry or academia. I am deeply interested in the research being carried out in Stanford, which is both diverse and exhaustive. Equipped with various facilities, distinguished faculty and its continued interaction


           With industry, I expect Stanford to provide me a launch pad for the career I aspire for. With my sound mechanical engineering background, analytical skills, undeterred enthusiasm to learn and explore and the capacity to work hard, I strongly believe that I can meet the demands of graduate program at Stanford and also make useful contributions to the research work undertaken there.


Vinukumar Ranganathan

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