Nila Bhakuni

Nila Bhakuni

Nila Bhakuni (MS E)
Director, Office of Technology Transfer
Rice University

“I was interested in continuing my education only if I could get an internship so that I could get real industry experience.  I loved GEM’s industrial partners listed, and I thought it would be the perfect combination of education, research, and industry.”

Complete profile:
Dupont and Goodyear both wanted Nila Bhakuni to work for them as soon as she completed her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Akron.  Sensibly, Bhakuni added a third option: GEM.  “I was interested in continuing my education only if I could get an internship so that I could get real industry experience.”  Wanting practical experience, especially in R&D and process engineering, her father pointed her in the right direction.

“I applied for the GEM fellowship at my father’s suggestion as soon as he found out that I had an interest in graduate school.  I wanted to continue my education, but I was really interested in doing research in a thesis project.  I loved GEM’s industrial partners listed, and I thought it
would be the perfect combination of education, research, and industry if I were lucky enough to receive this fellowship.”

For the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society president luck had nothing to do with being a GEM fellow.  Preparation and performance did.  Alcoa was “incredibly accommodating” enabling Bhakuni to conduct research for her thesis while interning to graduate within four quarters.  She also had her pick of research projects.  “I chose structural optimization of beverage can bottoms.  It was fun and cool to design beer cans as a graduate student,” she said.  The Ohio State University supplemented the GEM stipend eliminating concerns that could detract from studies.

Even more important, her tenure as a GEM fellow led to a rewarding professional relationship. “I got a job offer from Alcoa after I graduated, accepted, and they even paid for me to get my MBA.  I worked there for ten years.”

Now Director of the Office of Technology Transfer for Rice University in Houston, Texas, Bhakuni runs a group that is responsible for filing patents, starting companies, and commercializing technology coming out of the university.  And her connection to GEM and its mission remains strong.  “I feel that I owe a great deal to GEM, so I love to do whatever I can to help.”

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