By Zach Driver | August 24, 2020
For Venkat Subramanian, the value of education goes far beyond just dollars and cents. It is a promise to his mentor, Dr. Ralph White, and his father, T. R. Subramanian, that he will always do his best and push others to succeed even when the odds are stacked against them.
Venkat currently works as the Ernest Dashiell Cockrell II Professor of Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. His research team aims to be the world’s leading group in the field of model-based Battery Management Systems (BMS) for current and generation batteries. His career has taken him across the country to several schools, but he always looked to White as a key mentor in his career journey.
“Today, I am able to compete and flourish in a healthy research environment,” he says. “I owe this to professor White and his training. In addition to being intellectually gifted, sharp and dynamic, Dr. White is persistent and works very hard. Even when he was the dean, he was always in the office, even on Sunday afternoons, and replied to emails any time of the day.”
Growing up in India, Venkat’s father was academically gifted and had the same passion for learning as his son. However, his family’s financial situation would ultimately force him into working at a young age.
“Although my father couldn’t go to college after high school, he believed in the value of education and higher education,” said Venkat. “He even went back to school to get a bachelor’s degree in English after his retirement from the Postal Service. He had planned to get a master’s degree, but he unfortunately passed away before he could enroll.”
It was this understanding of the importance of education that inspired Venkat and his wife Gomathi to create a fellowship in honor of his dad at the University of South Carolina. The gift, named The T.R. Subramanian Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award, will provide an annual award for a doctoral student in chemical engineering who is pursuing research in modeling, numerical simulation or a related field.
Venkat hopes the award will help attract some of the brightest students in the world to the chemical engineering department.
“In my opinion, the graduate education offered in the department, in particular in the field of electrochemical engineering and computing, deserves to be ranked among the top 10 in the country,” he said. “This award is a small step in that direction. Many doctoral graduates from the Chem-E department are leaders in multiple industries, universities and national labs around the country.”
With the College of Engineering and Computing’s continued growth and dedication to increasing diversity among students, Venkat wants other alumni to consider getting involved with their alma mater and finding ways to help.
“It is time to give back to the department and the university,” he said. “Establishing scholarships, fellowships and professorships is critical for building the reputation of our school.”