May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which began in 1979 as a time to honor the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in history and contemporary society. Princeton Engineering celebrates the outstanding contributions of our students, faculty, researchers and alumni of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.
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#PrincetonEngineers: “I grew up in Bellevue, Washington. My parents, and so many of my friends’ parents, built their lives from scratch as the first in their families to come to the U.S. I’ve grown to become very proud of my Indian heritage, something that at times I felt shy about growing up. At Princeton I’ve found communities such as Princeton South Asian Theatrics, which has connected me with other students from similar backgrounds through acting, comedy and friendship.
My heritage has also impacted me deeply as an engineer. So many of the products we think about in tech are made with well-off U.S. consumers in mind, but what about the rest of the world? I spent months visiting India growing up, and it’s easy to see that innovation necessitates unique ways of thinking for different cultures, populations and geographic areas.
My journey with computer science has come full-circle at Princeton. I struggled to find my own voice in what seemed like a heavily homogeneous field until 2017, when I attended AI4ALL @ai4allorg, a summer AI research program for rising female high school sophomores, cofounded by Olga Russakovsky, now a professor at Princeton. AI4ALL not only made me excited about the prospect of delving into the possibilities of technology, but also gave me a strong sense of purpose for using technology in a socially impactful way.
I founded Innoverge @innovergeintl in 2017 with the aim of bringing impact-focused STEM education to under-resourced communities in my hometown. Our vision has since evolved into a unique youth-run movement interfacing STEM with the humanities, combining engineering with storytelling, empathy, ethics and leadership. We’ve worked with 8,000+ K-12 students across 15 countries, partnering with schools, afterschool centers and libraries. Innoverge has allowed me to become a more empathetic thinker, discover my love for education, travel the world to share my story, and work with the most amazing young people from across the globe.” – Archika Dogra ’24 @archikadogra #aapiheritagemonth
#PrincetonEngineers: “In junior high school, my history teacher talked about the position of Indonesia as a developing country, and that to become more developed you need mature industry. I wanted to get involved in that, and in high school I learned about being an engineer. In university I selected chemical engineering. I got a job at a national iron and steel company for three years while juggling courses for my bachelor’s degree at the University of Indonesia.
I learned about the challenges of Indonesia and other countries in securing their energy supply. We already can’t fulfill all our demands for electrification. This seemed very challenging and messy to me. I did an energy engineering master’s program in Germany, and I studied the production of synthetic gasoline and diesel using solar energy and water. I assessed not only the technical part, but also the economic part — it’s still very expensive.
Then I went to do my Ph.D. in Ireland, working on renewable hydrogen production from wind and/or solar. Hydrogen will play a key role in decarbonizing a lot of industrial sectors. Hydrogen can also be produced from biomass. If you integrate bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), it offers not only green hydrogen but ‘emerald hydrogen’ because you produce hydrogen with negative CO₂ emissions.
In my current work at #AndlingerCenter I’m learning about the most mature technology to capture CO₂ in the most cost-effective way. I also need to assess the current CO₂ emitters in the U.S. and the potential for underground geological storage for carbon sequestration. We did a case study in Louisiana because many chemical industries are concentrated along the Gulf Coast. In parallel we are assessing the bioenergy potential of forest residues from managed forests. This has been led by my colleague Hongxi Luo. We’re working together to build a framework to achieve #NetZeroAmerica by 2050.” – Tubagus Aryandi (Arya) Gunawan @tbarya, postdoctoral research associate, shown wearing a traditional batik pattern from Bengkulu province, Indonesia #aapiheritagemonth
“Since I had a lower limb prosthesis since I was 5, I had the ambition of making a better design (it hadn’t changed since the 1950s). I figured I would help with new materials or mechanisms. I went through the lists of required courses and checked every one that sounded interesting to my high school senior mind. The one with the most checks (mechanical engineering) became my major!
I am disabled, female, an engineer, as well as Asian. Each one of these identities has given other people the opportunity to say that I don’t belong. I can name at least one case where I was uniquely qualified technically but was told I was ‘not a fit.’ Being raised Asian may have made me seem more of a wallflower, so I didn’t get some opportunities I would have thrived in. While being ‘the other’ means you’re challenged about whether you belong (by yourself as well as others), it also provides an opportunity to approach things differently. That can be freeing.
At Princeton I learned to merge my pragmatic side with my idealistic side. The course ‘The Chinese Humanistic Tradition’ planted the seed of how to merge two extremes peaceably. It’s no surprise that my senior quote was ‘It is important that man dream, but it is perhaps equally important that he can laugh at his own dreams.’
I’m very pleased to see that engineering is now talked about in a positive light — and to very young children. When I was in college, engineers were people who drove trains, and at Princeton, engineers were seen as people who were more vocational than academic. I’m also pleased that college engineers can see how engineering intersects with and influences other fields, and that they have opportunities for entrepreneurship.
And I love that books about STEM are being read to kids by parents (particularly moms) in early childhood. This is when the seed is planted for engineering thinking. It’s so important to make that available to all, no matter their social, economic, immigration or cultural status.” – Yvonne Ng ’91, founder of the educational consultancy Engineer’s Playground and senior manager at RBC Wealth Management #princetonengineering #princetonalumni #womeninstem #aapiheritagemonth