Empowered to make a difference

March 16, 2022

When Jayashree Adivarahan realized engineering could help solve critical global issues — including access to clean water, waste management and public health — she knew she needed to be part of the solution and decided to pursue it as a career.

Now a first-year student double majoring in electrical engineering and computer systems engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, Adivarahan is taking advantage of every opportunity to expand her knowledge and experience as an engineer. From her two majors as a student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College to involvement in student organizations, engineering research and community service projects, Adivarahan is highly involved in all aspects of being a future engineer.

First-year Arizona State University student Jayashree Adivarahan’s passion for technology and academic success as a double major in electrical engineering and computer science has earned her a Cadence Women in Technology Scholarship. Graphic by Rhonda Hitchcock-Mast/ASU
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“I see the undergraduate college experience truly as a time to optimize the opportunity to learn and grow,” Adivarahan says. “And I believe double majoring and pursuing higher education will lay much of the needed foundation to work in areas I am passionate about, like artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Her passion and dedication were recently recognized by computational software company Cadence Design Systems with the Cadence Women in Technology Scholarship. This competitive $5,000 scholarship is granted to only 22 women studying engineering from across the country. Adivarahan stood out among all the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral student applicants in computer science, electrical engineering and related fields with her strong academic background, leadership and passion for technology.

“This scholarship is an immense source of validation for all the hard work put forth in my STEM journey,” Adivarahan says. “Being able to tangibly see the impacts of passion, dedication and hard work is extremely motivating and inspiring for me to continue doing the same and even more.”

She says the combination of financial benefits and encouragement from the scholarship makes her want to keep going and work harder to pursue her dreams of working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

While Adivarahan has always been fascinated by STEM, hands-on experience in high school building circuits and doing programming assignments led her to major both in electrical engineering and computer systems engineering. The National Merit Scholar chose ASU due to its highly ranked electrical engineering program.

“The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering provides tremendous opportunities and support for students to be successful,” she says. “From amazing faculty on campus who genuinely care about student success to the other resources on campus, like student organizations, the Fulton Schools definitely provides an environment where all students can thrive.”

In less than a year of college, Adivarahan is already a highly accomplished student.

She is starting her journey as an engineer with involvement in the Grand Challenges Scholars Program at ASU, in which she will learn to solve grand challenges facing society in the 21st century through five components of transdisciplinary and globally focused experiential education. So far, Adivarahan says this has been one of her most memorable experiences.

In addition to her projects in class, Adivarahan is already applying her skills in extracurricular entrepreneurship programs, hackathons, coding competitions, undergraduate research on electric grid algorithm testing and developing sustainable, reliable clean water access solutions for communities in Kenya with the Engineers Without Borders organization and the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program.

“For me, first identifying the scope of an endeavor, working hard to see it to fruition, learning throughout the process and finally observing the difference it makes in the community has been a gratifying experience,” she says. “After starting my engineering journey, I am surprised by how much there is to learn and grow as an individual and in STEM.”

Through experiences as a Fulton Ambassador, in which she promotes the Fulton Schools to prospective students, and the ASU section of the Society of Women Engineers SWE++ committee, she is already encouraging and motivating the next generation of engineers.

“I think promoting STEM education among younger girls — especially in elementary and middle school — is critical,” Adivarahan says. “Learning and pursuing STEM isn’t easy, and therefore providing young girls with support, resources and opportunities is much needed.”

Adivarahan herself has been inspired by Indian mathematician and “human computer” Shakuntala Devi, NASA astronaut and engineer Kalpana Chawla and primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall.

Recognizing that she may also be an inspiration to girls who may want to pursue STEM careers in the future, she says, “Dream big and be willing to work hard to reach your goal.”

“I believe no one is more capable of helping you realize your dreams than yourself,” Adivarahan says. “So always make the best of what you have.”

To her fellow engineering students at ASU and beyond, Adivarahan says applying for scholarships like the Cadence Women in Technology Scholarship is one way to get mentorship and support in pursuing your academic and career goals.

As Adivarahan makes the best of the opportunities she has, it’s not always an easy journey.

“I think being part of an underrepresented group like women of color in STEM does come with its challenges at times,” she says. “Sometimes making our voices heard in a larger group of men can be challenging and require extra effort, dedication and perseverance.”

She hopes studying engineering will allow her to realize her potential to make a positive impact in her life and the lives of others in her community.

“I aspire to achieve this by working with cutting-edge technology and devices, including artificial and augmented intelligence and robotics geared toward improving quality of life,” Adivarahan says.

Watch a video from Cadence in which the 2021 Women in Technology Scholarship winners share their learnings.