Bright Futures: 2015 New Faces of Engineering

Bright Futures: 2015 New Faces of Engineering

BY Helen Horwitz Posted: 24 Jun 2015

At 27, one of them is a senior member of the Oracle Corporation technical staff. The other is a Syracuse University senior, who will receive a double B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics this month (May 2015). Together, they are the 2015 IEEE/IEEE-USA New Faces of Engineering. The National Engineers Week Foundation honored Kartik Kulkarni and Grant Griffiths.  The Foundation is a coalition of more than a dozen engineering societies, including IEEE, as well as major companies and U.S. government agencies.

This year’s nominees includes 13 emerging young professionals, who are already making their mark on industry and society, as well as 12 of the nation’s most promising college students. Both the young professionals and the college students are selected based on both their accomplishments and their social initiatives.

Kartik Kulkarni

IEEE Member Kartik Kulkarni, the 2015 IEEE/IEEE-USA New Face of Engineering – Professional Edition, is a primary contributor to the Oracle Database In-Memory, which is capable of scanning seven billion rows a second. Its blink-of-an-eye performance provides a wide array of organizations with analytics across multiple databases, ensuring the most up-to-date transactional data is available.

“High-performance computing is about pushing the limits of what technology can do,” explains Kulkarni. “What makes it especially exciting to me is that the field is constantly evolving, with new limits established each year.”

He joined Oracle in 2013, after receiving his M.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering, electronics and communication from India’s B.V. Bhoomaraddi College of Engineering and Technology.  

Anyone who spends more than a few minutes talking with Kulkarni quickly realizes that the humanitarian aspect of engineering--what engineers can contribute to help improve living standards for underserved populations--excites his imagination as much as in-memory technology.

“In today’s global economy,” he explains, “90 percent of all new technologies are created to solve the problems of 10 percent of the population. This means vast numbers of people don’t have their most basic needs met, whether it involves energy, communication, healthcare, or education. More engineers need to be aware of the challenges present at the bottom of the global economy.”

A native of Hubli, Karnataka near Bangalore, India, Kulkarni has been walking the talk since his undergraduate years. In 2009, he was part of a team of 19 Student Members who won the IEEE Distinguished Student Humanitarian Prize in the IEEE Presidents’ Change the World competition. The award included a $5,000 prize, and recognized the team’s project to develop electronic games, devices and toys to engage and stimulate mentally and physically handicapped youngsters.

These days, Kulkarni is deeply involved in ensuring the success of a significant IEEE effort to engage members in humanitarian activities. As the steering committee chair of the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (IEEE SIGHT), he oversees a global program to create opportunities for local members to develop sustainable benefits in technology-poor areas. At present, more than 50 groups are operating around the world.

Kulkarni credits his mother for kindling his love of technology and engineering. She is a science and mathematics graduate, and she engaged him at an early age, in hands-on experiments and other educational activitiies.

Grant Griffiths

Almost 3,000 miles from Silicon Valley, IEEE Student Member Grant Griffiths, age 22, is wrapping up his fourth and final year of Computer Science and Mathematics studies at Syracuse University. Selected as the 2015 IEEE/IEEE-USA New Face of Engineering – College Edition, Griffiths is recognized not only for his academic achievements, but also his contributions to university life. He is in the Renée Crown University Honors Program; is a Pi Mu Epsilon mathematics honorary society inductee; and he also led a team of four other developers in designing and implementing MyOrange--a student-life enhancing Web application--within a tight, four-month release plan.

Griffiths has been active in the IEEE Syracuse University Student Branch, serving as both president in 2014 and treasurer in 2013. With a passion for IEEE enthusiastically supported by Professor Jay Lee, the student branch advisor, Griffiths spearheaded an effort in 2014 to energize and broaden the group’s activities. He and Caely Martin, the student branch vice president, organized six new committees, including publicity, recruitment and academic excellence.

Also during 2014, the Syracuse University Student Branch held a variety of events, including a Python programming workshop attended by more than 100 students, and a site visit by some 45 students to Lockheed Martin in Oswego, New York.   

Besides his work as president of the Student Branch, Griffiths also chaired the Regional Events Committee of IEEE Region 1’s Student Activities Committee, for which he helped plan the 2014 IEEE Region 1 Student Conference, at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, in Newark.  

A native of Pennington, New Jersey, near Princeton, he says he’s always liked building things. Griffiths began using computers at about age five when his father -- whose profession is marketing -- opened one up, to show young Grant what was inside. “No one else in my family is into technology,” he says, “and my dad was a big influence in encouraging me to figure out for myself how things work. I never followed the directions when putting together my toy train or castle sets,” he continues, “as I just liked the creative designing and building aspects.”

Around age 12, Griffiths became interested in programming, and took various engineering, architecture and computer science courses during high school. “With programming,” he says, “you have the ability to make anything you want. Computer programming and software engineering are like magic, enabling the coders to create whatever they want.”

Grant Griffiths’ internships over the last two summers have provided him with valuable professional, as well as travel, experience. In 2014, he spent several months as a software engineering intern with Intel Corporation in Folsom, California, where he worked on an agile software development team to implement a commissions application in C# and .NET. He implemented the user roles and geo-specific security for the application, now used by thousands of end users around the world who work for Intel Sales & Marketing IT. After completing the Intel internship, the young software engineer was a contractor for several months for Applied Quantitative Sciences, Inc. Working remotely, he wrote a library in JavaScript for forecasting, market analysis and valuation in the life sciences industry.

During the summer of 2013, Griffiths worked for JPMorgan Chase & Company in New York City, where he built an enterprise risk-monitoring and reporting Web application prototype. It provided a significant head start for the eventual release of the application.

Griffiths is enthusiastic about his post-graduation plans; in July, he will join GE’s Software Development Leadership Program, a two-year commitment that he’ll begin in San Ramon, in San Francisco’s East Bay area.

Eventually, he may want to start his own company. “I want to make a difference,” he says, “but first I need to identify the problem I want to solve. Meanwhile, I’m taking inspiration from entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates.”

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Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.

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