Meet 2017 Spring Graduate Krishma Singal
The goal was to learn all she could about physics, and it’s mission accomplished for Krishma Singal. The graduate of Duluth High School in Duluth, Georgia, is getting her B.S. in Physics from Georgia Tech. Along the way, the award-winning soon-to-be alumna also learned more about herself, in particular her study habits, her South Asian heritage, and her ability to give complex scientific presentations to large audiences. Those same kinds of discoveries, she says, await new students.
What attracted you to Georgia Tech?
I knew I wanted to get involved in the sciences and that Georgia Tech was a fantastic technology school with lots of resources. Being a Georgia resident also encouraged me to look at in-state schools so that I could be eligible for the Hope and Zell Miller Scholarships.
My father recommended that I study physics, a subject that I really enjoyed in high school and one that is at the heart of many different fields. Georgia Tech seemed to be the perfect place to study physics while getting a glimpse into other disciplines.
How would you describe your life before enrolling in Georgia Tech?
Before Georgia Tech, I was just a regular high school student. I didn’t really need to put in much time for school, and I spent a lot of time with my friends. I tutored for a wide variety of classes. I also spent a lot of time with my family and helped take care of my younger brother.
In organizations and classes, I didn’t really try to leave my comfort zone. I stuck with my strengths. It wasn’t until I went to Georgia Tech that I was able to push my limits and try new things.
What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
Georgia Tech taught me about working with others, standing up for myself, and taking charge of events and situations. I’ve learned that I can still be a strong, independent person while asking for help from others.
As a woman physicist, I am a minority in my major and on campus in general. I used to feel intimidated asking for help. However, my courses encouraged me to connect with classmates. I saw that there was no need for me to be perfect in order to gain respect. Realizing this fact gave me the courage to meet new people and join different organizations, like the Society of Women in Physics and India Club at Georgia Tech.
What surprised or disappointed you the most about Georgia Tech?
I was caught off-guard by how challenging Georgia Tech is. I knew that college would be more involved than high school. Yet I never expected to have to put in so much time and be so dedicated to my classes. I had to be organized and plan my schedule weeks in advance around big tests and assignments.
I was surprised by the diversity on campus. I was worried I’d have to constantly interact with a stereotypical kind of engineer or student, and that I wouldn’t connect well with people. Instead, I’ve met so many unique and interesting people from various backgrounds.
Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?
A class that had a big impact on me was Dr. Shina Tan’s Honors Physics II class. This was my second physics class, and it was one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken. The difficulty of the course forced us students to work together to understand the material. If not for this class and its difficulty, I probably would’ve changed my major.
Dr. Fenton, my research advisor for more than two years, taught me a lot about the research process. Because of his encouragement, I’ve presented my research in various settings, including the American Physical Society’s March 2016 meeting.
Dr. Shoemaker, the first female physicist I met at Georgia Tech, was my academic advisor during my first years at Tech. In such a male-dominated field, I was glad to meet a female physicist who was so positive and fun.
Professor Oh, my Korean teacher for two semesters, is one of the most encouraging professors I’ve ever met. I believe everyone deserves to take a course with an instructor as sweet and as motivating as Professor Oh.
What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
I have fond memories with my roommates, especially of the four of us sitting together in our living room watching movies and flipping through old photos on my laptop.
My work with India Club will stay with me forever. I’ll never forget the nights leading up to Holi Show, the biggest event we staged each year, where we had to design a giant foam backdrop covered with glitter and beautiful colors.
If you participated in experiential learning activities, what was the most valuable outcome of your experience?
I am currently working as an undergraduate research assistant in the CHAOS (Complex Heart Arrhythmias and other Oscillating Systems) Lab. I learned new coding languages and programs and built setups using 3D printers and laser cutters. Because of this lab, I’ve become more comfortable presenting my research to others. I’ve gained more confidence in myself as a researcher.
On the basis of your experience, what advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?
Keep up with their courses. Reading in advance in the evenings helps a lot. Working with others helped me excel and improved my study skills and approaches to problems.
Find out what works best for you. What works for some people won’t work for everyone. Some students need to study late at night. Others work early in the morning. You need to explore and find your own niche.
Remain open. Georgia Tech is full of people from around the world – people who’ve completed internships, worked at companies, who are graduating late/early, and more. Everyone you meet can teach you something unique and provide a new perspective on the world.
What feedback would you give to Georgia Tech to improve the campus experience for future students?
Acknowledge that different students have different thresholds and have a lot going on outside of class. A lot of students are balancing schoolwork, jobs, friends, clubs, and other responsibilities, in addition to thinking about the future.
It would be nice if faculty and/or staff kept this in mind when planning courses, or even when considering students’ requests for extensions or help on assignments.
Where are you headed after graduation?
I want to continue my studies. Thankfully, the research experience, confidence, and leadership techniques I’ve gained at Tech will help me wherever I decide to pursue my Ph.D.
Renay San Miguel
Renay San Miguel