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Sunny Side Up

There’s no question that Sanjayan “Sunny” Manivannan ’07 is a math major. Ask for his cell phone number and he’s quick to point out that the digits almost equal Pi. (3.14…)

Sunny Manivannan—one part math major, one part mechanical engineering major—is the latest WPI student to be named a Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Since 2002, eight WPI undergraduates have received the prestigious scholarship, which recognizes outstanding students and encourages them to pursue careers in math, science, and engineering.

“[The scholarship] motivates me to do better,” says the 20-year-old. “I like doing the best I can.”

Born in Chennai (formerly known as Madras), India, Manivannan and his family moved to Framingham, Mass., when he was 12. “My parents came here in part for my brother and me. There’s a lot more opportunities for students here.”

Indeed, Manivannan has taken full advantage of such extracurriculars. He played tennis in high school—and continues to play noncompetitively—and he is currently president of WPI’s Student Government Association. “I like helping the community that I live in,” he says.

As SGA president, he sat alongside WPI trustees and senior administrators last spring, when he took part in the semiannual Board of Trustees meeting. “It was surreal that I could talk to all these people who change the world,” he says.

Several weeks later, Manivannan spent time with WPI trustee Carleton F. Kilmer ’64, retired senior partner at Accenture, who encouraged the young man to go to business school. While Manivannan has been considering a PhD in computational fluid dynamics, the idea of business school piqued his interest. “The more I study and the more I expose myself to different things,” he confesses, “the less decisive I am about my future.”

This summer, as an intern at GE Aviation’s stress analysis division in Lynn, Mass., Manivannan helped design and modify different engine lines. Last summer, he worked in the facility’s heat transfer division. “They get you right in there and show you the ropes,” he says. “You’re actually doing the work that they’re doing.”

As a senior this year, Manivannan will finish a project in which he and Charles Gammal ’08 are looking at the feasibility of a multidisciplinary engineering major that combines mechanical and electrical engineering. “We hope to see it in the course catalog sometime in the next decade,” he says. “Hopefully, we’ll make a difference at WPI.” —CW

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Last modified: Sep 28, 2006, 08:40 EDT
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