The Big Picture
Running Fast, Going Far
The leitmotif that plays through Indraneel Sircar's life seems simple enough: to seek out that which he does not know.
"I like the challenge presented with learning new things," he says, speaking via phone from San Francisco, about to depart for a trip to the Arctic Circle. "I'm easily distracted from something that gets repetitive and mundane."
His life has been anything but dull. When he came to WPI in 2005, he'd already lived in India, Austria, Zaire, Israel, and Malta, before moving to Worcester for four years. The son of a diplomat, Sircar originally planned to study international relations, business, or economics at a liberal arts school. "WPI was the school I knew the least about," he says, "and that excited me to come here."
Having graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in May, Sircar is now pursuing a PhD in the same field at Purdue—an impressive track for any youngster, especially one who didn't originally set out to be an engineer. And yet he looks forward to a career in sustainable energy, ultimately returning to academia to teach.
"As engineers, I believe it's our duty to look at each and every problem critically, with the intent to improve it and ultimately better our society," he says. "We need engineers and scientists to reshape our world—in developed and underdeveloped countries—and realize a sustainable future for our planet."
Sircar speaks from experience—his Major Qualifying Project investigated the use of a liquid piston to optimize the efficiency of gas compression technologies. The project's scope included identifying the optimal operating characteristics of the liquid-piston compressor, establishing a foundation for future research. That project, along with his academic record and involvement in extracurricular activities, gained him entry to the Second Team in USA Today's 2009 All-USA College Academic Team program.
On campus, Sircar was a Crimson Key tour guide and the founding president of the Engineers Without Borders WPI chapter. He also ran track and field, a sport he'd never tried prior to WPI. "It gave me extreme confidence in myself as an individual," he says. "On the track, you must find the strength and motivation within yourself, much like in most areas of life."
"Plus," he adds, "I never knew how fast I could run."
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