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UW Crest with engineering background
October 31, 2022

Saigopal Nelaturi: 2022 Early Career Award recipient

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Saigopal Nelaturi

Saigopal Nelaturi MSME ‘10, PhDME ‘11 (BEME ‘03, Visvesvaraya Technological University, India; MScME ‘04, University of Bath, United Kingdom)
Director of software research, Carbon

We are honoring Saigopal as a mechanical engineer whose leadership in research, digital design and technology solutions is shaping the future of modern manufacturing.

Why did you choose UW-Madison?

I did my master’s at the University of Bath in the UK. I was pretty sure that I wanted to continue toward a PhD and especially in the area of computer-aided design. I knew that UW-Madison was doing outstanding work in the area, under Professor Vadim Shapiro. I asked him if he would consider having me as a PhD student. We had a very good interaction right from the get-go and I applied only to Madison. I came to UW just to work with him and his group.

As a student, how did you spend your free time?

I used to attend talks from other departments quite a bit, as well as a lot of events conducted by the student union at the Terrace and theater. Interacting with other departments was very helpful. I’d meet with students in the math department to see what kind of topics they were working on. Because of my research area, I wanted to gain that additional intellectual support I would need from mathematics, and then eventually that got to me doing a minor in math. During my time at UW, I met some excellent people who also happened to be musicians, and so I also started discovering the music scene in Madison, which is quite vibrant. Being a musician myself, I recorded a couple of albums with collaborators. I think I had a rich cultural life at the university.

How did your experience in the college shape your career path?

The people I worked with were absolutely top of the line. What the College of Engineering did is give me the tools I needed to be able to see both the big picture and the details when formulating and solving technical problems. The research questions that were being asked by groups inside mechanical engineering and in the college in general were really pushing the envelope. I think the ambition and the drive to be able to explore research directions that are risky was a value system that got instilled in me through my experience in the college.

Which class made the biggest impact on you?

Although the engineering classes were great and I enjoyed all of them, the class that made the greatest impact on me was a math class in topology. I realized that a lot of the things that we were saying in my research area came from some very well founded and deep concepts in topology, which I only intuitively understood. It was great to go back to the fundamentals and to understand where it all came from and go through the rigor of writing theorems and proofs to really internalize the key ideas.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

UW-Madison has been a defining experience, both in terms of my professional, as well as my personal, life. I met my wife at Madison. It’s a very important place for me and I want to be able to give back to the university as much as I can.