Vignesh Suresh has racked up a handful of awards and honors during his time at Iowa State, and he’ll have at least one more to his name when he walks across the commencement stage later this semester.
Suresh, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering (ME) and human-computer interaction, has been named a student marshal for the Spring 2021 Ph.D. commencement ceremony. He will be among the first from the department to receive this honor when he walks across the stage on May 7.
“I didn’t even know that I had been nominated so when I found out I would receive this honor, I was like ‘wow,’” said Suresh. “This was really a surprise to me, and I feel like it’s a great honor to be named the student marshal by the Graduate College.”
Being named student marshal is just the latest honor Suresh has received during his nearly four years at Iowa State University. He has also received the College of Engineering Research Excellence award, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate Research Excellence award and the William and Virginia Binger Research award, as well as the Best student paper award at SPIE Photonics West Conference 2019 and a SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing student travel grant.
Suresh is from the Tamil Nadu state in South India. He attended the PSG College of Technology in his home state and completed his B.S. in ME in 2015. After graduation he worked for two years in the research and development department of TVS Motors, an automotive manufacturer in India.
He decided he would need to pursue an advanced degree to achieve his professional goals, so he began looking at graduate ME programs in the United States. He said it was the research opportunities available within the ME department that led him to choose Iowa State University for pursuing his Ph.D.
When Suresh arrived in Ames on August 11, 2017, it was his first time in the United States. The friendliness of the people was one of the first things he observed when adapting to his new life in a foreign land.
“One of my neighbors in the apartment cooked food for me and my roommates that first night,” said Suresh. “The bond between me and Ames started off on a positive note because of that. I found the people here to be so welcoming.”
He also found the climate on campus to be very welcoming. He quickly found a research niche for himself under the guidance of Beiwen Li, assistant professor of ME. Suresh’s research focuses on novel 3D optical solutions, developing new calibration methods and developing algorithms for 3D imaging. He often applies material from courses such as ME 556: Machine Vision, ME 592: Data Analytics and Machine Learning for Cyber-Physical Systems Applications and ABE 690: Visual Sensing and Sensemaking to his research.
“Their feedback has been very constructive which has helped me to develop into a better researcher,” Suresh said.
Suresh is involved with various other campus activities when he’s not busy in the classroom or lab. He relieves stress by playing badminton and exercising regularly at the campus recreation facilities, even during this era of COVID-19.
“I really appreciate the effort from the people working in rec services,” said Suresh. “They clean the equipment all the time and are really doing a great job. Just having these facilities open again, albeit with some modifications for safety, it gives life a sense of normalcy again.”
He also enjoys watching cricket, which is often regarded as the most popular sport in his home country. He even has a subscription to a streaming service which allows him to watch matches for the Indian national team as well as Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League.
Suresh also embraces his Indian roots through the Mana Telugu Association, a student organization he established with some friends last year. The club aims to introduce Telugu culture, which dates back to the 6thcentury, to anyone in the Iowa State University community who is interested. Suresh, who currently serves as the club’s president, said that organizing the Sankranti event has been one of his fondest memories from his time at Iowa State.
“It was a lot of work but when we saw the final event actually happening with more than 80 people there it was really a great feeling,” he said, adding that publishing his first paper and winning his first award are also among his fondest memories from his time in Ames.
After graduation, Suresh would like to work in industry where he can continue conducting research and publishing papers. Specifically, he’s interested in doing research in the field of computer vision. While he has enjoyed his time in the Midwest, he admits the winters have been harsh, particularly for someone acclimated to the climate of South India, so he’s hoping he might end up on the American west coast for the next chapter of his life. However, he said he will never forget about that first home cooked meal he had in Ames, or any of the other memories he’s developed during his time here.
“People might think it’s a myth, but I’ve seen the whole ‘Iowa nice’ thing firsthand and I can say the people of this state are great,” he said.