Why US funds universities?
A US university is a land of opportunities for Indian students. And even that’s an understatement. The US government has a thought-out, systematic approach towards funding professors and university students since its main thrust is innovation through research.
Most of the world’s researches – from as mundane as the health benefits of tea or the merits of nanotechnology – come from universities from America. How and why does it happen? Why does US government lay much stress on research? And how can an Indian student benefit from such an environment?
Almost every American university gets funds from the government through various government-aided institutions. The goal is clear – research, innovate, make it large and sell it to the world and of course patent it. We know that the whole world is crazy for getting US patents. This begins at the universities where fresh minds work, study and research.
The National Science Foundation is one of the several funding/grant agencies in the USA that shells out millions of dollars every year on a deserving research project to a university, a professor or a promising student. For instance, this year the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded New York University researchers and their colleagues at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) a $2 million grant to develop cutting-edge nanomaterials that hold promise for improving the manufacturing of advanced materials, biofuels, and other industrial products.
So what? – you would ask. The team that will be chosen for this grant might have Indian students who would directly be part of the project, the outcome and the money.
There are several other organisations such an American Heart Association or National Institute of Health that keep funding professors and students to carry out research on their behalf. An Indian associate professor from A James Clark School of Engineering’s Intitute for Systems Research. Jaydev Desai and his colleagues from the University of Maryland, Baltimore have have won a new $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue developing a small robot that could one day aid neurosurgeons in removing difficult-to-reach brain tumors. He is just one of the hundreds of Indian and non-Indian professors who earn grants every year in US universities.
International students generally have the opportunity to earn Research Assistantships and get paid on an hourly basis to assist professors. This helps them in two ways: Financial aids and Research/Entrepreneurial development.
John Hopkins University runs Social Innovation Lab founded in 2011 by its students. The SIL looks to support promising companies that target innovative solutions to local and global problems. Right now, SIL has sought proposals to seed up to 15 projects with $1,000 per team, and provide a broad range of other resources and support. As a result, John Hopkins students get the chance to work with promising companies and earn money while they are studying. Guess what, SIL’s executive director is an Indian named Kunal Parikh, who is a graduate student in the department of biomedical engineering at the School of Medicine.
A lot of times these grants and funding opportunities can change your life. Most engineers working in software companies long to do an MS from a US university but often wonder if this will really give them the kind of edge they want towards entrepreneurship or innovation. Quite a few of them give up the idea of study abroad thinking that a US education will only give them with better earning and international exposure. While even that much is good enough to change your course of life, there’s much more to that. Due to grant/funding culture in US universities, many Indians have been part of successful start-ups or companies that have become pioneers in their respective fields. Take for example, 26-year old first year student of Harvard Business School Prita Kumar. Before joining HBS, she was a top-rated analyst at Morgan Stanley. She is a passionate fitness-enthusiast and formed a fitness portal Booya Fitness. She won a contest at an HBS entrepreneurship conference that awarded her with funding and assistance to put her idea into motion. This January she got a Rock Accelerator grant that awarded her a $5,000 and mentorship. She is currently participating in the New Venture Documentary and working on building up Booya Fitness. She is one of the three Indian students and one of the 27 students who made it to the HBS’ most impressive students list this year.
The good news is there are at least 10-20 Indian professors working in every other US university and they are more likely to include Indians in their research projects. The amount of the grants is often whooping millions and research assistants are paid well, apart from getting freedom to innovate and research. An associate professor at UtahState University KoushikChakraborty, recently received $370,000 NSF grant for Employing Design Automation to Build Foundations for Holistic Multicore Design.
The thrust of US education is research and innovation and the system encourages young minds, scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and visionaries who have the zeal to follow their interests and contribute internationally. And nothing can be better than studying in an atmosphere such as this.