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Neerja A. '16

MIT student blogger Neerja A. '16


In true Texan spirit, I was at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo at 6:28 pm on 3/14/2012 when I discovered I miraculously got into MIT.

Hi! I’m Neerja Aggarwal. I was born in Delhi, India and moved to Houston, TX when I was four-years old. I grew up soaking up the sun and driving vast distances to get anywhere. In 2nd grade, I had a passion for science and decided I was going to be a doctor. I was one of those kids that checked out “101 Science Experiments with Household Items” and “borrowed” materials from the kitchen, garage, and study to make chemistry experiments a reality. At the same time, I loved acting in school plays and being around other weird theatre people.

Where does that bring me?

Well, now I’m entering my third year at MIT majoring in Electrical Engineering and minoring in Theatre. That’s an unusual combination.

I never thought of myself as an electrical engineer growing up. I loved chemistry. But one aspect of MIT is the breadth of exposure it offers where you discover new fields or new definitions of fields that you never existed. I was specifically drawn to electrochemistry and spectroscopy. I love thinking about how light interacts with matter. I like optics, electronics, signals, but also so much more.

Another aspect of MIT is the opportunity to develop your other interests, like theatre. I love performance. Through theatre, I grew out of my shell to meet new people, communicate ideas more clearly, and give focused, confident presentations. Being a performer has actually helped me excel as an engineer. My sophomore year of college I realized my favorite aspect of engineering was working with people from different disciplines and discussing technical challenges.

One of my possible futures is in international development and engineering solutions for resource-limited areas. While my MIT Course 6 curriculum is preparing me as technically competent engineer, I hope to learn the leadership & visionary skills to take technology to market and implementation. And so another opportunity MIT offers is the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program (GEL).

I applied to GEL to develop higher level project management, leadership, communication, team-building skills that will mold me into a more effect engineer, future leader, and collaborator. Year One of GEL entails a project design based class, engineering leadership labs with other GEL students, and teaches models for engineering leadership. Then in Year Two students apply those skills by leading the engineering labs or another student group and completing an InternshipPlus that goes beyond expectations. The main advantage of GEL I’m looking forward to is the vast network of industry professionals and alumni I’ll have access to that can offer guidance on college and career decisions I will have to make. There is a possibility my variety of interests and passion may carve a completely new role that didn’t exist before. I am hoping GEL can offer the support through this journey. You can find more information about GEL through here:

Other interests? College is the time to explore new things. So my freshman year I joined the women's ultimate frisbee club team never having played sports before. I have been hooked since then. I also discovered there are mountains in the northeast unlike Houston. And so I very much enjoy climbing and hiking them. I wish I had more time to read, play guitar, crochet and watch movies. I also caught the traveling bug growing up and love going to foreign countries.

This blog is very much a preview into my journey through GEL and my final years at MIT. I am beyond excited to learn, explore, struggle, grow, and share my experiences - both the successes and failures - with you all.