Usha Gogineni was raised in Hyderabad, India, and studied in the U.S.

“When I went back to India in 1998, it was like night and day,” she says. “Everywhere I looked there were computers. People were talking about nothing but software. Even in the villages, there was a time when I would get on a bus and people would talk about agriculture and their crops. And now, everyone was talking about software programs.”

India’s sudden revolution in the computer science and software industry inspired Gogineni to study electrical engineering. Now pursuing an MIT Ph.D., she is working on the technology that is used to build electronic chips for computers, cell phones, and other wireless applications. Her goal is to make computers cheaper and faster. “Wireless applications are the way of the future,” she says.

Gogineni earned a bachelor’s degree from the Regional Engineering College in Warangal, India, in 1996. Next, she studied at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, where she earned a master’s degree in 1999.

Soon after, she landed a job at IBM Microelectronics in Burlington, Vermont, where for four and a half years she worked as a development engineer, developing silicon-germanium technologies. (Silicon-germanium is the material that makes computers faster.) For the next three years, she worked at the IBM Microelectronics office in Fishkill, New York, where she was a device design engineer working on advanced high-speed technologies for computer chips.

The daughter of a mechanical engineer, she holds one patent, has published nine papers, and has contributed to a book on silicon-germanium.

“I never would have been able to come to school here if I didn’t get funding,” she says. “Because I was making good money when I was working, giving up the money was a big thing in my decision to come to MIT.

“The Presidential Fellowship helped me so much because it made it possible for me to pursue my dream. I didn’t have to work to pay tuition or living expenses. It definitely made a big difference in my life.

“When you get helped by someone, you want to pay it in return,” says Gogineni, who at IBM mentored more than 100 middle-school children to encourage them to become engineers, and who one day would like to create a coaching center in India to teach needy children.

“Someone helped me, so I want to help someone else. I realize that it’s a grand goal, but I’m hoping to improve people’s lives.”