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Santosh Kumari brings to RIT from India passion for physics
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(May 6, 2007) — Born on the Fourth of July in New Delhi, India, Santosh Kumari Kurinec perhaps was destined to
come to the United States — which she did, in 1985, as a permanent resident (later becoming a U.S. citize n).
Back in New Delhi more than a decade earlier, Santosh felt such excitement, which she still distinctly remembers
today, at hearing the words of astronaut Neil Armstrong coming from an old tube radio, one that could barely
receive the Voice of America: "The Eagle has landed." Apollo 11 had touched down on the moon in 1969.
It was that short and crackling, but voluminous sentence, along with the space and nuclear programs of the
1970s, that sparked Santosh's interest in physics and ultimately led her to earn a doctoral degree at the
University of Delhi.
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Early on, her parents had stressed the importance of math and science, often praising American scientific and
technological advancements.
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The energy crisis of the late '70s steered Santosh toward work on solar cell development in India; and, a few
years later with the semiconductor industry growing, she was drawn to microchip development.
"I had the best possible education and doctoral experience in India," Santosh says.
"During and after my Ph.D., I was publishing and in touch with researchers in the United Kingdom and United
States."
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Santosh's parents had migrated to Delhi before the partition of India and started life from scratch.
They had vivid memories of West Punjab (which became part of Pakistan in 1947) and of British rule, memories
that they shared often with their daughter. "Their strength helped me start my life in the U.S.A. also from scratch,"
she says. She moved to the United States in 1985.
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Raised during the Cold War, Santosh credits life in democratic and secular India for providing her an obj ective
view of the world that she cherishes tremendously.
Santosh's only child, Jivan, was born in Tallahassee, Fla., in 1987. Moving to Henrietta in 1988 brought her closer
to relatives residing in western New York and Toronto.
And as a faculty member at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Santosh received support in raising her son,
who is now a sophomore at Columbia University.
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However, growing up here wasn't just Cub Scouts and theme-park visits for Jivan; when he was little, he
accompanied his mother to technical conferences and on frequent trips to India.
Her 18 years at RIT — the past six as department head of microelectronic engineering in RIT's Kate Gleason
College of Engineering — have given Santosh opportunities to make educational contributions integrating
research with teaching.
She finds it very fulfilling to see students graduate and become successful.
"This May," Santosh notes, "we're celebrating the 25th anniversary of RIT's microelectronic engineering program,
which was started by professor Lynn Fuller.
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"I owe a great deal of gratitude to him, to my colleagues in Florida and RIT, and to my families on both sides for
my professional success."
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She adds: "My son and I are grateful for our western New York, Eastern European and North Indian heritage.
"But two months shy of my next July 4th birthday, and 22 years after permanently arriving in the United States, I'm
proud to call myself an American—and a Rochesterian."
Rommel, of Fairport, is an assistant professor of microelectronic engineering at Rochester Institute of
Technology.
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