From newspaper boy in Avitanallur to researcher in USA: Arjun's extraordinary Journey

Sooraj Sukumaran/Grihalakshmi

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Kozhikode: Arjun SKV's remarkable story is one of triumph against all odds. Starting as a humble newspaper distributor in the rural streets of Avitanallur during his school days, Arjun worked multiple jobs, including salesman, tutor, to fund his dreams.

Today, Arjun finds himself conducting research at Utah State University in America, with his eyes set on a future at the prestigious Idaho National Laboratory as a Project Assistant. His story remained a secret to all but his closest friends until he shared his journey on Facebook, showcasing the distances he had travelled.

School days

Despite limited resources, Arjun's passion for physics fueled his aspirations. He completed his high school education at Avitanallur government higher secondary school and continued his studies at HSS in Kokkallur. It was during this time that he discovered his knack for science. He participated in the state science fair and earned top grades, thanks to his physics teacher, Indu.

Arjun's childhood dreams never included studying abroad. He distributed newspapers to find means during school days. All he dreamed of was a decent living in the future.

Off to Pondicherry

After completing his Plus Two, Arjun secured admission to Pondicherry University's five-year integrated physics program.

Arjun participated in an internship program at the esteemed Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) in Thiruvananthapuram. It was during this time that his passion for research ignited, opening up new possibilities and aspirations.

During his Pondicherry University years, Arjun actively participated in campus politics. He contested elections for SFI and won twice. He was a students' union member.

Upon completing his studies at Pondicherry University, he embraced the role of a mathematics and physics tutor in Chennai. The income he earned from tutoring also contributed to his sister's education. He found jobs online using his problem-solving skills in his academic field during Covid-19 lockdown.

America calls

While studying in Pondicherry, he was inspired by his classmates who embarked on their PhD journeys in foreign universities. Driven by his passion for physics and mathematics, Arjun was determined to pursue a PhD. However, he faced the challenge of finding a reputable university and a suitable mentor. Through meticulous research, he discovered an opportunity that perfectly aligned with his aspirations.

He is currently a third-year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at Utah State University. Arjun was granted a substantial scholarship of 2.22 Lakh US Dollars (Rs. 1.83 crore) to support his five-year program. His research focuses on Theoretical and Computational Physics, with a special emphasis on nuclear materials and machine learning in materials science. Driven by his interest in theoretical and computational physics, Arjun chose to pursue his research studies in America, home to some of the world's finest research laboratories in this field.

Utah University

As the financial burden of purchasing a plane ticket for his journey to America seemed insurmountable for him and his family, Prof Sudha came to his aid. She is currently Head of the Zoology Department at the Central University of Kerala.

During his PhD time, Arjun received a tempting job offer from Tesla, as a senior engineer in their battery research and development division. However, he declined the offer, as his commitment to his Ph.D. studies took precedence.

He recently joined the prestigious Idaho National Laboratory, a renowned nuclear research institute under the purview of the USA Department of Energy. He is a project assistant, guided by Dr. Cheng Sun.

Moving abroad

Indian students pursuing higher education abroad have witnessed a significant upswing. Top-tier universities and favourable living conditions abroad attract many. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and avoid hasty decision-making, says Arjun. He advises prioritising one's passion and opting for a course of study accordingly, instead of succumbing to others' influence. Numerous universities offer scholarships, alleviating the financial burden associated with studying abroad. Thoroughly researching and utilising the internet as a valuable resource can unveil a plethora of information about universities and available scholarships. Conducting due diligence is essential. Rather than limiting oneself to a single application, exploring multiple esteemed institutions enhances the chances of securing admission and financial aid, he said.

Sister on the Path to Success

Arjun's sister, Aishwarya, is also making strides in her academic journey. Currently pursuing her post-graduate studies in Microbiology in the UK, she achieved an impressive second rank in PG in Environmental Biotechnology at CUSAT.

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