BLACKSBURG, Va., April 11, 2012 – ESM doctoral alumnus Dr. Satish V. Kulkarni (EM Ph.D.'72) has been selected to receive the Virginia Tech 2012 Graduate Alumni Achievement Award. This award was established by the Graduate School and Virginia Tech Alumni Association to recognize and honor distinguished graduate alumni for outstanding achievement and exemplary contributions to their profession, discipline, community or society. The award will be presented at the Spring 2012 University Graduate Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 11 at Cassell Coliseum.
An alumnus of Calcutta University and Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Dr. Kulkarni’s choice of Virginia Tech for his doctoral degree in 1969 was easy. He was attracted by the interdisciplinary nature of the university's engineering science and mechanics (ESM) department, which broadened his view of engineering, a field that often can become too compartmentalized.
This ability to think creatively and outside the box set the course for Dr. Kulkarni's distinguished career in industry, government and academia. Over more than three decades, he has led international and national collaborations related to energy, security, and the environment. Dr. Kulkarni’s doctoral thesis and subsequent employment made notable contributions to the then nascent field of advanced composite materials. Thereafter, his assignments at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) spanned almost every program area in a unique interdisciplinary environment. The seamless transition across programs and disciplines was feasible primarily because the interdisciplinary grounding he received at Virginia Tech.
Then, as the Science, Technology, Environment and Health Counselor in the US Embassy in New Delhi, India, Dr. Kulkarni, regularly interacted with leaders of Indian government, laboratories, universities and colleges and industries. He analyzed and reported on Indian science, technology, and environment and health developments to the U.S. Department of State. He oversaw programs between the two countries on nuclear and space research, wildlife, health care initiatives involving avian influenza preparedness, polio eradication and HIV/AIDS prevention and control. He was also responsible for the climate change portfolio and worked closely with the White House Council on Environmental Quality in launching the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate in India.
Dr. Kulkarni also played an important behind-the-scenes role in the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act of 2008. Signed by leaders of both countries, the pact stipulates that India separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and place civilian operations under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. In exchange, the United States is to work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India. Playing a role in the nuclear treaty between the United States and India will have a lasting impact for years, if not generations. The fact that we had a Virginia Tech alumnus in the middle of this is a proud accomplishment.
For the past year, Dr. Kulkarni has returned to Virginia Tech to give back through his service as Director of Energy Initiatives in recognition of the societal need for advanced technological solutions to energy concerns. When he assumed this position, he remarked, “To be able to play a role in helping address that challenge by integrating faculty expertise and the multifaceted capabilities of Virginia Tech for a sustainable future, and seeing my alma mater as a leader in energy research, is truly exciting and satisfying.”
He is particularly interested in matters related to energy security and the issues that surround it – which include economics, policy, and societal impact. Therefore, Dr. Kulkarni developed a unique graduate course in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics to teach students from across the university about the intersections between science & technology and policy. Several students took the course last semester, and Dr. Kulkarni was successful in exposing them to visiting speakers who occupy executive positions in the White House, Department of State, and Department of Energy. Dr. Kulkarni's professional career exemplifies the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim.