Dr. Rajiv Gandhi, Associate Professor of Computer Science, never expected to earn a Ph.D., much less become a tenured professor at a major research university. While studying electrical engineering at the Victoria Jubilee Technological Institute in Bombay, India, and then earning his master’s degree in computer science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, his focus was on earning his degree and then transitioning to a job in the computer science industry, not on teaching and research. While at Virginia Tech he received the Goff Grant, which was awarded to the “Most Outstanding Teaching Assistant,” evidence of his gift for teaching. Nevertheless, he went forward with his original plan, and after graduating from Virginia Tech, he joined the staff at Qualcomm Incorporated, a company which designs 3G and mobile technologies, where he worked as a software engineer.
While at Qualcomm, Dr. Gandhi enrolled in classes at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD), without the end goal of earning an additional degree, but purely for the love of learning. He was engaged in the material, and his hunger for knowledge drove him to learn more than what was simply listed on the syllabus. His focus on the content guaranteed the good grades that followed, serving as his own “Eureka!” moment. This experience not only changed his life’s trajectory, but Dr. Gandhi also credits his time at UCSD as influencing his teaching methods. After two years at Qualcomm, Dr. Gandhi left to pursue his Ph.D. in computer science.
After earning his Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Maryland, Dr. Gandhi began his career at Rutgers University–Camden in 2003. Eager to work with his new students and share his love of learning, Dr. Gandhi quickly found his classrooms full of “diamonds in the rough,” students with much potential who simply needed guidance and direction. Dr. Gandhi knew that to engage these students, he would need to “raise the standards and demand commitment.”
One of the “diamonds in the rough” was Bradford Greening (CCAS ’09), a transfer student who was working at Comcast while earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science. Brad’s potential was obvious, but he wasn’t able to fully commit himself to his studies due to his job. Dr. Gandhi was so committed to guaranteeing Brad’s success that he dedicated much of his personal time and resources to his student. Dr. Gandhi’s perseverance paid off; after careful thought, Brad decided to focus solely on his academic career, and wrote an email to Dr. Gandhi telling him so, a moment Dr. Gandhi calls one of the highlights of his career. Since he graduated cum laude from Rutgers University–Camden, Brad has proven Dr. Gandhi’s hunch that he could be an accomplished scholar right in every respect – in June, Brad earned his doctorate in ecology from the Graduate School–New Brunswick, and is currently a member of the Center for Disease Control’s Effectiveness Fellowship Program.
Brad is only one example of a student that Dr. Gandhi has mentored and consequently seen achieve a high level of success. Others include James Davis (CCAS ’10) and Joshua Wetzel (CCAS ’10), who earned National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships; and Brian Brubach (CCAS ’14) and Robert MacDavid (CCAS ’14), who received Honorable Mentions for the Computing Research Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award, in addition to Dean’s Undergraduate Research Prizes. Brian and Robert are currently enrolled in graduate programs at the University of Maryland and Princeton University, respectively. Dr. Gandhi’s list of student success grew so long and prolific that he developed a presentation, “From Potential to Promise: Developing Scholars, One Eureka Moment at a Time,” which he’s given nationwide, to inspire other faculty members. Recently, he received an NSF Grant, of which he is the principal investigator, to devote more resources to this particular project, with the intent that more high school and undergraduate students will be introduced to computer science with a “depth-first” approach, and be encouraged to pursue graduate degrees in the field of computer science. “It takes [the faculty] to give opportunities to our students,” Dr. Gandhi reiterates.
Dr. Gandhi’s commitment to his students has not gone unnoticed. This past May he was awarded the Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he is a past recipient of the JoAnn Mower Endowed Prize in Teaching Excellence (2012), the Excellence in Teaching Award (2011), from the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute in Mumbai), and the Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence (2006). In addition to teaching, Dr. Gandhi is a co-principal investigator for the project “Network Design and Facility Location Problems,” for which he received an NSF: Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Grant, and also serves as the director for the Computer Science Research Academy, a new initiative in the computer science department that structures and supports undergraduate research.
Though Dr. Gandhi may not have expected a career as a professor, his dedication to his students and their mutual success proves that he’s right where he’s supposed to be.
About Dr. Rajiv Gandhi
Rank: Associate Professor of Computer Science
Hometown: Haddon Township, NJ
Written By Julie Roncinske