Alumnus Becomes UT Dallas' First Gates Cambridge Scholar
May 8, 2014
Bhaskaran (Bhasi) Nair BS’13
UT Dallas is celebrating its first recipient of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
Bhaskaran (Bhasi) Nair BS’13 is the first from UT Dallas to receive the international scholarship, which is given to outstanding applicants outside the United Kingdom to pursue postgraduate degrees at the University of Cambridge.
Dr. Douglas Dow, coordinator of the Office of Distinguished Scholarships and associate director of the University’s Collegium V Honors Program, described the Gates Cambridge Scholarship as “the 21st-century version of the Rhodes Scholarship,” the celebrated international award that sends students to Oxford to study.
“This is a very exciting first for UT Dallas, and I’m thrilled to death for Bhasi. I think the world of him,” Dow said. “He’s a physicist, but he is something of a Renaissance scholar who is comfortable experimenting with ideas in many subjects.”
Nair applied for the scholarship in the international competition, which is more difficult to win since more recipients are from the U.S., Dow said.
Nair, who earned his bachelor’s degree in physics early, will celebrate his UT Dallas graduation with his cohort in the McDermott Scholars program at commencement in spring 2015.
“This is a very exciting first for UT Dallas, and I’m thrilled to death for Bhasi. I think the world of him. He’s a physicist, but he is something of a Renaissance scholar who is comfortable experimenting with ideas in many subjects.”
Nair is finishing up a year’s coursework at Cambridge that is the equivalent of a master’s degree in the U.S. He will use his scholarship to pursue a PhD in materials science and metallurgy.
“The chance to go to Cambridge, with its rich tradition in scholarly pursuit and, in particular, theoretical and experimental physics, was something I would not miss,” Nair said.
International living is nothing new for Nair. He was born in the Netherlands after his parents, who met at a research institute in India, moved there to pursue graduate degrees. His father’s career then took the family to Japan, where Nair spent his early childhood. His family moved to North Texas when he was 7.
“I hold Dutch and American citizenship, and I root for the Netherlands in soccer, but for the U.S. in the Olympics,” Nair said. “But I have such fond memories of my time in Japan. It always will have such a special place in my heart.”
Nair started as a biology and mechanical engineering major at UT Dallas, but soon was drawn to physics.
“I found that I really loved the science for its own sake, and the beauty of physics was really something else,” Nair said. “In materials research, and particularly in device physics, this beauty and elegance comes together with a chance to address some of the serious engineering problems our society faces looking forward.”
He plans to explore electrically driven phase transitions and electrocaloric effects in ionic liquids and dipolar fluids. He said the ecofriendly materials may be the key to displacing current vapor compression cooling with more efficient and accessible electrical cooling technologies.
Gates Cambridge Scholarship
What: The scholarship is awarded to outstanding applicants outside the United Kingdom to pursue a postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. Scholars are chosen from two pools of applicants: one for U.S. citizens based in the U.S., the second for other eligible candidates.
Class of 2014: There are 95 scholars from 27 countries, including 40 from the United States.
Scholars and alumni: The program has 1,300 scholars and alumni from 100 countries, with about 225 scholars from 50 countries studying at Cambridge.
“With this research, I seek to address not just issues in energy scarcity and environmental sustainability, but also in global health, where accessible cooling and temperature regulation are crucial in maintaining healthy, pathogen-free environments,” Nair said.
He also hopes to teach at a university one day.
“When you can inspire and change the lives of students, nothing is more satisfying. And when you’re not teaching, there would be nothing cooler than trying to solve problems and discover new phenomena in the lab,” Nair said.
Nair credits two UT Dallas faculty members with inspiring his pursuits.
Dr. Yuri Gartstein, associate professor of physics, taught quantum mechanics in a way that Nair found “captivating.”
“Dr. Gartstein was a master at painting the most mind-blowing picture of the way nature works in small scales,” Nair said.
And Dow’s film and politics class gave Nair a fondness for Japanese cinema, especially the films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.
“Dr. Dow crafted his argumentation in such a powerful yet subtle way, and his class was loads of fun. We got to watch so many crazy and awesome films. The memory of sitting in the Collegium V lounge watching Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Ran, will be something I treasure for the rest of my life,” Nair said.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship bears the name of Bill and Melinda Gates, who became honorary patrons of the Gates Cambridge Trust in 2012. The program has 1,300 Gates Cambridge Scholars and alumni from 100 countries, with about 225 scholars from 50 countries studying at Cambridge.