If ISD Doctoral Candidate Bhavana Komaraju Has Her Way, Drivers of All Shapes and Sizes Will Ride in Safer Vehicles.
Bhavana Komaraju is on a mission.
The Integrated Systems + Design Manufacturing Program doctoral candidate is driving herself and others to improve vehicle safety design for a variety of passengers.
“Current vehicle design does not take into account the diversity of occupants, including children, teenagers, women, anyone who is older in age,” she said. “So we want safety features to minimize injuries during a crash. We need to make vehicles more suitable and safer for all kinds of people.”
Earning a Patent (in College)!
While many college students are busy studying, going to class, and working to pay for their education, Komaraju had a loftier goal in mind.
While pursuing a Master of Technology and Bachelor of Technology dual degree at the Indian Institute of Information Technology Design and Manufacturing in Kancheepuram, India, she earned a patent in 2021. She was the co-inventor of a Thermal-to-Electric Feedback Cooling Patch, which can convert trapped infrared heat into electricity.
“The layers of the patch were inspired from silk cocoon, fire beetle, and were additively manufactured by polyethylene terephthalate filament thermal extrusion process,” she said.
She has always been fascinated about manufacturing and presented her project showcase at “Aditya Birla’s: Reinventing the future, Manufacturing Today” event in which she was selected as the winner from Chennai in the student showcase. Her project was also presented at an event where more top automotive companies, such as Hyundai, Bajaj Auto, Ashok Leyland, and GE, participate. Finally, she was featured in Manufacturing Today magazine in the September, 2018 edition.
“I felt excited after this event and this was the first time I felt my contribution to manufacturing could have a huge impact,” she says.
After earning her dual degree with a specialization in Mechanical Engineering, Advanced Manufacturing, and Design in 2019, she worked professionally for a few years before pursuing a Doctor of Engineering in Manufacturing (DEng) in Integrative Systems + Design in August 2022.
Komaraju chose to pursue the University of Michigan’s highest manufacturing degree because of its flexibility, curriculum with roots in viewing manufacturing as a whole, interdisciplinary approach to machine learning and manufacturing and technologies, partnerships with leading Fortune 500 companies, top faculty, world-class facilities, and a distinctive approach to integrating systems and design.
“These factors give you an edge over other universities,” she said. “I was looking for a program that matches my aspirations, experiences, background, and interests. Earning a doctoral degree will hone my skills further to explore how I could design cars to be safer and improve performance.”
Komaraju is advised by ISD Director Dr. Miki Banu and UMTRI (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute) Associate Director Jingwen Hu in a collaboration between ISD and UMTRI.
Reducing Defective Parts
Before coming to ISD, Komaraju did her Internship at Faurecia Clean Mobility in Chennai, India, as Assistant to Manufacturing Process Engineer. She researched various ways to eliminate defective parts in manufacturing and assembly lines and worked in a Quality Control project that focused on eliminating defective parts, managing product variety, and understanding environmental policies that influenced the manufacturing of mufflers. Her team won the platinum award from Quality Circle Forum of India.
She also got selected for the US Embassy-led Startup Nexus Incubator and Climatelaunchpad program where she learned about technology commercialization, which further stirred her interest toward entrepreneurship.
In addition, she was a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course in industrial design sketching, which included 3D modeling, product design, and development, and coordinated classes and assignments.
Love of Cars
Growing up in Chennai, India, there was not a lot of public transportation. So residents typically scheduled private transportation. Her mom was the exception. She was one of the few women who regularly drove a car. Being in a car every day inspired Komaraju to choose a career in manufacturing. She aspires to follow the path of “Bertha Benz,” who was the first female car driver and who completed a long road journey starting around 1888 by overcoming many challenges.
“I love being a woman engineer,” she said. “It’s always exciting because it’s always thrilling to be around cars. I’m fascinated by them. This program is a perfect match for my aspirations.”
At ISD, Komaraju loves how warm and welcoming everyone is to her. This makes her feel more confident and willing to try new things.
“Coming from India and as someone who has no relatives and no roots here, ISD is home,” she said. “ISD gives you the skills you need and the connections to top companies to help accomplish your dreams within a short period of time.”
Komaraju’s career goals are to travel the world, become a university professor researching vehicle safety at an elite institution, invent something, and become an entrepreneur.
“I’m looking forward to traveling around the world for conferences because that would help me gain valuable knowledge,” she said.
As a future educator, she likes what she sees in U-M’s faculty. “Faculty are top notch here,” she said. “They have more practical knowledge than at other universities and it’s really fascinating to watch them.”
What was her biggest pleasant surprise coming to America?
“I really look forward to the snow,” she said. “This was my first time experiencing it. Whenever it snows, it’s like being in Alice in Wonderland.”
Her hobbies include painting nature, dartboard arrow shooting, table tennis, basketball, and, of course, cars.
Her best advice to those interested in considering an ISD degree in Manufacturing?
“Here at ISD, you can experience the thrill of manufacturing, especially being around cars,” she said. “You will learn skills at a rapid pace in top-notch facilities and labs taught by the best faculty around to help give you an edge, make your dreams a reality, and help you better serve society. ISD can give the wings when we have the passion and dedication to unleash our dreams, and sky’s the limit.”