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Shirin

One fine evening in 2007 my younger brother Priyam walks up to my room and says, "I am in big trouble this time, please help me! I have a physics test tomorrow and I have to get an A!" For a kid who is pretty good in academics he looked genuinely worried. He was good in science and mathematics, it’s just that he liked chemistry more than physics; you know how it is, everyone has their weak spot. I on the other hand absolutely love physics, so I decided to give it a shot. I glanced over his syllabus and it looked very basic, just labels and definitions, all I had to do was explain the concepts of Friction in Rotational Motion and he'd be all set. Sounded pretty easy to me, at least at first! Five hours and a couple of cups of coffee later we had accomplished nothing. We were both tired and exhausted, and he was more stressed than he was before he came to me for help. I was frustrated too, how can someone so smart not understand something so basic? I tried all the examples in his books as well as from the internet but he just couldn't understand them. I used the exact same method used by my teachers and I was confused why it wasn't working. And then it hit me, Priyam and I were different, the learning process that worked for me may not necessarily work for him. I knew how hard it was for me to understand chemistry, may be it was the same for him with physics. Once I realized and accepted the fact that the problem was not with his learning but with my teaching I started thinking outside the box. I thought of a silly idea but when I told him he was game for it.

I pulled out a DVD from the Fast and Furious movie set and played Tokyo Drift. This adrenaline pumped movie was the latest release from the Fast and Furious franchise and it featured RWD sports cars drifting through the streets of Tokyo. We didn’t watch the whole movie, not that we didn’t want to, it’s just that we didn’t have the time. I skipped to the important bits where all the drifting action was and I explained what was happening from the point of view of rotational mechanics. I explained how kinetic friction played an important role in gliding the car sideways on the street and how static friction was responsible for the cars toppling over. An hour later he was prepared both for his physics test and a street race in East Asia!

Needless to say, he aced the test. And when he told his friends about this story they asked me if I could help them too. Next thing I know I was teaching science and mathematics to high school students. I discovered I was good at it, I enjoyed the challenge of finding innovative ways to get through the students and help them with their studies, and I was able to earn good money too! Later when I joined college to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering I continued to coach students with their regular academics as well as test-prep subjects to support myself through college. I graduated with Honors and then I took multiple tests, like the GRE, TOEFL, and GMAT, to advance my studies; in various cases this experience proved useful in coaching students preparing for these tests.

Last month in December 2015 I graduated from Duke University with a Masters degree in Engineering Management, but I don’t feel like saying goodbye to the academic world yet. Engineering is my true passion, and I love designing things, but teaching has always been close to my heart too. Even though I now am a professional engineer I still wish to dedicate some of my time to keep in touch with the academic field and help students learn. There are many Priyams out there struggling with their own physics problems and I wish to help them.

Undergraduate Degree:

 Sharda University - Bachelors, Mechanical Engineering

Graduate Degree:

 Duke University - Masters, Master of Engineering Management

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