Kalavati Bhashyam currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. Kalavati is originally from India but moved to the United States to pursue her master’s in biomedical engineering because she fell in love with the application of engineering to understanding and improving human health. Kalavati also has a bachelor’s in electronics and communication engineering, which mirrors an electrical engineering major in the United States. She has spent her entire career in medical devices with a focus in R&D (electrical and firmware development), quality assurance and quality systems, and project management. She currently runs a company that is about to commercialize a unique robotic exoskeleton for upper-body rehabilitation. She also leads product development, clinical research, quality, and regulatory and project strategy and execution.
"I always have my hands full. It is incredibly important for me to be able to fit in my education when I have time and bandwidth for it, and OMSCS helps me do just that."
Kalavati originally enrolled in OMSCS because she was in a non-technical role, and she used to joke that her “brain cells were slowly dying”; this degree was a flexible and inexpensive way for her to stay connected and to expand her horizons from a technical standpoint. Kalavati’s company did have a tuition reimbursement program which, coupled with a need to stay sharp technically, inspired her to enroll in the OMSCS program. What Kalavati loves most about OMSCS is the flexibility of the program. She has a lot of professional and personal responsibilities to fulfill – work, her family and her dogs, music, community involvement and volunteering, and personal fitness goals. She contends that “[I] always have my hands full. It is incredibly important for me to be able to fit in my education when I have time and bandwidth for it, and OMSCS helps me do just that”. Kalavati also adds that the fact that OMSCS classes are rigorous in their content is an added bonus for her. She especially appreciates the courses that release all their projects up front and encourages peer feedback to get qualitative feedback on submissions. The latter, she believes, is invaluable in learning because “instead of just getting a grade or score on a routine one’s submitted, it gives you a chance to learn and improve, which is honestly all that matters once you graduate.” For her, her favorite professor is hands down Dr. Joyner. She argues that Dr. Joyner’s courses are a perfect fit for her interests and perfectly designed to maximize true learning and understanding. Kalavati also notes that Dr. Joyner has a huge respect for the fact that his students are juggling so many things to make their educational goals a reality. She loved every minute of both CS 6750: Human Computer Interaction, and CS 6460: Foundations of Educational Technology.
"The key to development of technology is to understand the intersection of technology with humans."
Kalavati is currently working on research that combines her hobbies with her education. Kalavati argues that the “key to development of technology is to understand the intersection of technology with humans”. Wise words indeed! Kalavati continues to argue that technology has the power to be transformative, but only when accepted and wielded to its full power by the people it’s designed for or supposed to be designed for. Kalavati enthusiastically claims that “often, engineers forget that they are designing for a user at the other end, and how that user perceives, understands and employs their creation is key to ensuring impactful, sustainable and responsible development”. Kalavati admits she is very passionate about this subject, so she has been spending time studying how technology can help with music learning across diverse populations. Specifically, she runs a virtual Community of Practice called Geethoven. It’s a play on words – "geet" in Hindi means music/song, combined with Beethoven, since it specifically aims to bring people interested in Indian and Western classical music together to see if they can learn better from each other and bridge gaps both musically and culturally. The majority of her group is actually over 50 years of age, so she also gets to see the unique challenges older demographics face with the use of technology.
For Kalavati, Computer science is as fundamental as mathematics and has the potential to widen the depths of our understanding of life, the universe, and everything else. She loved math as a kid, and computer science is a tool to harness more powerful technology to do math than anything else! What she loves most about working with computers is that “computers are logical. They never do anything you haven’t told them to do, regardless of what you may think. I like that definition and certainty”. For her, debugging is by far the most enjoyable activity of programming because when you figure out what’s going on, everything makes sense, or something starts working, both of which are very satisfying for Kalavati.
Besides computer science, Kalavati almost enrolled in school to be a veterinarian, until she found out how expensive that program was. The same went for her other interests in environmental engineering and forest sciences/botany/zoology – the expensive costs of these program were not an option for her. Kalavati also loves music and language,s and considered studying them more formally. An interesting fact about Kalavati is that she indeed loves learning new languages and can speak five languages! The five languages are English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, and Bengali, and she is also actively learning German, Spanish, and Korean.
If she got to work with a historical figure, it would have to be the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Kalavati loves that she was not only very forward thinking, but also very tactical in her approach to accomplishing her vision. Of course, not to mention “that she was extremely hard-working, and extraordinarily gifted. I think it would have been great to be able to work with her”.
A surprising reward of OMSCS was to meet fellow women in CS through the Women in Tech Seminar and exchange experiences and information on the challenges with gender equity in technology.
As for after graduation, Kalavati would like to focus on applying her technical skills towards furthering innovation and growing and developing strong talent in the field. The OMSCS degree was a way for her to keep up with engineering and the latest developments, and to expand her horizons to developing and evaluating software applications for medical devices. A surprising reward of OMSCS was to meet fellow women in CS through the Women in Tech Seminar and exchange experiences and information on the challenges with gender equity in technology. This inspired Kalavati to mentor more women in STEM and engineering and apply her leadership to establishing and encouraging a diverse, equitable and healthy professional environment for all. Her OMSCS degree will better equip her for that; however, Kalavati admits that “the journey is just as fun and rewarding” as graduation.