VICKSBURG, Miss.— Indu Shukla, a computer scientist at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), was recently chosen for the Asian American Most Promising Engineer of the Year Award, which is presented each year as part of National Engineers Week.
“Winning this award to me is just absolutely phenomenal,” Shukla said. “I didn’t expect it; I was stunned. To be recognized is great, and I felt so honored.”
Originally from a town in India called Banaras, Shukla came to the United States as a newlywed with her husband, who was a postdoctoral researcher at the time. She earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Jackson State University and joined the ERDC team in 2010, where she now develops new artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.
“I am a biology major from India. While I was pursuing an undergraduate degree in biology, my brother studied engineering and hearing him talk about computer science and how it is pushing the world into new technology and automation always fascinated me,” Shukla said. “This inquisitiveness drove me to pursue a computer science career when I decided to continue my higher education after moving to the USA.”
Shukla first learned about ERDC while working on her bachelor’s degree at Jackson State.
“During my undergraduate study, I visited ERDC a few times and learned that this is one of the most diverse engineering and scientific research organizations supporting military missions,” Shukla said. “ERDC is a very challenging, yet rewarding place to work.”
Shukla is an employee of ERDC’s Information Technology Laboratory, where she works as a lead developer and researcher, pioneering cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine earning tools that support Army missions. She is also currently involved in the research and development of smart facilities, creating digital twin models to perform predictive analysis that will detect anomalies in infrastructure.
“At ERDC, we get to choose what we work on, and I thoroughly enjoy working here,” Shukla said. “It gives me a feeling of accomplishment to be part of this organization’s important and diverse missions.”
Shukla has enjoyed and taken advantages of the opportunities that ERDC has given her outside the laboratory as well.
“ERDC provides lots of room for growth,” Shukla said, adding that through ERDC, she earned a master’s in computer science from Mississippi State University, as well as additional training in applied data science with Python from the University of Michigan.
And for Shukla, there’s another major piece of her career that’s just as important as the research — mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers.
“Born and raised in a relatively small town in India, a lot of kids my age back then were undecided on what career path to consider,” Shukla said. “Even though there was an increasing demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals in the modern workplace, and despite the field being a stable, high-paying career, many girls were so hesitant to pursue STEM.”
Once she began her professional career, Shukla decided it was an opportunity for her to help that younger generation.
“When I joined ERDC, I started participating in STEM-focused activities to enhance mentees’ science identity and self-efficacy for research,” Shukla said. “I believe that this contributes to stronger interest and commitment in pursuing a STEM career in younger generations. By teaching my own practices and knowledge, personal abilities are rehearsed, practiced and consequently, my own confidence increased throughout the mentorship.”
“We are incredibly lucky to have innovative, passionate team members like Shukla at ERDC, who are helping shape their communities and the nation with their dedication to the field of computer science and engineering,” said ERDC Director Dr. David Pittman. “I could not be more proud.”
The Asian American Engineer of the Year Conference began in 2002 as a national event to recognize and honor outstanding Asian American professionals in science and engineering. Spanning private corporations, prestigious research institutions and government agencies, hundreds of people participate in the annual event, which will be held virtually on July 18.
This year, Shukla will join other award winners from companies such as AT&T, Boeing, General Motors and others, who are being recognized for their contributions to the fields of science and engineering.
“I sincerely thank the Information Technology Laboratory, my team and my family for helping me reach a stage where I can proudly hold up this award as a mark of my achievement,” Shukla said.