Dr. Dinesh Pinisetty, a former member of the Tandon community, tackles a top job at the California State University Maritime Academy
It’s no small task to take on the leadership of an institution of higher learning: it takes vision, organizational skills, intellectual rigor, and the ability to collaborate within a wide range of sectors. When Dr. Dinesh Pinisetty became dean of the engineering school at the California State University Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime) — one of the few degree-granting maritime academies in the United States — he gave much of the credit to his time at NYU Tandon, where he served as a post-doctoral research associate and adjunct faculty from 2011 to 2013.
At Tandon, Pinisetty was advised by Dr.Nikhil Gupta, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and an expert in advanced lightweight composite materials, additive manufacturing, and manufacturing security.
The two had first met at Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, where Pinisetty was then studying for his master’s degree and Gupta was conducting post-doctoral research. “Nikhil was doing incredibly impressive work,” Pinisetty recalls, “and it was intriguing to interact with him.”
Pinisetty remained at Louisiana State University to earn his Ph.D. in 2010, and after he had graduated, Gupta, who had since accepted a professorship at NYU Tandon, invited him to sign on as a post-doctoral fellow on a project funded by the Office of Naval Research in his Composite Materials and Mechanics Laboratory. “I spent an incredible two years working with Nikhil,” Pinisetty says. “I conducted research on syntactic foams, which are materials composed of pre-formed hollow spheres bound together with a polymer and which have many practical applications in the marine sector because of their strength and buoyancy, which became a great segue for me to join the maritime academy.”
Pinisetty also taught classes and helped Gupta source equipment and set up his lab. “I learned multiple skills during that period,” he says. “In addition to becoming adept in front of the classroom, I learned to operate a lab, deal with vendors and budgets, and concurrently pursue my own research interests. I feel that my time at Tandon helped me develop into a well-rounded teacher, administrator, and materials scientist.”
Those abilities proved to be a boon when Pinisetty moved to the West Coast in 2013 with his new wife, who worked for the State of California. There he joined the faculty of Cal Maritime and began chairing the Department of Engineering Technology just six years later. This year, he earned the title of dean of the institution’s school of engineering.
“Cal Maritime fills a unique niche that allows our graduates to find work not just in the shipbuilding industry, as you might expect, but shoreside in a variety of sectors, including business, transportation, security policy management, oceanography, and energy,” he explains. “It’s thrilling to watch them develop academically and professionally, especially during their time on our 500-foot training ship, Golden Bear. They each spend at least 60 days traveling around the Pacific Rim getting first-hand experience, and while some of them have barely even held a wrench as first-year students, they quickly learn to troubleshoot and become self-reliant. After all, if you’ve been assigned to work as an engineer in the middle of the ocean, there may be no one else to turn to for help in every instance.”
Pinisetty’s strategic vision for the school includes increasing enrollment, forging strong industry partnerships, placing a strong emphasis on research, and continuing to excel at the hands-on training for which Cal Maritime is known.
“Our graduates are poised to make meaningful contributions to the world as well-rounded engineers with solid foundational knowledge, leadership potential, and a commitment to making the society a better place,” Pinisetty says. “I like to think we have that in common with NYU Tandon.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of Dinesh” Gupta asserts. “His career trajectory has been extraordinary because of his vision, efficiency and leadership qualities. We were lucky to have him here at NYU Tandon, and now Cal Maritime is sharing in that luck.”