B.S. in Electrical Engineering
2019 Henry W. Liu Scholar
Nicola Ramdass is the inaugural recipient of the Henry W. Liu Scholarship, which supports outstanding Electrical Engineering students.
Let us get to know you a bit. Where did you grow up, and what was your life like before coming to Tandon?
I’m from Trinidad and Tobago. I have two brothers; my older brother is in law school right now in Trinidad, and my younger brother is doing IT, also in Trinidad. Both of my parents are land surveyors. We used to live with my grandmother until I was about five, when we moved to central Trinidad, where there is a lot of grass and a lot of animals. There was a river outside my house, so when my brothers and I were kids, we would go fishing. My dad always had a lot of dogs; he likes to hunt and fish. He’s one of my best friends.
I love that Trinidad is multicultural. I have family who are Christian, Hindu, and Muslim … and we celebrate everything: Eid, Diwali, Christmas, and Easter, all in the same family. In Trinidad, everyone does everything, and people mix. So I grew up with a lot of different perspectives.
Coming to New York was a big change. There’s not a lot of green here, and there are a lot of buildings — big buildings — compared to Trinidad. But I love it. When I first came to Manhattan, I thought, “Whoa. This is where I want to be.”
When did you first come to New York?
I have family that used to live in Brooklyn, and we came to visit them in 2012 because my aunt had a baby. My aunt’s family and my grandma — the one I grew up living with — live on Long Island now. I remember, my aunt and I were walking in Union Square, and I was like, whoa, what’s NYU? I thought it was the coolest thing that the school is spread out all over the city. I knew: this is where I wanted to go. In 2016, I applied to Tandon.
What has life in NYC been like so far? What are some of the challenges and rewards of living in the city?
As far as challenges, traveling. Trains. We don’t have trains in Trinidad, so that was a whole new experience. At home, I know a lot of people. I didn’t know a lot here, so I had to open up a little bit more. But I made a lot of good friends, and this semester, I decided to join a bunch of clubs and widen my horizons.
I’m part of a club called Two Birds, One Stone, where we deliver excess food to the Bowery Mission in the city. I also joined STEMinist, a society of women engineers. I’m very big on feminism. Tandon is still a boys’ school, but there are a lot more girls now. It’s incredible. IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is looking for new e-board members, so [applying for] that is also my goal.
I live at Lafayette Street Residence Hall. I have six suitemates; four of them are Tisch majors, one of them is doing Liberal Studies. There’s also an Econ major there. So we have really interesting discussions.
In my free time, I like to walk around the city. I love art, and to draw. Some of my favorite [pieces] are the Monet paintings at the MOMA — the giant wall of them. I really like music, and I love movies, especially seeing them in movie theaters. My favorite one is the Williamsburg Theater.
What first sparked your interest in engineering?
I’ve always been really good at math, so I’ve always been interested in engineering and science. My dad and his dad think it’s something to do with our genetics, that we’re all so good at math.
My interest in physics started when I was 15. In high school, I wanted to be in chemical engineering until I did Circuits and Electricity, and I realized…this is it.
Tell us about a classroom experience that’s made a big impact on you.
For the last two semesters, I’ve taken Circuits with Matthew Campisi. Before that, I did Intro to Electrical Engineering with him. He told us about his medical devices company. His wife had breast cancer, and he was thinking that there were really ineffective methods to screen for something so common, so he created this little device that can check for cancerous cells.
When you’re a kid, everyone wants you to be a doctor. I love medicine, I love anatomy, but my brain just doesn’t work like that. But I would love to do something in medicine with electrical engineering, and Professor Campisi was the one who really opened my eyes to the possibility of helping people while doing something you love.
I’m also taking my first humanities elective this semester. It’s called Dinosaurs, and it’s about basically recreating the scientific method around how we see dinosaurs today. It’s been challenging for me, but it’s a very cool class.
Are there any words you’d like to share with your scholarship donor, Dr. Bede Liu, Poly ’56?
I just have to say thank you! I would love to meet him … His story is incredible, and I think he’s inspiring.