Thanks for making your way to my blog! I am excited to see where this new adventure takes me.

By way of introducing myself: I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota with my parents and my little sister, Nitya. In middle school and high school, most of my time outside of school was spent practicing the violin, doing bharatanatyam (a form of Indian dance), and being a part of the math team. In 2015, I moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, to start at Dartmouth College. There, I discovered computer science and fell in love with both a new way of thinking and the potential to make an important impact. I continued violin in my college orchestra and had a lot of fun spending time in the outdoors, getting into hiking and climbing. I also became very involved with sexual violence prevention, eventually serving as a chair on the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault. I graduated with a double major in Computer Science and Mathematics, experiences both in academia and industry, and admission to the EECS PhD program at UC Berkeley.

I was excited to start my PhD, but decided to defer for a year. After graduation, I moved to Zaragoza, Spain for a Fulbright research scholarship. I spent the most incredible 6 months in Spain before I had to leave early and return home due to the pandemic. I’ve been staying busy at home finishing up my Fulbright research remotely, and I’m trying to make the most of this time. I’ve been enjoying photography, running, reading, cooking, and now starting this blog.

I’ve been good about keeping a consistent journal for years, but when I was in Spain, I started writing more for other people. I sent semi-regular email updates to several friends and family about my adventures in Spain, and really enjoyed sharing what I was up to. I’ve also been asked by several people about the process of applying to Fulbright/grad school/scholarships, and I want to answer those questions in a way that is hopefully helpful to others, especially to women, first gen, and BIPOC students considering computer science or doing research. I have been incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful mentors and access to resources at an elite institution, and I would love to share what I’ve learned with those who may not have as easy access to this information.

I’ll be posting lightly edited versions of the emails I sent to my friends (but I won’t omit things I have since changed my mind about - it’s been fun to reread them and see how things evolved) covering most of my Fulbright experience in Spain, several posts about research/grad school/applying to Fulbright, and other things that come across my mind. If there is anything you would like to hear about, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Neerja Thakkar
Neerja Thakkar
EECS PhD Student @ Berkeley
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