Kelly Kochanski, a Physics and EAPS major, grew professionally at Shell Bangalore and discovered her passion for geology in the Himalayas.
Kelly enjoying a camel ride.

Science in the mountains

Kelly had her first experience with MIT-India in summer 2013, when she participated in a trip led by the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science Department at MIT. The fieldwork took place in the Ladakh region, whose Himalayan range offers geologic evidence of the collision between the Indian and Asian continental plates eons ago.

Kelly’s time in Ladakh was a joyful one, with unique opportunities to both experience and contribute to earth science. The location was fundamental to the experience, she says: “Now I understand better how mountains are formed. Having seen many complex geologic features first-hand makes it much easier to envision the ones I’m studying.”

The team collaborated with Professor Rajeev Upadhyay of Kumaun University, whose relationship with MIT was spurred on by a 2009 India Innovation Fund grant from MIT-India, highlighting another important way the program creates lasting international ties. The collaboration with MIT EAPS Professor Oliver Jagoutz eventually led to the trip Kelly participated in. Professor Upadhyay and his students provided new insights and ideas to the project, another way that Kelly’s experience couldn’t have been replicated on campus; it was the kind of experience she could only have had through MIT-India.

Shell’s professional touch

When MIT-India sent Kelly back to India the next summer, in 2014, it was for a radically different experience: A first-hand look at a global company’s physics research. Using a technique called Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics, Kelly worked on developing an in-house simulation for the Shell Corporation that modeled the impact of ocean waves on offshore structures. This marked the second year of an ongoing partnership between MIT-India and Shell that has opened up fantastic research opportunities for interns at a corporation with a massive international reach.

Kelly’s skills expanded greatly in the new research environment, where she was exposed to coordinated, collaborative software development and large-scale projects that were far more comprehensive than what she had ever seen before. “These are skills I fully intend to use in graduate school or future work,” she says.

It wasn’t just the professional, practical side of her time in Bangalore that made it memorable. Kelly also found inspiring moments outside the lab. “Learning to navigate Indian culture was a huge challenge and a huge benefit,” she remembers. “India is intense -- and fascinating!”

  • India
  • Internship
  • Physics