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Stetson’s small classes and top professors bring big success for student from India 

Vakul Nath graduated from Stetson University this year and was honored as an Outstanding 2024 Senior in the Computer Science program. He received an engineering fellowship and will pursue a master’s degree this fall.

Nath said he never imagined he would achieve such success when he left his small town in India to study in the US.

He credits Stetson’s small class sizes, which allowed him to form a close working relationship with a top computer science professor. Dr. Joshua Eckroth became a mentor and served as the faculty advisor on his student research project, which Nath presented at a major research conference last year.

The one-on-one attention from faculty — along with Stetson’s beautiful campus in sunny Florida — made the university a perfect fit, Nath said.

Stetson has been named one of the best colleges in America by The Princeton Review and one of the top regional universities in the South by US News & World Report. The diverse, vibrant campus attracts international students from 56 countries, including those in South Asia.

“I think the best part about Stetson is the student-professor ratio,” Nath said, referring to Stetson’s ratio of 11 students for each faculty member.

The personalized attention from faculty is a hallmark of a Stetson education and helps many students like Nath find success in the United States, professors say.

“Stetson University, with her Liberal Arts tradition and long history, possesses many of the desirable characteristics of a relationship-focused education centered in deep inquiry,” said Stetson Associate Professor of Mathematics Hari Pulapaka, PhD, who was born and raised in India, and came to the US for graduate study.

“The broad curriculum is further strengthened by the opportunities for students to pursue graduate education at some of America’s best universities or enter the leading-edge workspace of the world’s largest economy. Certainly, living in the beautiful state of Florida will be an added incentive.”

Associate Professor Hari Pulapaka, PhD. Source: Stetson University

Nath’s research project, entitled “Design and Implementation of a Light Database,” seeks to create a new database that would store data in light instead of in a computer system or memory. The light would travel continuously between Earth and a satellite orbiting Mars, meaning data would be stored in the light as it travels and not in a static location.

Dr. Eckroth suggested the research idea one day in a computer science class when Nath was a second-year student. Nath immediately expressed interest and spent the first year learning the necessary background about physics and other topics before actually starting the research.

“Having the chance to interact directly with professors and receive immediate feedback on my ideas accelerated my learning and helped me overcome challenges,” Nath said. “Dr. Eckroth’s insights and encouragement were invaluable, providing not just technical knowledge, but also the confidence to pursue ambitious goals.”

Additionally, Nath benefited from the close relationship between Stetson’s Mathematics and Computer Science departments. He said he received “tremendous help” from Dr. Tom Vogel, Associate Math Professor and Chair of Math and Computer Science at Stetson. “His expertise greatly complemented my work,” said Nath.

Nath also served as Vice President of the Computer Science Club and worked for the university’s IT Helpdesk, where he learned valuable skills in computer science and customer service.

Stetson University offers academic programs in many STEM fields, including computer science, cybersecurity, physics, chemistry, biology, pre-Health, environmental science and more. Source: Stetson University

Stetson encourages students to gain hands-on experience through opportunities like internships and student employment. The university also promotes student involvement on campus through more than 100 clubs and organizations, robust NCAA Division I Athletics, club sports, Greek Life and more.

Nath plans to continue his research as a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, a top research university in Tennessee. He hopes to work as a research scientist in the field and may one day pursue a doctorate degree.

“Ever since I was a kid, my two loves were space and computers. This opportunity gave me the chance to work with both of those and pursue something I truly love,” said Nath, whose parents are educators in their small town outside New Delhi. “I could have never imagined that I would get an opportunity like this.”