Rajasekaran Memorial Scholarship Project

Ramanujam Raj Sekar
March 12, 1943 – Oct. 7, 2019
Avid engineer, passionate about the applications of technology for all mankind – Ramanujam (Raj) Sekar was a mechanical engineer whose initial enthusiasm for diesel engines and all things automotive transformed into significant contributions to emissions reduction technologies through an exemplary career spanning decades. Besides multiple avenues of national and international recognition, his true rewards were in his ability to spread the spark for engineering innovation through collaborative projects and mentoring. This scholarship aims to continue his legacy of kindling the spirit of innovation in eager minds with a passion for technology.

Even though Raj had lost his father at a very young age, Raj showed early promise with his Gold Medal in the SSLC exam, leading eventually to a coveted merit-based scholarship at Government College of Technology, Coimbatore. He was brought up by his mother, a resident cook for a family, and the two of them lived in one room of the family’s house while he studied. He worked hard and played hard while at school, but the family was extremely poor while he was at school and college in India. His work paid off when he got the merit scholarship to offset his tuition and some living expenses (Rs. 75 a month for his five years at GCT).

After graduating in Mechanical Engineering, he had a brief foray into industry at the Dandali paper mill before further pursuing his thirst for knowledge by moving to the US for post graduate study at University of Wisconsin, Madison. After his MS in Mechanical Engineering in 1969, he also graduated with an MBA from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1974.

His professional career included long, illustrious stints with Cummins Engine company (15 years) and Argonne National Laboratories (30 years) in a variety of roles, all aimed at innovating and leading efforts within the automotive industry and governments to develop efficient, clean, accessible technology that have improved lives over the decades. His key technical acumen coupled with an inspiring style of leadership saw him initiate and cultivate the Argonne applied research program that has become an exemplary model of industry and government cooperation. He built the Engine and Emissions Research Group at Argonne from scratch, eventually consisting of dozens of bright and brilliant engineering researchers.

One of his key projects was in 1989 when he initiated the novel idea of using oxygen enrichment in the intake air of internal combustion engines by using separation membranes. This resulted in 6 patents, 32 publications and an R&D 100 award in 1999. Then, in 1996, he played a key role in securing the US Department of Energy’s attention and support for Argonne’s research on particulate emissions from diesel engines. Raj’s research has already resulted in significant developments on transient particulate flow instrumentation and in understanding individual particle morphology. In 2002, he coordinated efforts by the three domestic gas engine manufacturers to improve stationary natural gas engine performance. Overall, in addition to his previously mentioned award and others, he is credited with over 50 technical publications and at least 7 patents. In 2003 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In June 2015, he was awarded the Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award from the United Stated Department of Energy, pictured above

The legacy that he leaves behind is one of fairness, of keeping teams motivated in face of adversity, and of maintaining a tradition of innovation and excellence – one that has a lasting impact on science and engineering for years to come. This scholarship seeks to provide opportunity for aspiring young engineers who, like Raj, could benefit from support, and continue his legacy.