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Roopa Gir - breaking molds and blazing trails (PAN IIT Newsletter Feb 2014)

posted May 29, 2014, 12:15 PM by IITRAANA Admin   [ updated May 29, 2014, 12:18 PM ]
[Article 2 of 3 from PAN IIT Newsletter Feb 2014 - Highlight on IIT Roorkee / Contributed by Sanjiv Sinha BE '98 EC]
As published in PAN IIT Newsletter Feb 2014
Featured IIT Roorkee Alumni
This month we focus on IIT-Roorkee. We highlight two alumni - Roopa Gir and Naveen Jain. Roopa, as a woman IIT alum has experienced first hand, the changing role of women in Technical Institutes and the workforce. She was one of the first women to enter the Geophysics department at IIT Roorkee in the 1970s. She had Naveen needs little introduction. He is a tech entrepreneur based in Seattle who blazed the trail for countless others that have since followed.

- First woman student in M Tech Geophysics, Gold Medal 1974
- President iEducateUSA
- First female Scientific Adviser within Schlumberger
- United Nations' Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues
- Board - AICAPD, TiE Houston, IAPAC, UNA, Samscriti and iEducateUSA
- Past President of the IIT Alumni of Greater Houston (IITAGH)
- Past Vice President and Secretary of PanIIT USA
Roopa Gir is the president of iEducateUSA, a non-profit organization that is revolutionizing math and science education in underserved and underperforming schools. iEducateUSA was showcased at the recent IIT 2013 conference, where she served as the conference advisor, and was instrumental in bringing the conference to Houston. In her professional career she has served over31 years in the Oil & Gas Industry, with roles ranging from engineering, to marketing, to corporate& business development. Almost 16 of those years were spent overseas across Southeast Asia and Europe. As Director of Corporate Technology Watch and Scientific Advisor to Schlumberger, her last 5 years were focused on evaluating technologies relating to shale gas extraction. She continues her involvement in the industry as advisor to various existing and early-stage oilfield companies.

Roopa grew up in a family where education and arts were both given importance. In addition to her studies, she learned two classical forms of dancing (Bharatnatyam and Odissi), and continued to give performances until the late 1970s. Her passion for the arts remains today, with her serving as Vice President of Samscriti, an organization that promotes Indian art and culture in Houston.

Pioneers and explorers have always paved the way for those who follow, and their experience is a roadmap of success or failure to be followed or discarded. Roopa was the first female to seek admission in geophysics at IIT Roorkee. She was initially refused admission because of "concern for her safety"on long geological field trips. Not giving up, she overcame the university's concerns and became the first woman student in geophysics, continuing on to graduate with a gold medal in 1974 for standing first amongst all students in her year.

After a brief stint as assistant professor at Delhi University, Roopa was awarded the French government scholarship in 1974 (only one awarded per year in Geophysics) to pursue a PhD degree in Applied Geophysics. She obtained her PhD from L'Institut de Physique du Globe, Université Louis Pasteur, France with "mention très honoree." She subsequently began her career in Schlumberger as a Senior Development Engineer in Houston, Texas.

Roopa eventually became the first female Scientific Adviser within Schlumberger. She has also been recognized with the "Performed by Schlumberger" awards and a special "Never Give Up" award. The chairman Andrew Gould quoted her example as one of the successful women in science and technology in his keynote speech at a conference in Berlin, Germany. Among other honors, she was one of only 15 women from around the world to be invited by the United Nations' Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, to give a speech, at a UN Expert Group Meeting. She presented a joint paper with Andrew Gould as a key note address at a joint SEG/SPE conference in Jakarta, Indonesia on "Maximizing the Economic Performance of Oil and Gas Fields through Technology and Teamwork: Key elements for Creating Growth." She was recently invited to give a commencement speech at the University of Strasbourg.

There were many challenges along the way, especially working in the oilfield where women were extremely rare. Balancing work and family life was another challenge. At one point, she chose the technical ladder instead of the executive ladder which allowed more time with her son during his early years. Roopa believes that certain qualities drive success, including strong communication, tenacious zeal, an affinity for taking risks, and above all being a dreamer.

Roopa has always believed that the greatest satisfaction in life comes from giving back to the community. As a result, Roopa is on the board of several charitable & mentoring organizations, including AICAPD, TiE Houston, IAPAC, UNA, Samscriti and iEducateUSA. AICAPD is a unique pilot of 3 schools for children of migrant laborers in Bhonsi village, Gurgaon, where the school moves with the kids, hence the name "Innovation mobile School". Seed is another project in Haridwar district that was initiated by Roopa and supported by Pan IIT India and IIT Roorkee. She is also actively involved with the IIT alumni, having served as president of the IIT Alumni of Greater Houston (IITAGH), and Vice President and Secretary of PanIIT USA. During her tenure, the PanIIT chapter development was launched. She chaired the first large scale national meet for IITR in Las Vegas. Finally, she is actively involved as an editor of PiTech Magazine, the Pan IIT flagship publication showcasing technologies of the IITs and people of Indian origin.