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New Memorial Scholarship Honors the Memory of Outstanding Aerospace Engineering Undergraduate

March 15, 2010

New Memorial Scholarship Honors the Memory of Outstanding Aerospace Engineering Undergraduate

Vishal Parikh

Vishal Parikh, an exceptional aerospace engineering senior who passed away in April 2009 after a valiant battle with cancer, will continue to inspire his fellow UCLA engineering students for many years to come, thanks to a new scholarship that has been established in his memory. 

Parikh’s family; Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne; and the Propulsion Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory established the Vishal Parikh Memorial Scholarship and Research Internship last week at a ceremony at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Parikh’s parents Sanjay and Asha noted at the ceremony that even though other prestigious universities wooed their son, who was a National Merit Finalist and the valedictorian of his high school class, he never wavered in his desire to come to UCLA to study aerospace engineering.

At UCLA, Parikh was a Regents Scholar and continued his excellence in academics, earning top grades in very challenging lower and upper division courses. He was active in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) student group and also joined the UCLA Energy and Propulsion Research Laboratory, headed by professors Ann Karagozian and Owen Smith, as an undergraduate researcher in the spring of 2008.


Front row: Debra Bergman-Duran (PW/Rocketdyne), Asha Parikh, Amita Parikh, Sanjay Parikh, and Prof. Ann Karagozian. Second row: MAE Chair Adrienne Lavine, Dr. Shawn Phillips (Air Force Research Lab, propulsion directorate), Prof. Richard Wirz, Dr. Munir Sindir (PW/Rocketdyne), Mike Huggins (Air Force Research Lab, propulsion directorate), Associate Dean Rick Wesel, and Jan LaBuda from the HSSEAS Student Affairs office.


Parikh’s exemplary academic achievements were recognized at the 2009 engineering school commencement with MAE’s Outstanding Aerospace Engineering B.S. Student Award.  On his behalf, his parents and sister Amita received his posthumous B.S. degree, summa cum laude.

”Vishal was an extraordinarily gifted student and a talented researcher”, said Karagozian.  “It was a joy and privilege to have taught and worked with him, and we were blessed to have him as part of our research group.  We are immensely grateful to the Parikh family, to Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and to the Air Force Research Lab for establishing this special memorial for Vishal.”

A component of the Parikh scholarship includes a summer internship at the Air Force Research Lab, which conducts basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development for the Air Force.  The internship will involve research and development relevant to rocket propulsion systems, a field in which Vishal Parikh had special interest through a class he took from MAE professor Richard Wirz.

At the inaugural ceremony, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne officials Munir Sindir and Debra Bergman-Duran presented memorial plaques that featured a detailed sectional lithographic model of the Space Shuttle’s main engine to both the Parikh family and the MAE Department.  Mike Huggins and Shawn Phillips, the Chief and Deputy Chief of Space and Missile Propulsion at the Air Force Research Lab, were also present for the ceremony.

The Vishal Parikh Memorial Scholarship is open to juniors in aerospace or mechanical engineering. Students with interest in a career focusing on rocket propulsion are encouraged to apply.  Information is available on the MAE Department website ( ).

 For information on other undergraduate scholarships at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, visit .