Rujul Gandhi’s love of studying blossomed right into a love of language at age 6, when she found a e book at a storage sale known as “What’s Behind the Phrase?” With forays into historical past, etymology, and language genealogies, the e book captivated Gandhi, who as an MIT senior stays fascinated with phrases and the way we use them.
Rising up partially within the U.S. and principally in India, Gandhi was surrounded by quite a lot of languages and dialects. When she moved to India at age 8, she might already see how figuring out the Marathi language allowed her to attach extra simply to her classmates — an early lesson in how language shapes our human experiences.
Initially considering she may need to research artistic writing or theater, Gandhi first discovered about linguistics as its personal subject of research by means of a web-based course in ninth grade. Now a linguistics main at MIT, she is learning the construction of language from the syllable to condemn degree, and likewise studying about how we understand language. She finds the human facets of how we use language, and the truth that languages are always altering, significantly compelling.
“While you study to understand language, you may then admire tradition,” she says.
Speaking and connecting, with a technological help
Benefiting from MIT’s World Educating Labs program, Gandhi traveled to Kazakhstan in January 2020 to show linguistics and biology to highschool college students. Missing a strong grasp of the language, she cautiously navigated conversations together with her college students and hosts. Nevertheless, she quickly discovered that working to grasp the language, giving culturally related examples, and writing her assignments in Russian and Kazakh allowed her to interact extra meaningfully together with her college students.
Expertise additionally helped bridge the communication barrier between Gandhi and her Russian-speaking host father, who spoke no English. With assist from Google Translate, they bonded over shared pursuits, together with Fifties and ’60s Bollywood music.
As she started to review pc science at MIT, Gandhi noticed extra alternatives to attach individuals by means of each language and know-how, thus main her to pursue a double main in linguistics and in pc science and electrical engineering.
“The issues I perceive by means of linguistics, I can attempt to discover options to by means of pc science,” she explains.
Energized by formidable tasks
Gandhi is decided to prioritize social influence whereas searching for these options. By means of numerous management roles in on-campus organizations throughout her time at MIT, particularly within the student-run Academic Research Program (ESP), she realized how a lot working instantly with individuals and being on the logistical facet of huge tasks energizes her. With ESP, she helps set up occasions that deliver hundreds of highschool and center college college students to campus every year for lessons and different actions led by MIT college students.
After her second directing program, Spark 2020, was cancelled final March due to the pandemic, Gandhi ultimately embraced the digital expertise. She deliberate and co-directed a digital program, Splash: 2020, internet hosting about 1,100 college students. “Interacting with the ESP neighborhood satisfied me that a company can operate effectively with a powerful dedication to its values,” she says.
The pandemic additionally heightened Gandhi’s appreciation for the MIT neighborhood, as many individuals reached out to her providing a spot to remain when campus shut down. She says she sees MIT as house — a spot the place she not solely feels cared for, but additionally relishes the chance to take care of others.
Now, she is bridging cultural obstacles on campus by means of performing artwork. Dance is one other considered one of Gandhi’s loves. When she couldn’t discover a group to apply Indian classical dance with, Gandhi took issues into her personal arms. In 2019, she and a few mates based Nritya, a scholar group at MIT. The group hopes to have its first in-person efficiency this fall. “Dance is like its personal language,” she observes.
Expertise born out of empathy
In her educational work, Gandhi relishes researching linguistics issues from a theoretical perspective, after which making use of that data by means of hands-on experiences. “The advantage of MIT is it permits you to exit of your consolation zone,” she says.
For instance, in IAP 2019 she labored on a geographical dialect survey of her native Marathi language with Deccan Faculty, a middle of linguistics in her hometown. And, by means of the Undergraduate Analysis Alternatives Program (UROP), she is presently engaged on a analysis venture centered on phonetics and phonology, focusing her consideration on how language “contact,” or interactions, influences the sounds that audio system use.
The next winter, she additionally labored with Tarjimly, a nonprofit connecting refugees with interpreters by means of a smartphone app. She notes that translating techniques have superior rapidly when it comes to permitting individuals to speak extra successfully, however she additionally acknowledges that there’s nice potential to enhance them to learn and attain much more individuals.
“How are individuals going to advocate for themselves and make use of public infrastructure if they will’t interface with it?” she asks.
Mulling over different concepts, Gandhi says it might be fascinating to discover how signal language is perhaps extra successfully be interpreted by means of a smartphone translating app. And, she sees a necessity for additional bettering regional translations to higher join with the tradition and context of the areas the language is spoken in, accounting for dialectal variations and new developments.
Trying forward, Gandhi desires to give attention to designing techniques that higher combine theoretical developments in linguistics and on making language know-how broadly accessible. She says she finds the work of bringing collectively know-how and linguistics to be most rewarding when it entails individuals, and that she finds essentially the most that means in her tasks when they’re centered round empathy for others’ experiences.
“The know-how born out of empathy is the know-how that I need to be engaged on,” she explains. “Language is basically a individuals factor; you may’t ignore the individuals while you’re designing know-how that pertains to language.”