Alumnus returns to UAH as doctoral candidate after working in industry

Sai Susheel Praneeth Kode

Sai Susheel Praneeth Kode worked for General Electric Appliances before deciding to return to UAH.

Michael Mercier | UAH

After attaining a master’s degree in engineering from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in 2015, Sai Susheel Praneeth Kode spent 2-1/2 years working for General Electric Appliances before deciding to return to UAH as a doctoral candidate in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Kode’s path is one that many UAH alumni are familiar with, as experience gained in a business climate informs and motivates them to return to UAH to further their studies as graduate students. In fact, 1,635 undergraduate UAH alumni enrolled in or completed graduate studies between summer 2006 and fall 2017.

"I always had a dream about doing my Ph.D., but I was not prepared immediately after my masters to start my Ph.D.," Kode says. "I hadn’t seen any life outside school since my childhood. I thought, if I can work in a place where they manufacture goods then I can visualize many things differently. I felt that, then, if I were to come back to school to start my Ph.D., I would be much more confident than before."

The decision to choose UAH for his doctoral work was an easy one to make, he says.

"UAH taught me various lessons and showed me a path to success. I didn’t apply to any school other than UAH," Kode says. "UAH encourages students to explore and enrich their interests and also helps showcase their talents to the outside world."

His doctoral work will focus primarily on dynamics and control systems in projects relating to sliding mode control. He’ll be coding with Simulink and MATLAB as he works with advisors Dr. Farbod Fahimi of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Dr. Yuri B. Shtessel of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

A native of Hyderabad, India, where his family still resides, Kode has spent more than five years in the United States since graduating with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Hyderabad.

"I was very fond of robotics when I was pursuing my engineering degree," he says. "I used to attend a lot of robotic competitions around the city and make new bots to compete with various schools. This level of interest in robotics drove me to UAH to pursue my masters in mechanical and aerospace engineering."

While pursuing his master’s degree, Kode was working with Dr. Fahimi on creating an electronic neural network between a robot and its operator that would empower the robot to perform certain tasks within a certain set of parameters.

Following graduation, he was employed as a product engineer, helping the design engineering team.

"I was very fortunate to work for General Electric Appliances, a Haier company, which is located in Lafayette, Ga.," Kode says. The plant employs 1,600 in Walker County, Ga.

"They make a variety of ranges, and the most famous of these are the induction front control and wall ovens. They also make ranges that use electricity, natural gas and dual-fuel ranges that use both."

As part of the New Product Introduction Program design engineering team, Kode ran tests, diagnosed and repaired units, modified parts and built prototype units. He obtained the measurement data needed for Six Sigma analysis, as well as using design software for failure analysis and to assess the longevity of the product.

"Manufacturing and production assignments helped me to learn new skills, and working with teams across different functions made me more confident working in the manufacturing sector," he says. "It was a great experience working with GE Appliance. It’s one big, proud family. This sort of experience definitely adds a lot of weight to your resume."

His time working has served him well in his doctoral pursuit, Kode says.

"The way I attack the problem is entirely different than before. The work experience teaches you how important time management is and also teaches you how to solve any problem with the use of various resources that are available to you. Doing research in a small scale at the workplace definitely pumps your confidence to perform a similar task more efficiently at school."

After achieving his doctorate, Kode wants to continue having one foot planted firmly in academia and the other in the business world.

"The first and foremost thing is that my research should be useful to society, and I want to continue my academic path to constantly learn and teach the students," Kode says. "I also want to start my own company in a couple of years after my graduation."


Dr. Farbod Fahimi

Dr. Yuri Shtessel

Jim Steele