MechSE alumnus breaking barriers in a unique career path
Pakrasi earned his BSME (’16) and MSME (’18) from Illinois and throughout his education he worked for the department in several research settings. The lab that influenced him most in his post-graduation plans was the Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab, working with Assistant Professor Amy LaViers.
Since his recent graduation from Illinois, Pakrasi has finished the NSF Innovation Corps program, which lead him to create a corporation developing embodied media experiences, Caali LLC, with LaViers and RAD lab colleague, Catie Cuan. He was also appointed as a researcher in the Awh-Vogel lab in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, and has worked on a number of artistic projects. Pakrasi collaborated on a piece with a Chicago-based group, house; he is working on a five track album called “Driving Cars off of Cliffs”; and he is featured at the Fashion Show 2 Freedom where he will showcase the spring collection for his clothing brand, Blue Kailash.
Pakrasi grew up in an environment that fostered creativity, and art was always a way for him to express himself. The RAD Lab works to make robots more expressive and often holds residencies for artists to come and assist with the work. As Pakrasi worked in the lab, his close collaboration with artists helped him reincorporate his natural creativity.
“In the process of working and interacting with dancers, I discovered nuances in their craft that informed my research process in ways that surprised me,” Pakrasi said. “Over time, thinking creatively in the realm of my research focus became second nature.”
This environment allowed Pakrasi to see the merits of viewing engineering and art on a level plane. He said the experience made him both a better engineer as well as a better artist – giving him the confidence to follow his passions.
Pakrasi’s time at Illinois prepared him in many ways for his current career. More than just adapting to the Illinois weather, it exposed him to new perspectives. He had opportunities to take courses that introduced him to new fabrication methods, his work with artists in the RAD Lab helped him build the confidence to pursue his art, and he met people from all over the world that taught him about cultures he wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
“I will forever be grateful to the school, my amazing professors, and the academic body, and I hope to take the spirit of Orange and Blue wherever my professional journey takes me.”