ASU’s engineering power couple

Alumni, husband-and-wife duo Sanjay Paul and Rumpa Dey credit university for multiple honors in transit industry

November 20, 2023

Rumpa Dey and Sanjay Paul, alumni of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, are no strangers to awards and recognitions. This year, the husband-and-wife duo celebrates multiple prestigious honors recognizing their accomplishments as professional leaders in transportation and traffic engineering.

Even in life after ASU, the couple largely credits the university's proud and diverse community as a major factor to their success in the United States. Portrait of ASU alumni and husband-and-wife-duo Sanjay Paula and Rumpa Dey. Sanjay Paul (left) and Rumpa Dey at the College Avenue Commons on Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus. Paul and Dey are alumni of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU Download Full Image

“When I think about ASU, it is full of beautiful memories,” says Dey, who earned a Master of Science in civil engineering from the Fulton Schools. “We came from Bangladesh to Arizona. I still remember that day; it was 118 degrees. Overall, it was a culture shock but in a good way.”

Dey and Paul said while their main focus at ASU was on their studies, it was equally as important for them to begin building their community and exploring Arizona’s culture. The couple participated in the activities of multiple organizations for engineers, including the Friends of Civil and Environmental Engineering and ASU’s Institute of Transportation Engineers, also known as ITE.

Dey became the ITE fundraising coordinator and Paul the vice president of the chapter. While participating in the club, they undertook a project to contribute to the ITE Trip Generation Manual, which is used today by traffic professionals across the country.

“We learned so much about the United States and American cu­­­lture,” says Paul, who earned a doctoral degree with a focus on transportation engineering from the Fulton Schools. “We developed a network of professionals through different activities and research projects. We had a network, and I think that definitely helped us early on.”

This year, both Paul and Dey are celebrated by Engineering News-Record among ENR Southwest’s 2023 Top Young Professionals for their experience, leadership and community involvement. Mass Transit magazine also honored the couple as part of its 2023 40 Under 40 program, which recognizes individuals pushing the transit industry forward.

In addition, Dey is recognized as the Business Leader of the Year for small- and medium-sized companies in the 2023 Champions of Change Awards by AZ Big Media, and Paul was recognized in Phoenix Business Journal as part of the 40 Under 40 list of high-achieving young business leaders in the Valley.

Having been a couple since they were 17 years old, the duo shares that their common interest in engineering is a plus but their emotional support for one another leads them to take on new challenges.

Finding support as students

In 2012, Dey became pregnant with their first child while pursuing her master’s degree and working as a research fellow. With the support of faculty and Paul, Dey was able to receive the support she needed to finish classes, earn her degree and build their family.

“The professors were incredibly supportive,” Dey says. “They knew my due date and let me do makeup exams. People here are so friendly and so understanding.”

In addition to joining student organizations, Paul and Dey also found support in mentors, including Professor Ram Pendyala (now the director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment), who served as their graduate degree advisor.

Dey says it was under Pendyala’s guidance that she and Paul were able to build professional relationships, gain experience and find work.

"Through hard work, dedication, outstanding service to the profession and a passion for innovation, Sanjay Paul and Rumpa Dey have excelled as leaders in the field of transportation systems engineering and become exemplary mentors,” Pendyala says. “Their journey from our graduate program to their current status as industry leaders is a testament to their relentless pursuit of excellence. They illuminate the path for the next generation of professionals, inspiring all of us to envision a brighter and more efficient future for transportation. We congratulate Sanjay and Rumpa on their many successes and look forward to everything they will undoubtedly achieve in the future as their careers unfold in the years ahead."

Life as ASU alumni

After graduation, Dey and Paul had no issues finding work due to their professional relationships, research experience and community work. Following Dey’s final term project presentation with data from the Arizona Department of Transportation, she met a classmate who was impressed by her work and later offered her a job.

“There are so many opportunities. You don't need to view your classmates as competition,” Paul says. “They will be your supporters. Once they get jobs, their companies will need more people. Their supervisors will say ‘Hey, bring your friend so that you can work together.’ That's how it works.”

Currently, Dey is the associate vice president and Emerging Technology Leader for AECOM's Arizona and Utah divisions. Paul is the Arizona and New Mexico area traffic business class leader for HDR Engineering Inc.

Both Dey and Paul have continued their involvement with ASU ITE and the ASU community that they call family. As leaders in their companies, they reciprocate the opportunities they were given back to a new generation of students through mentorship and by connecting them to jobs.

“We always invite the students to attend the conferences and talk to professionals,” Paul says. “If you're looking for a job, that's your place to connect with them and send your resume. It’s the ASU community — we all have to help each other.”

Bobbi Ramirez

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


International travel, research highlights of December grad’s ASU experience

November 21, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Piper Heiligenstein’s undergraduate experience at Arizona State University was a combination of academics, adventure, prestigious research opportunities and personal autonomy. Portrait of ASU grad Piper Heiligenstein. Piper Heiligenstein, courtesy photo Download Full Image

Heiligenstein will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a certificate in biomedical research from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and honors from Barrett, The Honors College at ASU.

She took her first-ever international trip to Germany as the recipient of the DAAD RISE scholarship in the summer of 2022, where she was an intern at Kiel University working as a laboratory research assistant all week and traveling to neighboring countries on weekends.

“The most interesting moment in my ASU career was in the summer of 2022 when I traveled and lived across the ocean by myself for a summer for the DAAD RISE scholarship,” said Heiligenstein, who is from Trenton, Illinois.

“It was so interesting for me since it was my first time traveling and living alone out of the country. The experience really challenged me in terms of independence, but I was able to meet some really cool people who I still keep in touch with today,” she said.

Heiligenstein followed up her experience in Germany with the Fulbright-MITACS Globalink Research Internship program over the summer of 2023 at McGill University, an English-language public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where she spent 12 weeks studying genomics and DNA replication.

As a Barrett student, she completed an honors thesis titled “Deciphering the Essentiality of the Mycobacterium smegmatis PrrAB Two Component System.”

“I believe completing an honors thesis is a huge advantage on graduate school applications. The undergraduate honors thesis process gave me insight into how my future thesis defense process might look like and I also think showing you have tangible experience presenting and defending your own independent work is a key thing graduate admission offices look for,” said Heiligenstein, who plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical sciences with a focus on infectious diseases.

As Heiligenstein, who was an ASU President’s Scholar, wraps up her last undergraduate semester, we asked her to reflect on her time at ASU. Here’s what she had to say.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: There was really no exact moment when I decided to study biological sciences, but I always enjoyed my biology classes in high school the most out of all my classes.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose Arizona State since I wanted to escape the Midwest cold weather and my father graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in English back in 1988.

Q: Why did you choose to be in Barrett Honors College?

A: After I got accepted into Arizona State, I took a tour of the campus and met with then-Barrett Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs. I was really impressed by the college and the guidance and resources the school provided students.

Being a Barrett student enhanced my undergraduate experience by making a massive university feel a lot more like home. I'm from a pretty small town, and Barrett had a community atmosphere I would have missed if I did not join the college. I met almost all of my friends through Barrett.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? What was that lesson?

A: The professor at ASU that taught me the most important lesson is Dr. Susan Holechek, assistant teaching professor in the School of Life Sciences. She taught me that genetics is more than just studying pea plants and inheritance, which led me to working in a microbiology/genetics lab.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: The best piece of advice I can give to those still in school is don’t be too hard on yourself because everyone around you is just figuring it out as they go as well.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The Sun Devil Fitness Complex is my favorite spot on campus because I used to work at Shake Smart and I played intramural volleyball for three years.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If someone gave me $40 million to solve one problem, I would create a nonprofit organization with the purpose of tackling antibiotic resistance, specifically through funding projects related to phage therapy and antibiotic residue in water supplies.

Nicole Greason

Director of Marketing and Public Relations , Barrett, The Honors College