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"Plan well and work hard. It's worth it." - Sai's advice to US bound international students.

Updated: Oct 4, 2019



Sai Siva Kumar Pinnepalli, PhD Candidate at UMKC


Sai was fascinated by the extraordinary world filled with thousands of automated reactions inside a living cell. The passion that emerged out of curiosity to unravel the mysteries in the nanoworld enthused Sai to pursue higher education after his bachelor’s degree.


Sai is from Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, India. After his schooling at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (Anantapur), he got admitted to Integrated M.Sc program at Puttaparti. He obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in chemistry from Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Puttaparti, India.


Getting higher education in America and become a well-trained scientist was a dream for Sai since his bachelor’s degree years. True enough, because he sees himself as bold and professional within a year of his stay. He says that he has become more independent in his thinking. But it wasn’t a cozy journey to the US. He received little guidance from his seniors at college on how to plan about applying to the universities. His major constraints were finances and English language. Through self-motivation he found vocabulary guidance and started preparing for TOEFL and GRE two years prior to his graduation.


He states that when he was applying to the universities, his head was throbbing with questions bereft of answers: which university to choose, what kind of research is good, which program is better, the nature of the professor, funding for the research etc. he wrote hundreds of emails to hundreds of professors to know if any PhD positions were available. He applied directly to some of the universities not knowing how to write a good Statement of Purpose (SOP) or who was the best person to ask for a reference letter. He was rejected by all the universities and did not get any reply from any professor.


Never the less, Sai persevered and changed his thought process. He worked assiduously skimming through hundreds of universities from the west to east coast based on the research work, expenses and weather. He redrafted his SOP for more than 20 times with guidance from his acquaintances. He found some interesting research opportunities and applied to 10 US universities. This time, he was lucky to land two offers – University of Missouri – Kansas City and Clemson University. He chose UMKC because of its unique interdisciplinary PhD program where he found better opportunities to pursue physics with his regular field of research.


To prepare for his visa interview Sai spent long hours online reading through various documents on US Visa Portal. Unfortunately, he was given a 221g form and had to wait two months before he was issued a visa. The long wait for his visa meant that he was past the due date of joining the Spring 2017 session and had to defer his admission to Fall 2017. It was an arduous journey to the US but Sai says that it was worth every minute spent. He thanks his parents and relatives for their immense support and encouragement throughout his journey.


Sai’s advice for fellow aspirants is that if US is your destination, make your roadmap with realistic timeline from taking GRE/GMAT/SAT/ACT to the Visa process. You can just do your best, as everything is not in your hands, but you shall reap the benefits of planning and hard work.


Currently, Sai is pursuing Interdisciplinary PhD (IPhD) at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in fields of chemistry and physics. He works in Solid State Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (SSNMR) and Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) Thin Film Growth. He worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Dept. of Chemistry for a year and is currently working as a Graduate Research Assistant under the National Science Foundation Project. Sai also serves as the International Student Ambassador for UMKC to help the incoming students from different backgrounds and countries.


Connexio is a virtual advisor that helps students like Sai find their best-fit university and the path to a successful assimilation into the host school and country. We are your constant companion to make sure you are successful.