Meet Gurneet Kaur, the only Indian woman engineer on Virgin Hyperloop One's India project

Gurneet Kaur is helping develop the product portfolio at Virgin Hyperloop One and converting tech into customer solution...

On the face of it, Gurneet Kaur seems intimidating. You only have to glance at her educational accomplishments. With an undergraduate degree in physics from St Stephen’s college, Delhi, Gurneet, 36, did her master’s in physics from IIT-Delhi. Finishing her PhD in electromagnetic design in Germany, she then moved to the US and was a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

But when you speak to her, her humility belies her considerable feats, which include being the only Indian woman engineer on Virgin Hyperloop One’s ambitious project for India.

Gurneet is Manager, Product, Systems Engineering, at Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO), helping develop the Hyperloop product portfolio and converting technology into customer solutions. Virgin Hyperloop One consortium’s hyperloop route will link central Pune and Mumbai in under 30 minutes, enabling more than 150 million passenger journeys annually. The Hyperloop concept, a form of transport introduced by Elon Musk in 2013, envisions transporting people at airline speed but at a more affordable cost.

Big her portfolio and responsibilities may be, but over a video call with HerStory from her office in Los Angeles, Gurneet exuded smiles, warmth, and calm confidence...

...Once she got her PhD, it was time for Gurneet to take the next big decision – either return to India, which offered minimal opportunities at the time, or move to an English-speaking country, and gain more exposure.

Around that time, she got married to Chiranjeev Kalra, who was working in the US. Immigration to the US in 2010 was easier than it is today. When the world-renowned MIT offered an opportunity for research, Gurneet did not think again. For two years at MIT, she investigated quantum information transport using experimental magnetic resonance techniques.

Gurneet explains, "Quantum computation is an approach that uses principles from quantum mechanics (superposition and entanglement) to perform operations on data much more quickly and efficiently than our present day 'classical' computers. Quantum computers take advantage of the fact that particles can exist in more than one state at a time. Instead of storing information as bits (on/off state), quantum computation uses qubits that can be both on and off simultaneously, enabling them to perform millions of calculations at the same moment. It is an active field of research pursued by the world’s most influential companies such as IBM and Google and many governments."

Later on, Gurneet worked at Philips Healthcare in NewYork, as a design engineer for superconducting magnets for MRI systems...

...Gurneet has high hopes and great plans for India. With the kind of traffic congestion our metro cities face, Gurneet’s work at Hyperloop is believed to have the potential to change the way we live. The project entails construction of a 117.5 km corridor connecting Mumbai and Pune with an option to connect to the future Navi Mumbai International Airport.   

“For the urban workforce, saving even 20 minutes during their daily commute is a big deal; working moms can save time now,” Gurneet says.

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