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Alumni, The Academy

Grad Feature: Catching up with a 2018 Rhodes scholar

Second Lt. Jaspreet Singh is from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He said his family’s views on service and sacrifice inspired him to apply to the Academy. These days, the 2018 Academy graduate is pursuing a doctorate in materials science at Oxford University, courtesy of a Rhodes scholarship.

1) What was it like being selected for the Rhodes scholarship?

It was insane. All the interviewing candidates were gathered in a conference room when they came in and announced me and another candidate had won. I remember staring at the table like a doofus, wondering if I’d misheard my name. When I finally came to and found myself one of the two interviewees left in the room, I did what any adult would do and called my mom.

2) Why do you think your studying at Oxford will benefit the Air Force?

I’m a firm believer that leaders with a strong technical background are essential to the Air Force, so gaining a doctorate in a hard science is valuable in this sense. Oxford is also one of the most intellectually diverse places I’ve ever been, and I believe leaders who’ve encountered such diversity are an asset to the Air Force.

3) How do you think the Academy prepared you to be successful?

I think one of the most important character traits the academy tries to instill in cadets, and one that has proved invaluable at Oxford is mental toughness. I find I have an advantage is my willingness to put in longer hours, keep chugging along when experiments fail and not get frustrated when things don’t seem fair. I believe it’s part of what makes the institution special and serves our grads well regardless of what they do after commissioning.

4) What was the hardest part of the Academy for you?

I met a lot of cadets at the Academy who had quite a bit of natural talent when it came to leadership. I was not one of those cadets. I made a lot of mistakes when I got my first leadership positions at the Academy. I made quick rash decisions, I got angry quickly and I was arrogant. I was fortunate to be surrounded by very accomplished and effective leaders that I could learn from.

5) What makes you excited about mechanical engineering? Would you recommend the field to other cadets here today?

I find mechanical engineering exciting because it’s a great mix of application and theory. At the academy, I could take the theory I learned in the classroom, design a system using the theory, build it and test it all in one lab. I would highly recommend the field to new cadets. It’s a tough major, but my cohort was very tight-knit because of it. I made some great friends studying for some pretty [tough] exams.

6) What will you do in the Air Force?

I will be a developmental engineer, and I’m looking forward to working in the field when I finish up here.

Singh is pictured third from left on graduation day.