Madhu Nerlikar

As Interviewed by Trajan Schuneman, March 20, 2019

Madhu Nerlikar: In His Own Words

This is Madhu Nerliar. I came to the US in August 1970, and one of the main reasons I came to the US was to get my Master’s degree in engineering. When I came in 1970, the US government was actively looking for engineers to come and work directly, and were offering them the green card, quote unquote the formal visa to come here and work. The other option was to come here as a student and then apply for a visa to stay here permanently, which is the green card.

Seventies there was an economic recession, early seventies, and because of that there was high unemployment. That was one issue. The second one, mainly, was the Vietnam War protests going on at the Kent [State] University, and that became violent often. Now personally I did not take part in any of the Vietnam War protests on the campuses, because first of all I came here when I was 27 years-old, so I was not drafted per se, but the guys who came here as students and who were under 25 were drafted, so those people had a more direct need to take part in this participation, but I did not take part in those. But I was glad that there was resentment and protests against the unjust Vietnam War that was felt at that time.

When I graduated and got my Master’s degree, there was a recession, in seventy-two, seventy-three, there was a major economic recession, and even local Americans were having trouble finding jobs. Being an engineer, I wanted to make sure I worked as an engineer and not take some odd job just to pull through. Ultimately, I was lucky; I went and talked to my graduate advisor, who was a professor at Northwestern, and he had a student who graduated under him, were looking for engineers. So one of his students, PhD students, called him one day and said “I’m looking for a mechanical engineer, do you have anybody to recommend?”, and he recommended my name and told me to go interview with him, and I was fortunate enough to land a job. I stayed with that job, with Victor Contometer, or Victor Business Products in Chicago, for about seven years, and as a matter of fact, they were the company who sponsored me to get my green card, because in those days, I was on a student visa and eighteen month practical training visa, but once that expired, if you don’t get a green card, you have to go back to your country. So fortunately, my supervisor there who hired me told me that “We’ll help you get your green card because we like you work ethics and work.” So they helped me and within eighteen months, I got my green card.