Student Spotlight: Swati Chopra
I wasn’t aware these things could happen to me. And I need to thank DAAP for letting me know—you can do it.
Swati Chopra wears many hats at once, all while staying true to her free spirit. Swati is a Yates Fellow, graphic design Graduate Assistant, Vice President of DAAP’s student council—and, last but not least, she is a Master of Design student.
“My friends tease me that I love collecting school identity cards,” she says. Swati has studied design in India, Germany, and now the United States at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). While at UC, she’s developed two design patents, published two academic papers, and has no intention of slowing down.
Her love of drawing started early. While she was supposed to be doing math homework, Swati was doodling in notebooks. Her father would ask why her math notebook was covered in Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry drawings. “I told him, ‘Look, dad, I love Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry.’” she laughs, “I was a sassy teenager.”
Beginning her design career at the National Institute of Design—arguably the most competitive and elite design school in India—she settled into academia slowly, making the decision to transition into teaching, and moved to Germany to teach art lessons at refugee camps.
“There were refugees from Yemen, Turkey, everywhere,” she says, “And art was their way of expressing themselves, letting the bad out. Art is great for that. I wasn’t even speaking perfect German at the time, and neither could they, but art is a universal language. It was easy for us to relate to each other. All we had to do was express ourselves through drawing. I was so happy teaching there. And it made me realize that, wow, you know what I really want to do? I want to teach.”
With the goal of teaching in mind, she set out to finish her degree in graphic design, moving to America and enrolling at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Every country has a different perception of design," explains Swati, "And I was very excited to see what the American design was all about.”
From thereon, school has been the focus for Swati. After RISD, she discovered the University of Cincinnati and began pursuing her master’s. Not only did she find a place in DAAP, but she found the right professors and advisors to create a support system. Her closest confidant, Dr. Claudia Rebola, is the current director of the Master of Design program. “Oh god, she is amazing,” says Swati, “She’s my advisor, my mentor, my everything. She’s the one who forced me to write better—I never thought I could write, I have this phobia of writing—but I wrote two papers under her.
“I wasn’t aware these things could happen to me. And I need to thank DAAP for letting me know—you can do it.”
Her papers have not only been published, but have also been selected to be presented at the American Medical Informatics Association’s Clinical Informatics Conference (AIMA) and the 2018 International Design Conference. One of the papers, Designing the Enhanced Student Experience in Design Institutions, researched and identified the challenges faced by design students during their academic term along with their psychological state as it relates to the learning process; the goal being to help students navigate their lives better. This may sound acutely data-focused and analytical for an arts student—but, it turns out, DAAP has a multi-disciplinary and flexible curriculm structure to accommodate such research. And this diversity has inspired Swati to become an even better designer.
“DAAP is so diverse. Our students range from doctors to fashion designers to industrial designers to graphics to neuroscience students,” Swati explains. “And she [Dr. Claudia Rebola] has been working really hard to make the program more cohesive. Now, imagine developing courses for that group of students. That is a tough job. But Dr. Rebola is making that happen. She’s creating very positive change. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start offering a PhD in design soon. I can totally see that happening.”
Beyond her papers, Swati has earned two patents for her work with Live Well Collaborative, a new model designed to cultivate collaboration between industry and design, housed at UC’s new 1819 Innovation Hub. The program, co-founded by Professor Craig Vogel, the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and executive director of Digital Media Collaborative at DAAP, enabled Swati to immerse herself in a design project team. Through Live Well, she was able to conduct research and product design that has thus led to two patents for Boeing.
“We worked together with multi-disciplinary teams and engineers and designers to create innovative and unique design solutions, with guidance from Professor Vogel and industry sponsors,” explains Swati, “and two of these design solutions have become patent filings, towards enhancing the passenger experience.”
Swati Chopra accomplishes her goals with both a fierce spirit and determination. What’s next on her agenda? She’s continuing her many projects—one being a collaborative effort with her mentor, Dr. Rebola, called Project ANTIOD, which creates easy localized access to Naloxone, a drug used to revive opioid overdoses.
"Currently, we are trying to figure out a new strategy and branding for this project in Cincinnati. We are three team members led by Dr. Rebola—Norberto Sanchez, Sebastian Ramirez, and myself. My colleagues are working on the packaging and the placement strategy while I am working on the branding and communication aspects of the project."
Beyond this, Swati plans to continue chasing her love of design, creation, and teaching.
“I feel blessed to be here," she says, "My belief is that I am an ordinary student who got extraordinary learning opportunities at DAAP. I would like to thank my wonderful, brilliant and supporting professors for this."
Check out Swati Chopra’s website at www.swatichopra.net
Written by Danniah Daher, graduate assistant to the graduate school office.