Mechanical engineering alumnus' legacy honored through student scholarships

The Guntas Malhotra Memorial Trustee Scholarship in the College of Engineering has supported the education of nine students and counting


By Erin Cassidy Hendrick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Penn State, Guntas Malhotra was drawn to automotive engineering. After graduating with a master’s degree in 2010, he helped to pioneer new technology for Chrysler vehicles.

Although Guntas died in 2014, his impact is still felt through the scholarship established in his name. The Guntas Malhotra Memorial Trustee Scholarship has supported nine students since 2015 and continues to encourage those who share Malhotra’s passion for engineering.

During Malhotra’s time at Penn State, he led the Emissions Group of the University’s Advanced Vehicular Technology team in the EcoCar Challenge in 2009.

“Guntas was exceptionally certain and confident about his own aspirations and abilities for a career path in the automobile industry,” said his adviser, Joel Anstrom, senior research associate at the Penn State Larson Transportation Institute. “He was blessed with a clear passion and the personal qualities to be a natural team player and collaborator in that environment.”

Malhotra soon began to realize his goals at Chrysler, where he became integral in creating the “start-stop” feature, which now exists in many Chrysler vehicles. Now, vehicles with “start-stop” are able to automatically sense and shut down the engine at optimal idling times, increasing the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.

After his death in a car accident, his sister, Rupeet, and his brother-in-law, Guneet Sethi, established the scholarship in his name to benefit undergraduate students in the College of Engineering.

“A Penn State education was [Guntas’] dream come true,” they wrote. “In his memory and spirit, we want to help many others achieve their Penn State dreams with this scholarship.”

That notion has been realized in the recipients of the scholarship, including Zane Kaigler, an undergraduate senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

“Like Guntas, Penn State was a dream school for me. I was thrilled to learn I would be able to study mechanical engineering at one of the top universities in the world,” Kaigler said. “I also share the determination and work ethic that Guntas lived by.”

Kaigler echoed Malhotra’s dedication to and fascination with mechanical engineering and explained he first found his way to the field through the video game Minecraft.

“I would challenge myself to come up with creative solutions to problems that often were not problems at all,” he said. “Striving for the satisfaction of the end result of success started me on my course to becoming a mechanical engineer.”

As he looks toward his own future, Kaigler said receiving the scholarship had a tremendous impact on his education and he hopes to apply the same spirit and enthusiasm Malhotra had in his career.

“I hope to find myself in a position where I can utilize my creative thinking and passion for design to produce new ideas and products,” Kaigler said.

To establish a scholarship in the College of Engineering, contact Jennifer Dubuque, senior director of development, at

Gifts to scholarships will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit


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College of Engineering Media Relations

A man in a turban smiles.

Guntas Malhotra (’10, M.S, Mechanical Engineering) passed away in 2014 and his family established a memorial trustee scholarship in his name. IMAGE: THE MALHOTRA FAMILY