According to Baskaran Thyagarajan, there are three things every person needs when coming to America: a good heart, lots of confidence and a car.
“I’d never had a car when I first came to the United States,” he said. “So everything was so distant for me. In Europe, everybody had the city-center culture. I loved that for the reason I can have a very high quality of life and everything is very easily in reach.”
Baskaran Thyagarajan and his family became American citizens this month in a naturalization ceremony in Cheyenne. He and his wife, Padma Baskaran, both work for the University of Wyoming; Baskaran Thyagarajan is an assistant professor of pharmaceutics, while Padma Baskaran is a research scientist. The couple also has a daughter, Mrudhula Baskaran, a Princeton University student who graduated from Laramie High School earlier this year.
Originally from Chennai, a city in India, Baskaran Thyagarajan first came to the U.S. in 2001 for a postdoctoral research position at Johns Hopkins University. He returned to India for several years because of his father’s health, and in 2005, he and his family moved to the East Coast, living in New Jersey and New York before relocating to Wyoming in 2011.
The naturalization ceremony, hosted Nov. 16 at Cheyenne South High School, was “very exciting,” Baskaran Thyagarajan said.
“We had all of the officials who gave us the initial speech, and then they roll-called all the naturalizing citizens that day,” he said. “And then we were given our naturalization certificate and our permanent residency was taken off. It was really nice — we felt very excited. Because now we would be able to work as a global citizen of the United States of America.”
The first thing the family did afterward was get their passports, Baskaran Thyagarajan said; later, they traveled to Denver for a celebratory party with friends. He credits each member of his family with achieving great things — Padma Baskaran previously worked with one of the leading cardiologists in Rochester, New York, and Mrudhula Baskaran excelled academically in high school.
“We had to work hard, because we are coming from another nation to here, and the responsibility and the need to show or prove ourselves is much higher,” Baskaran Thyagarajan said.
He was encouraged to become an American citizen because of all the opportunities it would open up, he said; in addition to becoming a “global citizen,” he can apply for more specific research grants in his field.
“Our lab has a common interest in some of the projects that are helpful for the U.S, army, so it would be easy for us to compete for some of those research grants,” he said.
Padma Baskaran said she looks forward to being able to contribute as a U.S. citizen.
“We wanted a lot of satisfaction with the work — that is the reason we moved from India to here,” she said. “Even though it was very difficult at the beginning, understanding the culture, we learned a lot. We are very happy for what we have now. We had a lot of challenges to face to come to this position.”
Baskaran Thyagarajan said he encourages anyone hoping to attain American citizenship to be “extraordinary.”
“We have to make a firm footprint here,” he said. “We should be doing something extraordinarily good.”