CalTech Initiative for Students

Graduate Fellowships

Define, divide, solve: A problem-solving approach inspires an extraordinary gift


Eduardo Repetto (PhD ’98) and his wife, Carla Figueroa, say the reason for their bold investment in fellowships is straightforward: “Caltech students will change the world.”

But while their rationale is simple, their gift supports Caltech students in solving the world’s most complex problems.

The couple established fellowships in all six Caltech divisions—Biology and Biological Engineering; Chemistry and Chemical Engineering; Engineering and Applied Science; Geological and Planetary Sciences; Humanities and Social Sciences; and Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy—to foster interdisciplinary research.

“Not every problem that needs to be solved is in your lane,” Repetto says. “Sometimes, the problem is in the middle of two lanes. So you must use the knowledge of your field together with the knowledge of other fields to create breakthroughs without barriers.”

As a graphic designer who studied and worked at ArtCenter, Figueroa sees the extraordinary value of investing in fellowships across the divisions.

“From the arts to the sciences, the world is moving in a more interdisciplinary direction,” she says. “So it is important to invest in all the sciences. They are going to end up working together in some way in order to solve the problems we face today.”

Most fellowships at Caltech do not bind graduate students to specific advisers or labs, so graduate students can explore and partner with the research groups of their choice. This flexibility creates the perfect breeding ground for interdisciplinary collaboration, innovative approaches, and, ultimately, solving the greatest challenges we face.

Problem-solving is what led Repetto to the Institute in the first place. Growing up in Argentina, Repetto knew he wanted to make a difference in the world. His natural curiosity drove him to explore how things work and, eventually, led him to study engineering and aeronautics at Caltech.

In the Institute’s tight-knit community, surrounded by people intent on investigation and discovery, he found a sense of belonging.

“Caltech students don’t get overwhelmed by a problem,” he says. “They define the problem, they divide the problem, and they find ways to solve it.”

Today Repetto serves as the chief investment officer and co-founder of Avantis Investors, a unit of American Century Investments. While his career path from engineering to the world of finance may seem unconventional, Repetto says it is the problem-solving skills he honed at Caltech that allowed his success.

“Marketing is all about creating models and solving problems,” he says. “Running a company is all about understanding problems and solving them. Once you develop the problem-solving skills learned at Caltech, you can apply them everywhere else.”

Repetto and Figueroa believe that investing in problem-solving is the way to a greater future.

“We have to make the world better for the next generation,” Figueroa says. “What better way to do that than investing in students at Caltech?”

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