G.E.M. Environmental is excited to announce our new blog series called Science Stories. Each month, we'll be interviewing a STEM scholar, student, or community member and asking them everything like why they believe the STEM fields are important, how they got started in their field, to what they would do if they hit the jackpot. We hope that our new blog series will inspire, introduce a variety of fields, and create new conversations.
Our first guest is Dr. Mehran Andalibi, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Dr. Andalibi completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. His research interests are in the areas of dynamics, controls, machine vision, and robotics.
Why do you believe that the STEM fields are important?
STEM is the foundation upon which the economy and well-being of people in a society are built. One evidence for this claim can be all recent advances in medical technology without which healthcare professionals could not diagnose and treat all the illnesses that were formerly undiagnosable and untreatable.
Taking a look at the top economies in the world will give us another evidence that the countries that have invested in STEM are the most prosperous nations. That’s why I believe that if United States wants to be a leader in all of the aspects mentioned above, we need to educate our future scientists, engineers, and technicians in the best way we can.
How and why did you get involved in the STEM fields?
I think the first spark that ignited my interest in STEM (specially Math) was learning how to do the basic arithmetic’s in primary school, and then using my sister’s calculator to check if my final numbers are correct and finally trying to do all the calculations in my head and as fast the calculator for numbers with 1 and 2 digits.
For my secondary school, I went to a school for talented students and the major focus in our school was Math and Physics, so this naturally led to our high school graduates to get into the fields of engineering. I chose Mechanical engineering for all my B.sc., M.sc. and Ph.D. degrees and started my involvement in interdisciplinary projects when working as a postdoctoral researcher in 2014.
Can you describe another aspect of your life or career that is influenced or enriched by the STEM fields that people would find surprising?
Making and fixing toys for my son and starting some in-house projects that needs an engineering knowledge is the most valuable influence of STEM on my life.
What inspires you in your current position/role?
The biggest attractions to my job are the extreme joy I gain from teaching my students the new material, getting involved in scientific discussions with them in class, and the hands-on aspect of the field of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics.
The fact that I can do research without the extreme pressure of having to bring in significant amount of research funding and writing numerous journal and conference papers in haste while teaching with high quality is another attraction. This keeps me up-to-date in my field, keeps my mind sharp, and allows me to involve my students in our researches.
Have you ever participated in an internship?
I have been to 2 internships during my undergraduate studies, one in a petrochemical company and the other in a car manufacturing company. However, I decided to enter the academics and continue my desire for teaching and research.
What work experiences (past or present) have been the most educational for you, and why?
I have worked as an instructor for 2 years after I got my master’s degree and it was great in showing me how to interact with my students and also indicating to me that teaching full time and no opportunity for personal development and research will be exhausting for me after a few years.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I am currently working on the projects described below:
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you (hobby, skill, interesting story)?
Maybe singing traditional Persian songs or writing calligraphy.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Actually, it goes back to a few years ago. I stayed at a hotel in Texas at night for the job interview I had the next day and parked my rental car under a tree to keep it cool from the extreme heat of Houston in summer. I woke up early in the morning and put on my suit and dresses so nicely to go to the interview. When I came out of my room, I saw that my car was covered in bird dropping such that I could not drive it. There was no car wash nearby and I did not have enough time to take the car to a car wash far away, so I had to take my suit off and do the car-washing myself. Then, when I was driving to the interview location, the GPS of the car took me from an off-highway road that delayed my arrival for another 30 min. I was surely late for the interview and ran all the way from the parking lot to the office I was supposed to go. When I arrived there sweating and out of breadth, I found out that the interviewer was 2 hours late himself that day. Back then, it was more upsetting than funny, but now that I think of it, it seems really funny to me.
What is the worst job that you had, and what would you tell your past self now?
Working in a family resource center at university for one summer during my Ph.D. studies due to my advisor’s funding cut after his retirement for which I had to work as a front desk and answer phone calls. Not that this job was bad, but I was not made for the job and it was extremely boring to me.
You won $10 million in the lotto. What would you do?
I would definitely invest a portion of it in my son’s future education. I would use another portion is supporting the children who might not have sufficient access to educational services and equipment, especially in STEM. It has been my dream to start a small institution that can promote the fields of Robotics in local schools and makes our children interested in Math via hands-on projects and exposing them to the applications of Math in real life.
What’s your favorite book of all-time?
It was a book called “The geography of the world for children”. Although, it was a really thick book for an 8-year-old boy, I read it thoroughly several times and memorized all the information in it.
Thanks for sharing! We enjoyed learning more about you and your current projects.
Check back next month for more Science Stories. Want to be featured? Contact us.
Less than 1 month left to apply for a G.E.M. Environmental scholarship! Our scholarships are designed to help students fund educational programs, continue their education on to the next level, purchase books, or pay down accumulated student loan debt.
Learn more about eligibility and apply online here.
Hurry! The deadline is November 23rd!
We're excited to introduce our NEW blog series called Scholarship Success Spotlight! We will be regularly sharing stories from our talented scholarship recipients and how they are using their funds in the STEM fields.
Our first spotlight is on Britany Kulka, 3rd quarter 2018 scholarship recipient from Arizona State University. She is originally from Valley City, Ohio and moved to Tempe, Arizona after graduating high school in May 2015 to attend Arizona State University. Britany is currently a senior studying geological sciences with special interest in mineral physics, mineralogy, and material science. Here's Britany's story:
Why I Value STEM Education
My academics have always been a top priority. When I was young, I would beg my mother to let me attend school even when I was sick because I never wanted to miss out on what I could be learning. This mentality has stuck with me as I have gotten older. I applied to universities in 2015 to pursue a bachelor of science as a mathematics major due to my love of numbers and their ability to describe the world with computations. Within my first semester of college I soon discovered an interest I had never considered; geology. I remember when I decided to switch to a geology degree, I had a moment of serendipity. I soon began my journey into the geology degree and discovered how much more enthused I was with the ability to learn how to explain the world physically in more ways than just computationally.
My Current Work and Passion
In February 2018 when I was a junior, I began working in a mineral physics lab as a paid laboratory aide. My work started out with using a 1,100-ton press called a multi-anvil apparatus to synthesize the high pressures and temperatures of minerals that are within the earth’s mantle. I began using the COMPRES 14/8 assembly which consists of a 3 mm capsule that can reach up to 15 GPa and a COMPRES 10/5 assembly which consists of a 2mm capsule that can reach up to 20 GPa. To analyze the samples, I was taught how to do Raman Spectroscopy and I have created a manual on how to use the system for point analysis and a 2D scan on the sample. After I had become knowledgeable on how to use the multi-anvil I started synthesizing minerals in the COMPRES 8/3 assembly which consists of a 1 mm capsule, but the pressure was found to be inconsistent compared to the other assemblies, and this is when my project began.
My main research involves me adjusting calibrations for the COMPRES 8/3 assembly due to not being sufficiently accurate for the high-resolution phase boundary determinations in the multi-anvil press. I have conducted measurements on the bridgmanite-majorite-akimotoite triple point in MgSiO3 using the multi-anvil press with the experiments ranging from 20-22 GPa and 1600-2100 C. The triple point determined through these experiments will provide an important reference point in the pressure-temperature space for future high pressure experiments. Additionally, my work will allow mineral physicists to compare the pressure-temperature conditions measured in the multi-anvil to laser-heated diamond-anvil. Before I finish my undergrad, I plan to complete this project with a written thesis.
How I Plan To Spend My Scholarship
My scholarship is being used towards graduate school applications and the GRE. I plan on applying to at least five schools for different programs.
What This Scholarship Means to Me
I am a first generation college student. I was never pushed by my family to attend school after high school, it was all something that I wanted. My grandfather never went past the fifth-grade and here I am wanting to pursue a graduate degree soon.
Thank you for sharing your story, Britany! Your friends at G.E.M. Environmental wish you the best of luck in your educational pursuits.
Are you a STEM major? Consider applying for one of our scholarships! Our next scholarship deadline is November 23, 2018. Visit our Scholarship page to learn more about eligibility and apply online.
SAVE THE DATE! The Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County and Arizona Community Foundation of Sedona will be holding their annual Cash for College Scholarship Awareness Nights on December 3 at Yavapai College in Prescott and December 4 at the Verde campus. Both events will provide opportunities for area students, families and local educators to learn more about the many post-secondary scholarships that are available for both traditional and non-traditional college students. Last year, Yavapai County students received over $140,000 in scholarship funding!
G.E.M. Environmental is proud to be participating this year, so be sure to stop by our booth to learn more about all of our exciting funding opportunities!
CASH FOR COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP AWARENESS NIGHT – PRESCOTT
Monday, December 3
5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
Yavapai College Gymnasium, Prescott Campus
1100 E. Sheldon St., Building 2
CASH FOR COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP AWARENESS NIGHT – CLARKDALE
Tuesday, December 4
5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
Yavapai College, Verde Valley Campus, Community Room – Building M., 1st Floor
Learn more about at: http://www.azfoundation.org/
In a previous blog entry we outlined a process to determine which of the four STEM branches you're most attracted to. Those interested in the sciences will find themselves in the largest of STEM categories, with a seemingly countless number of college majors (and minors!) to choose from. Science encompasses a range of careers broad enough to include volcanologists who risk their lives near molten lava to quantum computer scientists who spend their days looking for ways to maximize data storage. With such an incredible range of opportunities within the scientific realm, it's critical to take advantage of those first two years of general college coursework to fine tune the process of choosing a major. Working as an intern in your field of interest can confirm your passion (while giving you invaluable work experience) or redirect you towards a more suitable career goal.
The Goliath of STEM - the Science Realm
While each of the STEM branches is broad in scope compared to some other career avenues, the scientific realm of STEM dwarfs the other three. Scientists descend to the bottom of the ocean in search of mysterious forms of life, study distant galaxies, explore and expand the limits of technology and do virtually everything in between. Broadly speaking (and with the disclaimer that plenty of overlap exists within these fields), non-healthcare related science consists of the following disciplines:
General Coursework and Internships - Tools to Refine Your Major
Students who plan on majoring in any branch of science will be required to take general courses in biology, chemistry, and physics; many schools also require a computer science related course. Gratefully, these courses provide an introduction to all major fields within the general realm of science, save for earth science. General coursework exposes students to a wide range of career options, yet the marginalization of the earth sciences in some schools is of concern due to the wide range of job opportunities this field encompasses. Anyone who suspects their passion may lie in the realm of earth science would be well advised to take at least a basic geology course. Such coursework will readily transfer for University credit, in spite of its absence on the AGEC-S list of required courses. Utilizing your summer months as an intern in whatever scientific field you are most attracted to will provide invaluable feedback about your projected career path. Some internship opportunities, including those offered through G.E.M Environmental, provide living stipends and can be completed as early as one year into your college career.
Keep following our blog for more great tips on how to narrow down which STEM major is best for you. Next month, we'll explore the "T" in STEM and highlight the career options available to people with an interest in working as technicians.