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.