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Texas A&M at Qatar names outstanding graduates

Published Jun 16, 2020

Texas A&M University at Qatar, a Qatar Foundation partner university, has recognized seven recent graduates as Students of the Year for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Student of the Year honorees are selected by the faculty of each academic program. This year’s Students of the Year are Laya Roustazadeh, chemical engineering (undergraduate); Abdelrahman Amer, electrical engineering; Midhat Javaid Zaidi, liberal arts; Syeda Manahil Akhter, mechanical engineering; Abdul Sattar Alkahala, petroleum engineering; Aisha Al-Naemi, science; and Byanne Malluhi, master’s graduate in chemical engineering.

Laya Roustazadeh
TAMUQ-2020-Laya-RoustazadehRoustazadeh said she enjoyed math and science from an early age, and during her school years, she said she found herself to be a critical thinker who liked to find efficient solutions to the different problems she faced. Engineering was a natural choice for her, and she made the most of her time at Texas A&M at Qatar by getting involved in student organizations to develop her social skills as well as her education. She was an active member or board member of several organizations, and participated in undergraduate research that allowed her to expand her knowledge and learn new skills. She also took part in the international Chem-E-Car competition, which taught her the essence of group work and competition. Her next step is pursuing a master’s degree.

“After high school, I decided to continue my education at Texas A&M and I am truly happy that I made this choice,” she said. “Now, I have graduated from a top-notch university that perfectly prepared me for my future. The experience I got throughout my undergraduate career in Texas A&M at Qatar was like no other. I got to learn about my field while developing other skills by being part of research teams, traveling to other countries, and attending conferences and workshops. My knowledge is not limited to engineering and that is why I think I am prepared to tackle any challenges in the future.”

Abdelrahman Amer
TAMUQ-2020-Abdelrahman-AmerAs a child, Amer said he was fascinated by how things were built. His father is a civil engineer but chose electrical engineering as his field of study. He said he hopes to be a professor someday and credits one professor in particular — Dr. Robert S. Balog — for being an inspiration in terms of work ethic, professionalism and encouragement. Amer worked with Balog on his group’s senior design project, designing a smart electrical system for a house based on solar energy and battery units. The novel part about their project is how the team controls the electrical loads in the house: all the important loads are autonomously connected such that they always conserve energy. This project formed the basis of another project Amer worked with Balog on, a techno-economic analysis of the implementation of such a system in Qatar and how policies can be adapted.

During his academic career, Amer served as president of the student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for two years and in his senior year was president of the Lambda Mu Chapter of Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), the Electrical Engineering Honor Society. He said the key to managing his responsibilities to the organizations, to his studies and to his research project is effective time management. “It can be pretty tiring, having such long days, but in the end it’s worth it. It’s a very small sacrifice for a much larger gain. Texas A&M is a very good school so if you know you want to study engineering, then it's the place for you.”

Midhat Javaid Zaidi
Zaidi said she chose to attend Texas A&M at Qatar for several reasons but mostly because of its global reputation and being able to stay close to family, in an environment where she could be exposed to multiple cultures and backgrounds, the type of hub she felt was necessary for her growth. As a chemical engineering major, Zaidi embraced the critical thinking skills taught through the liberal arts by co-founding CAPS (Conclave of Aggie Poets and Scribblers), a writing and poetry club that focuses on engaging students in writing by making writing more fun. She has also been involved in research with Dr. Abdel-Wahab in chemical engineering and with Dr. Amy Hodges in the Liberal Arts Program. This latter work focused on closing the gap between the education imparted to students at university versus what is required from them in the workplace within the context of communication, which Zaidi said is the most crucial skill and a necessary ingredient for success in the workplace and beyond. Zaidi plans to work in the industry but is also applying to graduate school to continue her studies. 

“TAMUQ has prepared me for this through the various course offerings that consisted of a treasure load of skills and knowledge to take from,” she said. “By being put in situations that teach you how to work in teams and lead them, how to communicate effectively both orally and in writing and most importantly how to get your point across in different situations — these are skills I will take till the end of my years. I have learned a lot being around good and kind-spirited people. Texas A&M at Qatar has not just been a journey towards becoming a chemical engineer, it has also been my journey into discovering who I am, on a deeper level. This is the kind of experience I couldn’t have gotten anywhere; I was fated to be here.”

Syeda Manahil Akhter
Akhter said she was drawn to the problem solving and challenges that came with engineering, and enjoyed the processes of identifying problems and designing solutions for them. She thought she wanted to attend a university outside of Qatar but was impressed with Texas A&M at Qatar’s facilities and settled on the partner university after talking to some alumni and others working in industry. She was involved in several organizations and exchange programs with main campus, including study abroad, the annual leadership exchange program (both as a student and leader) and the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. She completed internships with Schlumberger, AECOM and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and helped develop a peer-mentoring program for incoming female engineering students.

“The best two weeks of my life were during the Spring Leadership Exchange Program,” she said. “It brought me out of my comfort zone. However, in those two weeks, not only did I develop my character but I also became friends with some of the most amazing people. To me global Aggie Network means recognizing that you are an Aggie and having an instant connection with other fellow Aggies, no matter at what stage in life you are at or where you are located. It is that sense of belonging. The Aggie core values are part of the morals and values to which I hold myself accountable.”

Abdul Sattar Alkahala
A native of Syria, Alkahala said he chose to attend Texas A&M at Qatar because his sisters had attended other universities in Education City. Before he’d ever been to campus or to Qatar, though, he was selected to join his fellow Aggies from Qatar and main campus in the Italian hill town of Castiglion Fiorentino for the Memorial Student Center Conway-Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar, a personal and academic introduction to the students' next four years at Texas A&M while also engaging them in intercultural activities during their time in Italy. He credits this experience and his freshman orientation leader with creating in him a passion for getting involved in student organizations. In his senior year, he was president of the Student Government Association where he represented the entire student body to the rest of the campus and community. These experiences have helped him develop his leadership skills, learn how to be respectful of differing opinions and deal with conflict. Planning to pursue his master’s degree at Oxford University, he said he is also passionate about research, having participated in research nearly every semester in his undergraduate career.

“I feel like I’m prepared to go into any aspect of society,” Alkahala said. “I know how to communicate with other people more, and I’m equipped to deal with people of all different mindsets and backgrounds. At Texas A&M, I’ve learned how to want to be better at everything I do. Texas A&M has taught me how to excel.?

Aisha Al-Naemi
Al-Naemi majored in chemical engineering but was selected by the faculty of the Science Program as its outstanding student of the year. She said that becoming an engineer was intriguing because its main drivers are innovation and problem solving, and it was important to her to be able to better her community for its current needs, but also help it grow. During her university career, she was part of several leadership and service-learning experiences, which she said was a significant point of growth for her because these experiences taught her how to connect to different cultures, as well as how to be respectful and aware of the problems she is trying to solve as an engineer.

“It’s interesting to be part of Texas A&M in Qatar,” she said, “as the campus has allowed for a completely new culture to evolve that embodies both Qatari and main campus values, such as integrity and respect. The core value that I have identified with the most in the course of my university experience is selfless service, and I plan on continuing building on the lessons I have learned in university by joining local organizations that focus on selfless service. I also want to apply my knowledge and cultural sensitivity to any job that I may take.”

Byanne Malluhi 
Malluhi earned her master’s degree in chemical engineering in May, becoming a two-time Aggie after earning her bachelor’s degree in 2017. Of the core values that all Texas A&M graduates embody, she said integrity resonates most with her because doing work with integrity not only means being honest, but also means that you do the work to the best of your abilities. Her graduate research was in the field of process monitoring under the supervision of Dr. Mohammad Nounou and Dr. Hazem Nounou in which she developed an algorithm that uses a machine learning technique to detect and isolate faults in process measurements. Malluhi will pursue her Ph.D. at Texas A&M’s main campus in College Station, Texas (USA), beginning in spring 2021. 

“I decided I wanted a career in academia when I first started university,” she said. “I loved teaching and learning. I also loved the nature of research that involves exploring and testing new ideas. Texas A&M has and continues to provide me with the mentor-ship and resources I need to be successful in my career.”