After earning his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from SMU Lyle, Dr. Amir Ali returned to his home in Cairo, Egypt, to begin a position as an assistant professor at the German University in Cairo (GUC). There, Ali founded and is the director of the ARAtronics Lab, a research group of students of all collegiate levels that use a diverse range of science applications to develop feasible solutions for mechatronics applications in research and industry. This year the ARAtronics team has been selected to join the Cairo Invents Program in cooperation with the Scientific Research Academy in Cairo.
“We follow the same model as my research at SMU,” Ali says. “Specifically, with micro-optical sensors in robotics systems, neuroscience and electrophysiology to create prosthetic limbs that are controlled by EEG brain signals and EMG muscle signals enhanced by micro-optical sensors.”
The son of two physical chemistry professors, Ali grew up wanting to be just like his parents. “I learned from a very young age about scientific applications and conferences, and so it became part of my personality,” he says. “I needed to have continuous science and research, to learn something new every day.”
Ali teaches classes in person at the German University’s Cairo campus, and via online learning at the Berlin campus in English, to attract more university students. In addition to Arabic and English, Ali also possesses basic proficiency in Spanish and German.
He models his teaching style after his mentor and advisor, Dr. Volkan Otugen, Senior Associate Dean and the George R. Brown Chair in Mechanical Engineering at SMU Lyle. “Dr. Otugen is my role model,” Ali says. “I’ve emulated his way of thinking, interpreting problems, inspiring students and looking for funding, and use these skills in my career.”
Ali also emulates another SMU Lyle faculty member’s teaching style, that of Dr. Edmond Richer, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “Dr. Richer showed me how to see beyond the technical and look at problems from a real-world perspective. I transferred his way of teaching and seeing things to my students here.”
Ali’s students immediately appreciated this approach, so much so that he received a gift from his graduating seniors ‒ a custom-wrapped chocolate bar with the words, “To the Best Professor Ever! Thank You”. For Ali, the ability to learn from strong mentors and connect with students seems to be guiding him toward a successful career as a faculty member.
**UPDATE: Dr. Amir Ali was given the 2017 National Instruments Excellence Award in Academic Education and Scientific Research for the Middle East