IEEE Group

Expand Your Network: Honor Society & Fraternity I

I have heard that fraternity and sorority are kind of a must-joining for undergraduate students in their college life especially there are some movies talking about the Greek life. People are proud of being brothers or sisters in their fraternity or sorority. They have the same missions and goals to complete some projects. In most of movies, they describe the fraternity and sorority in a funny, weird, and downside way. It seems like people only do parties and hang over all the time. But, how about in the real life? Is it true that brothers’ and sisters’ lives are what movies demonstrate? Also some people think honor society as an evil cult. The elites do something secret and are isolated. Is that true? Let me tell you MY experiences and break the rumors.

The chapter also hosts companies for recruiting events, runs a student lab space, performs community service, and hosts weekly social events for members and friends.

I joined Eta Kappa Nu (ΗΚΝ) Beta Chapter, an honor society for students who excel in the field of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. HKN or IEEE-HKN is the international honor society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The organization promotes excellence in the profession and in education through an emphasis on scholarship, character, and attitude. Membership is a lifelong designation for individuals who have distinguished themselves as students or as professionals in the fields of IEEE interest. There are 263 IEEE-HKN chapters worldwide now. Membership in HKN is limited to the top third of seniors, the top fourth of juniors, and the top fifth of sophomores. Graduate students are also eligible for membership beginning in their second semester of graduate study. 

HKN Beta is best known at Purdue for the member staffed HKN Student Lounge (EE room 24). https://engineering.purdue.edu/hkn/

One day there was an email for HKN callout. I had no idea what it was but my friend wanted to attend and encouraged me to go. So, I went to the callout and learned what HKN was and how to become a member. Before being initiated as an active member, people are called “pledges,” and pledges need to complete all requirements before the initiation. In Beta Chapter, for example, some requirements are volunteering for a community service project, attending one social event (TGIF), and participating in lounge cleaning. After completing all requirements, pledges go to initiation, a ceremony conducted by the officers of HKN to induct the pledges into the honor society of HKN. Since the initiation is unique and secret in every honor society, I will not talk more about this exciting part (Come join and you will discover!)

HKN Lounge Alone! Come to visit the Lounge!! Free Bagel NAND Donut Day when companies sponsor with Tech talks!

After being as an active member, there are still some requirements that members need to complete every semester such as doing at least 2 hours community service and ECE service, working weekly Person-On-Duty (POD) at the Lounge, etc.

The lounge accepts cash only! Active member needs to work the POD for at least two hours every semester. It is a good time to meet and talk to more people and ECE faculty members.

Since I did many volunteering service in the Greater Lafayette, one of my recruitment directors, Héctor E Rodríguez, encouraged me to be the Volunteer Director. I would really like to thank him for starting my leadership development. I was successfully elected as Volunteer Director. During that year, I have provided many volunteer opportunities for the members to participate. They were all inspired by my passion and did a great job on the service. Now they have good relationship with some community partners and volunteering with them regularly. Under my hardworking, HKN was nominated for “The Community Engagement & Involvement Award” in the annual Student Activities and Organization award in 2014.

My outstanding HKN Officers

Besides, I have learned how to contact people and organizations efficiently, how to encourage students when they felt bored or tired during the service, and how to lead people. I now feel more confident while talking to foreign friends. Also, I have become more outgoing and think positively. Lots of my friends are also inspired by my enthusiasm and now we are doing the happy volunteer service together! The leadership made me more organized and communicative.

Giving paddle to the graduate at the banquet

A year later, another Recruitment Director, Nadra Guizani, encouraged me to be the President when I expressed my interest. I felt it was a good opportunity to lead HKN but I was not sure I had this ability to do that. She gave me many positive supports and……. I was elected! 

When I was President in Spring 2015, HKN had the most members ever, and still many ECE students were interested in and wanted to join the society. My goal was to make HKN more publicity and have our members more united. I made the sandwich board and put outside ECE building, so all the people have chance to come to our very own student lounge and buy delicious coffees. In the meantime, I also tried to connect members in a good relationship and to give back to ECE Department. 

Semester Banquet

I was so happy to join HKN and did not regret. I met many smart and nice people, and we supported each other. I want to especially thank my two Recruitment Directors, Héctor E Rodríguez and Nadra Guizani, for bringing me to the HKN and they are like my mentors. They helped me and encouraged me a lot in many ways so I could try many new things in HKN. I also understand more about myself, how I react to different situations, how to negotiate and compromise, how to solve the conflict, etc. 

Turkey Suit Fundraising: The week leading up to Thanksgiving break, several faculty members in ECE compete to raise donations for charity. The faculty member who receives the most gets to choose any charity they like to which all the donations go. Additionally, they must wear the turkey suit to the class they teach ahead of break, incentivizing their students to donate.
HKN Student Leadership Conference: a signature program of the society and is an opportunity for members to meet with other officers, members, faculty advisers, members of the Board of Governors, and staff. The conference includes opportunities for professional development, leadership training, and networking.
I made a poster of what community service HKN does generally every year.

I am honored to be HKN member!

I was the recipient of HKN Outstanding Active. Pretty surprised when the President announced my name in the banquet!
I LOVE HKN!
One of TG events: Halloween Party Night

How about fraternity? Stay tuned! That will be another fantastic story!

Fountain Winter

Are You Joining Purdue in the Spring Semester? Tips to Survive Winter

For those joining Purdue in the spring semester, there is always an extra challenge to acclimatizing- that of having to deal with cold weather. Most places in the Midwest, where Purdue University is located, start experiencing cold weather from mid-October and then temperatures keep dropping till mid-March when they start to peak again. Here are some few tips that can help you to prep well for cold spring weather:

  1. Shop for warm clothes before flying: most often, clothes might be cheaper in-home country than here. Besides, you might experience delays in your flight itinerary if the airports experience temporary closures due to severe weather, such as snow storms. These clothes would therefore keep you warm during such times before you can shop for extra ones after arrival.
  2. Shop for winter boots. Make sure you bring a winter boot- one with good tread to use during snowy days. If you are coming from a warm climate, this might be your first-time experiencing snow and your normal dress-up shoes might be too slippery or lacking a good grip.
  3. Check weather before leaving your apartment. In winter, weather can fluctuate drastically. Checking weather regularly is important in ensuring you don’t underdress for the day or even walk out during severe weather.
  4. Check university news regularly. Sometimes the university closes down if temperatures drop to dangerous levels. This could be during times when there is snow storms or when there is risk of frost bites due to extreme low temperature.
  5. Leave your apartment warm, even when attending classes.  If you turn off your heater, your water pipes might freeze, so it is important to make sure your leave the heater on. In case of any freezing of the pipes, remember the landlord might charge you for repairs.
  6. Join a connection group. Winters can be isolating because it is the time of the year that most people remain indoors. Luckily, there are several connection groups on campus that you can join. If you don’t drive, members of the connection groups often help international students with shopping and just being mobile around the community.
  7. Avoid winter blues by staying active. Find something fun to do. For some people this would be going to the gym or joining a singing class. Winter blues are real, and sometimes they resemble clinical depression. It is important to therefore stay active, be present in the moment, and take it easy! Winter season does not last forever!
  8. Stay warm! Don’t forget to buy a flask to keep your tea or coffee hot. Remember, you still need that extra energy to hack the assignments and research projects!
  9. Got questions, please ask. Most people at Purdue and the surrounding community are friendly. If you have any questions, please ask. It never hurts to ask!
STEM kit interaction

Service to the Greater Lafayette Community

Being a student at Purdue University does not necessarily mean only doing assignments, writing research papers, conducting research, being a good research assistant or exceling in teaching as a TA and taking part in student organizations and clubs. We get plenty of opportunities to give back to society in some small way and transfer our learning for the greater good and change the world for the better. I tried to sound fancy using designer words 😊. All that I want to convey is we can do community service.

            There are small organizations that depend on grants and government support to serve the educational needs of the underprivileged population of Greater Lafayette. They receive funds to run the organization and maintain the infrastructure but not enough to employ teachers and other staff who would keep everyday events going regularly. They rely heavily on Purdue University students and other volunteers to bring innovative ideas and enrich the learning environment. I am sure there is no dearth of talent and service minded people among our graduate students at Purdue.

STEM kit image

            One such organization is the Bauer Center in Lafayette. The place is house to children from nearby K-12 schools whose parents work for long hours and are not at home when the kids return from school. Bauer Center takes care of these kids till they are picked up by their parents past dinner time. The children get food there and are expected to stay indoors for safety reasons and sometimes they get immensely bored. Also, without proper guidance they tend to lose interest in education and don’t even think of future STEM careers. This is where the Indian Women’s Association Academy entered the picture. As members we try to instill interest in STEM topics among these kids. Ladies from IWA Academy visit Bauer Center every week and try to garner the attention of the kids with demonstrations of experiments that may get these kids interested in STEM subjects. We take STEM kits that teach about Magnetism, Electricity and other topics and allow them to play with them while their learning is scaffolded by us. Learning with play and experimentation is something they love and theoretically it promotes “inquiry learning.” We could see that the kids were having a lot of fun during these sessions as they tried to figure out what was happening and why

STEM kit image

            Similarly, at Imagination Station, a science center in Lafayette that is frequented by kids 3-10 with parents and guardians during weekends, IWA Academy organized a session of Exploration. Little kids participated along with their parents and guardians in fun electricity and magnetism related activities. I also had a lot of fun that day and it gave me great joy to see their little faces light up with excitement when they completed a circuit. See the eyes of the butterfly in the picture. 

STEM kit image

Did we spend on the STEM kits?

            No, it was made possible by a Service Learning Grant that I applied for and was awarded by the Office of Engagementat Purdue in Fall 2018. I use the grant to buy these wonderful STEM kits and other raw materials that IWA Academy needs to conduct these experiments and demonstrations at Bauer Center and Imagination Station. The grant is administered by my department’s business office.

            So, many of you will be wondering – What is in it for me? According to the book of academic careers 😉a candidate should have Teaching, Research and Service experience. You must have heard your adviser, or a professor talk about this, right? Let this be your service experience. That is how I started when I was trying to complete the “Service”requirement for my portfolio. Now I cannot stop doing what I started because it makes me truly happy. 

            Reach out to the Office of Engagement, try to get a service learning grant, and extend your expertise and knowledge to help someone in society. 

STEM kit image

This is your WIIIFM, folks…..

Conference Group Photo

Conferences: Confluence of Ideas

I am not going to talk about the great Tamil Sangams that took place in ancient times in India, but about an education technology conference that I attended recently. First let’s see what a conference is. This is what I got from our friendly source, the internet.

What is a conference?

A conference is a meeting of people who “confer” about a topic. Conference types include: Academic conference, in science and academic, a formal event where researchers present results, workshops, and other activities. Athletic conference, a competitive grouping of teams, often geographical.

What happens at a conference?

At a conference, innovative ideas are thrown about and new information is exchanged among experts. Its purpose could be one of the following: An academic conference is a gathering of scientists or academicians, where research findings are presented, or a workshop is conducted.

As a learning design technologist, as I would like to call myself than the often-used term instructional designer, I was encouraged by my department to attend this conference. This time I needed some push because the event was to take place in Kansas City. Here you should note that in 2016 I did not need any pushing because the conference was in Las Vegas. I was also eager to attend another early this year in New York. For international students Las Vegas and New York are bigger attractions. Anyway, this conference was organized by Association for Educational Communications and Technology or AECT. It brings together people from around the world who are instructional designers, teachers and professors researching about and working on incorporating technology into classrooms. We believe that making the classroom experience more attractive and engaging will enhance student learning and that one way of doing that is using technology.

My interest in innovative technologies drew me to sessions about using Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), games, biometrics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in classrooms. Although the entertainment and marketing industries have adopted these technologies long time back, there adoption into education has been slow. Firstly, because we still don’t know if it will work and secondly, because it is so expensive.  A lot of research is being done on whether using these technologies will enhance learning or whether they will cause cognitive overload. It is my opinion that incorporating technologies should be intentional and should not be for the sake of using it.

The most interesting of all was the use of Alexa in the classroom. The presenting researchers said that, Alexa was adopted happily by all the teachers in a school, who found innovative uses in physical education, music, language courses, STEM classes and so on. The most remarkable effect of Alexa in the classroom was when a student who is shy and normally does not speak to anyone was seen trying to converse with Alexa when he thought no one was looking. That I think is phenomenal. Little children are more comfortable talking to a device than a human being? This made me sit up and listen. Is technology getting so powerful and capable of replacing humans even for making friendly conversations?

Another important occurrence during the AECT happened when I was attending a get-together with a service organization.  There were loud cheers from few people when they heard we were from Purdue.  They said, “My children are so happy that Purdue won the game.” They were referring to Purdue’s football win. I asked if their kids were studying at Purdue. They said no, their children were studying in University of Michigan, and University of Wisconsin and so on, but all these families watched the match on TV. They got super excited when spectators stormed the arena and danced with lights flashing to match the beat of the music. They said that their children were so grateful that Purdue beat the other team. We were even thanked and praised for Purdue’s win.  To be honest I’ve never touched a football in my life, leave alone American football. I don’t understand anything and so I don’t watch the games. But my friends and me were so happy when people wished us for the victory. Thanks team! They went on to spend nearly 15 minutes talking about the fabulous way the match was played and how students celebrated. Fortunately, I knew all this happened because my professor discussed this during a meeting a day before. Otherwise I would have stared back at them with blank eyes 😉. This event became bigger than the AECT conference itself, for me. I was so happy and left the place elated about being a part of a great university!

Graduate Student in Purdue Homecoming Court

My Experiences in the Purdue Homecoming Court

 

This week is Purdue Homecoming week. What is homecoming? I looked up the dictionary and could not find a good translation since in Asia we don’t have this term. Homecoming is an annual tradition in the United States. People welcome back alumni and former residents with a series of activities such as a banquet, a football game played on a school’s home football field, and a parade featuring the school’s marching band. Besides these activities, the school also selects homecoming court. The homecoming court is a representative group of students who are completing their final years of study at their school and who have done a lot to contribute to their school. It is extremely honor to be selected in the court. The entire student body votes for the Queen and King.

In 2016, the Purdue Student Union Board was looking for involved and enthusiastic candidates for the 2016 Homecoming Court. Selection of the court was based on the candidate’s essay, resume, academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and community involvement. I told myself that I should give a try in my school life! I had a strong involvement at Purdue, doing tons of volunteering service, building leadership at many organizations, and receiving many scholarship and awards on campus. Therefore, I started to write the essay why I was proud to be Boilermaker and what my most rewarding Purdue experience was and why.

Ready for the parade
Ready for the parade. Queen’s wave~

In the end of May, I got an email from PSUB. Congratulations! You have been selected to be the 2016 Homecoming Court! I was selected!! The FIRST EVER international graduate student was selected in the homecoming court! I was over the moon, and I would be going to sit on the convertible car and do my queen’s wave in the homecoming parade!

After being selected, I was planning to make a fun and attractive button and a catchy slogan during the campaign. In 2016, people were crazy for Pokemon Go. Therefore, I decided to make a poke ball button so people could catch me all. Some of my friends helped me design as well. Where should I put my name in the ball? How big of my name should be in the button so everyone could see it clearly. What font should I use? What color of poke ball should I choose? Generally the ball was red, but the red color was a feud color. After long discussions and modifications in several weeks, I used Purdue gold for showing my loyalty. 

Poke Ball
One of the button designed: Poke Ball

For the slogan, since my number was five, I had give me five, pick I-Fan and high five I-Fan. But I was not satisfied with them until a teacher suggested me the catchy slogan: “I am a Fan of I-Fan.” Therefore, I also made a formal button and a banner for it.

banner1 banner 2

The official campaign started on Monday 6pm and lasted for ten days. If candidates did any advertisement before 6pm, they would lose points. At 8pm, I started to post my flyers and I saw some candidates’ posters at every store around Chauncey Hill. Only two hours! I could not believe that they did it so fast in only two hours. They must have had a campaign team! My friend and I only posted 5 flyers in the first evening. I had no experience of campaigning and got very frustrated. However, if I gave up now, the game was over ahead of time. I would not be easily defeated. The next day, I sank my teeth into the campaign. I carried my heavy posters to every restaurant and store off-campus for their permission to post my flyer in their places. Most of them were happy to support and were super proud that I was selected in the homecoming court. Finally, I distributed around 60 posters in the Greater Lafayette. I even distributed my poster to Silver Dipper located in Sagamore Parkway and in Exploration Acres, the largest corn maze in Northwest Indiana. People told me that they saw my posters everywhere. I made my goal.

corn maze corn maze 2
corn maze 3 silver dipper

On Thursday, I just realized that if I chalked on concrete sidewalks, I did not need to clean it after the campaign since the rain would wash it automatically. Therefore, I started to chalk. One of the reasons was I had given out all 300 buttons I made. But rather than generally chalking such as vote for I-Fan, my friend told me that we could chalk poke balls just like the button I designed. So, we chalked several fun poke balls on the ground. Unfortunately, this chalking disappeared the next day. There was no rain in the evening. I was very disappointed but I had not given up. During the weekend, I was on fire. I chalked a lot in the popular and important places on campus such as CoRec entrance, Engineering Mall, PMU, bus stop, and Elliot Hall. Take a look. The fun fact was other candidates mimicked my idea and started to chalk creatively. The PSUB Homecoming committee also told me I did a great job.

chalk ads
Chalking around campus for the campaign

During the campaign, I also showed my big banner when walking on campus or on bus. In the beginning, I was shy and embarrassed. I did not like people staring at me all the time, but it was also a good time to be brave. I would regret if I did not do my best. Therefore, in the last two days, I held my banner naturally and gracefully walking on campus.

The final selection was based on the interview (50%) and general body votes (50%). The formal interview was held by a panel of judges composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community leaders. The interview was about 15 minutes with six questions.Banner and jumbo buttoncampaign stuff

Finally, I did not get crowned because I did not do very well on the interview part unfortunately. I did not prepare for the interview and did not present/advertise myself to the judges well.

But I was told by PSUB that I got the most popular vote! My hard work paid back. (That was also my main goal.)

I was honored to be selected in the homecoming court, and really glad to have this opportunity to be involved in the American’s tradition. I also thank my friends and many organizations with their fully support such as PGSG and Purdue Bands & Orchestras Department. My advisor also was excited and gave me some suggestions for the campaign. Some of my friends told me in the beginning that it was impossible to get votes and competed with undergraduate students. But, you never know until you try. Never give up and nothing is impossible!

assorted photos

union male court
Scoreboard podium

Country of Hope and Development: My Experience of Research in Pakistan!

As Boilermakers, we always stick to our great slogan “WE ARE PURDUE, WHAT WE MAKE MOVES THE WORLD FORWARD” meaning that we always try to actually move the world forward with our research. Sometimes, as part of our research, we get the chance to travel to different regions in the world to help communities in different scientific issues, which, in my opinion, is the whole idea of our slogan. Fortunately, I recently had the honor to be part of a research team representing Purdue University to travel to Pakistan to work on water quality of two major rivers in that region. This was a great experience for me that I decided to share with you in this post.

Let’s start with the very moment that I was told by my advisor that as part of my Ph.D. research, I have been assigned to be part of a scientific cooperation between the United States and Pakistan working on “Endocrine disrupting chemicals in Kabul and Swat rivers and their impact on fish populations and rural community livelihoods“, which was funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by National Academy of Sciences (NAS). I remember that I was so excited to be part of this project as it was a great way to help the people of Pakistan to improve their water quality. I should say that I don’t believe in such concepts as border and nationality, meaning that we’re all from one beautiful planet no matter where we’re born, in what language we speak, or even what religion we practice; however, when I got the news, I had this feeling that now that I can’t help people of my own country who are really suffering from lots of environmental issues, I have been given the chance to play my role in that area of world. We started the preparation process for our upcoming trip to Pakistan in June in order to do water sampling in these two rivers.

River Kabul and its tributaries including River Swat are major freshwater sources in the KP province of Pakistan that serve the water needs of most of the Northern mountain and Northwestern plain areas of the province. These rivers also serve as a rich source of various fish species which local populations depend on for their livelihood as well as the tourism industry. Unfortunately, untreated effluent discharges from dozens of small and large-scale industrial units enter the Kabul and Swat rivers directly or indirectly. For more than a decade, there have been complaints about the declining water quality of these rivers and reduced crop production. There has also been a substantial decline in fish numbers as well as reports of mysterious fish kills, ultimately affecting the livelihoods of rural communities. Therefore, we were quite sure that we should do our best to make the situation better (which is actually ongoing).

Everything was ready and we were prepared for a long 23-hour flight to Islamabad and then Peshawar where the project was supposed to be started. As an Iranian student in the USA who was fully experienced about the huge differences between the reality and what media show about a region, I was completely aware of what I was reading in the media about Pakistan and what we were going to see there; however, it is a lie if I say I wasn’t worried at all, which later on, I realized that I shouldn’t be worried even a little as it was the best country in the world with the greatest people I have ever seen in my life.

First Days:

Finally, after a two-stop-24-hour flight! we arrived at Islamabad at around 5:00 am while our colleagues were waiting for us there, which was the first sign of knowing how hospitable Pakistani people are. We started another two hours driving from Islamabad to Peshawar where we’re supposed to stay. For me, except the cars that had the steering wheel on the right side! everything kind of looked familiar which was a great feeling. I was watching people driving in different and the most colorful cars reflecting the great Pakistani culture. I was so excited about this trip.

Fortunately, we had a great place to stay in the University of Peshawar that was much better than we expected. This was a great news for us as we knew that we’re going to have a big jet lag after that long flight. However, it turned out that my advisor’s suggestion of drinking a lot of water before, during, and after the flight actually worked, and yes, we concurred the jet lag!

Next day was the start of the journey. The meeting with our Pakistani colleagues was the second sign of knowing how great Pakistan is. Since almost all the colleagues could speak English very well (even better than me), we started hanging out and actually becoming friends beyond being colleagues. I had never expected to make friends there when we were planning to go there, but after getting to know them, I realized that this was going to be even a much greater trip for me.

In that day, we went to see some sampling points in the Kabul river, which was my first experience of actually living in the city of Peshawar that was under Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) construction at that time. For lunch, we went to a local restaurant to eat “Chapli Kebab“!  We started talking about lots of things there as we were preparing for hard sampling days! 

In the first couple of days, after seeing people in the streets with their nice traditional outfit and talking with my fellow friends, I literally became in love with Pakistan. Even though Pakistan has unfortunately had such disastrous experiences in past years, I could easily see in their lives and in their eyes that they are hopeful about the future and are trying to develop more and more. This was the main reason that I unintentionally felt as one of them especially when I saw the number of mutual concepts in my and their culture such as similarities between their national language “Urdu” and our “Persian“.

Anyways, we had two rivers as our target points. Everything was ready, and I had already practiced a lot to make sure everything works perfectly. We were all ready for the project.

Going to Swat district:

Before Kabul, our colleagues had managed to start the sampling process first with Swat river in Swat valley for 4 to 5 days, and then come back to Peshawar for the sampling of Kabul river. Therefore, we started our trip to Swat districts, which was almost 6 to 7 hours driving. On our way, we started talking about everything including politics, literature, science, etc., so I kind of missed the gorgeous road we’re driving (also because it got dark when we started the trip). Finally, at around 2:00 am, we arrived at “Trout Culture Training Centre Madyan Swat” where we supposed to stay for the next couple of days, which turned out to be absolutely amazing.

Swat was the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen in my life. I don’t want to talk more about it, just watch this video:

See? It was like a dream. Even though we weren’t tourists and had the work to do, still, we could easily see how beautiful is this region. But besides its beauty, there was something else that made me be in love with the region, which I can generalize to the whole country: people!

It goes without saying that when you’re from another country with different looks and outfits and go to a less developed area of a country like Pakistan, it’s a fair assumption to at least not expect local people’s support, which was honestly my assumption at first too. However, it turned out that it was a completely wrong one. We received so much support and love in almost each sampling point that I couldn’t believe it. People were so kind and supportive that in some places, they even started helping us during the sampling process. This was, by far, the best thing I learned in this trip that Pakistan has one of the kindest and the most hospitable people in the world.

However, the sampling process was harder than we expected. Because of the road constructions and heavy traffics in some of the places, transportation was hard enough to make us not be able to get more than 4 samples in one day. As we were there in high flow season, measuring the river discharge was our another challenge that took us a lot of time to figure out.  We also got sick there a little but fortunately could handle it before getting worse. 

Meantime, we had the chance to meet new places and new people. We had been invited to some places and had the honor to meet local authorities discussing different aspects of the project. Speaking of meetings, in Pakistan, or at least in places I visited, Pakistani Chai, which is a combination of normal black tea and milk with a specific recipe, is the most popular drink that is being served in almost every meeting. At first, I remember I preferred just a normal tea (or as they call it “Sulaimani Chai”!), but after a couple of times that I drank the Pakistani chai, I became in love with it.

By the way, despite all the hardships, we successfully did all the sampling points alongside the Swat river and were ready to come back to Peshawar. We couldn’t do it there without the sincere help of local people and authorities there.

Coming back to Peshawar:

After 5 days of being in Swat district, We went back to Peshawar to continue the work on the Kabul river. We decided to rest for one day and be more diligent to finish the process in the next 2 days as we already had the experience of sampling in Swat. One huge difference between Swat and Peshawar regarding the sampling was the weather! In Swat, we had to be prepared for sudden rain and storm, but in Peshawar, the sun was the enemy! as it was so much hotter than Swat. 

We even decided to rent a small boat to move along the river to reach the points faster and easier than going there by car. This was a great decision even though the boat was much slower than we expected, meaning we had to be under direct hot sunlight for 7 to 8 hours. But we finally did the sampling process as excellent as what we did in Swat. I have already mentioned a difference between Swat and Kabul, and now is the time to talk about a similarity between these two regions: people, again! Same as Swat, we had the warmest and the most support available from people who were greeting us, trying to communicate with us, and especially, helping us. I was absolutely stunned by their amount of being kind and hospitable.

Last days of rest and shop:

We did the work! we did all the sampling points, measured all the needed parameters, and gathered all the data sooner than expected, so we could reward ourselves with resting and more importantly, being with people (also shopping for sure!)

Thanks to my friends, I had the chance to visit Qissa Khawani Bazaar for shopping and visiting cultural places, which for me, was reminding of the Grand Bazaar in my hometown, Tehran. There, I got the chance to buy different souvenirs. There, they invited me to eat the traditional Charsi Tikka, which was by far the most delicious food I had in Pakistan. It also reminded me of our Persian Shishlik kebab, which is also great. Just in case, did you know that in Pakistan, there is another platform like Uber called Careem?!

In that bazaar, I actually blend in with local people in a way that you couldn’t know that I’m not from Pakistan! How? see the picture:
Yes! my friend did me a great favor and brought me a traditional Pakistani dress that was absolutely beautiful. But on a serious note, those couple of days that we had the chance to meet people and talk about daily issues were a great experience for me to be more thoughtful in my future environmental activities.

Last words:

Humanity is beyond all the borders. People are not defined with their language, skin color, religion, nationality, etc. As an Iranian student, I can say that I have already suffered enough from different levels of misunderstandings and misjudgments. I also blame myself since I have also done such things that I don’t proud of. However, as an environmentalist, this trip to Pakistan was a great reminder for me to know that people are the same all over the world in spite of the politician’s struggles! In this trip, Pakistani people taught me to be humble and try for the betterment of your society, which was a great practical lesson that I won’t forget. I decided to not mention any names in this post just to write my experience, but my friends there know how much I respect and miss them. I hope I can see them soon. Even though Pakistan has had rough days in recent years, it’s now flourishing as ALL the people are trying to do their best to make their country a better place, and I want to speak to all of them that you are doing great. You have a great country to which I also feel belonged. You are the best and God Bless you all. It was a great honor for me to be there as a Purdue student and try to represent my university alongside with my other colleagues as it is what we do at Purdue University.

Regards,
Peyman

“The Little Black Fish” Or: How To See The Ocean Of Your Life!

“… Perhaps,” says the little black fish, “there is more to life, and perhaps the world is more than our stream!”

Let’s start the journey with “The Little Black Fish”, one of the most famous Iranian folklore stories written by the legendary Samad Behrangi. The inspiring story of a Little Black Fish who was seeking the truth of his own life through his search for the end of the mountain stream in which he was born but never believed was the end of his world.

I want to know if life is simply for circling around in a small place until you become old and nothing else, or is there another way to live in the world?”

While his fellow fish were too scared to do anything different from their set routine, the Little Black Fish made the decision and swam over the edge of the pool, into the stream and river which showed him much more of the world. He met wonders and adventures, dangers and beauty. And finally… The Little Black Fish made it all the way to the ocean, and found his answers.

I have read this small book more than 20 times in my life and actually lived with every moment of the Little Black Fish thorough his journey to see the ocean! Each time I was reading it, I was thinking about the very moment that he decided that he wants to see the ocean, realized that he doesn’t want to be just a fish like others before and after him, realized that he wants to pursue his goal. I am sure that there were other fish before him who also had some similar dreams in their life, but they never dared to do what the Little Black Fish did, and obviously, no one wanted to write their stories.

I was always waiting for my moment…

For me, as a young student in one of the best universities in my country, Iran, the concept of life looked completely good, happy, and promising (just like every other fish in the pond!), but I always knew that it is not the passion I always wanted to pursue and that is not the person whom I want to become. Days were passing and I was stuck with these thoughts without actually doing anything, but like every other great story in the world, I finally faced the “moment” that I was waiting for!

And that moment was simply watching Carl Sagan’s speech at Cornell University, October 13, 1994, the “Pale Blue Dot”:

That was it. That was the moment. Ever since I watched this short video, I couldn’t resist for a moment thinking about becoming an environmentalist trying to make our “home” a better place to live. Then someday, I finally swam over the edge of the pool!

Considering all the hardships associated with Iranian students to get their Visa and not being able to see their families for a long time, the process of applying for universities in USA is hard enough to even stop an Iranian student to think about it, but I had made my decision, so I started applying for universities as I believed that studying in highly prestigious universities is necessary for the passion that was inflating my heart.

That was when I became familiar with Purdue University which was (is) not only one of the best-ranked universities in my field of study but also it had a slogan that was exactly describing my passion: “WE ARE PURDUE, WHAT WE MAKE MOVES THE WORLD FORWARD”. I can’t forget the very moment that I opened my email in which I had received the admission from Purdue, it was unbelievable as I knew that a new chapter of my life has been started.

I remember the moment when for the first time I saw the wind farm near Lafayette which reminded me of Manjil, one of the cities in my home country that does have similar farms. I can mention thousands of other memories that now became great experiences for a person who used to live in a crowded city with a population of over 14 million inhabitants and moved to a magical peaceful city, but among all the memories and experiences, I believe the most important thing to say is that ever since I came to Purdue, I realized that I have got accepted to a big and supportive academic family in which people help each other grow personally and academically without considering concepts such as nationality, language, religion, etc., which made me sure about my decision and my way to reasch my passions. 

Purdue ranks 4th for international student population at public universities, so you can easily see lots of students from all over the world gathering here trying to study hard and actually do what moves the world forward. Every time I see my international fellow Boilermakers, I imagine them as the little black fish of their life which is different than my life but share a universal goal and passion: to see the ocean!

Now as I am writing these words, I am sure that I am in the middle of my journey to see the ocean. Coming to Purdue and becoming a boilermaker was not supposed to be the ocean, but it definitely was the start of this journey. It actually doesn’t matter when this journey will end as I am enjoying every moment of it. I don’t even know what the ocean would look like, but I sincerely know how it will “feel”.

What about you? What was your moment to make the decision?…

Keys

How Purdue Bands & Orchestras Impacts Me at Purdue

My photo is at downstairs of Elliott Hall. Come check it!

Purdue does not have music major, but Purdue Bands & Orchestras provides an opportunity for me to continue my lifelong journey with music as a performer. I played the piano when I was 4 years old. I did not go to music training classes but I had individual lessons nonstop all the time even when I was here. When I was in college, I also played the clarinet and tenor saxophone in National Taiwan University Wind Band (student organization). When I went to Purdue pursuing my Ph.D. degree, I never thought I could join any band or orchestra someday in the U.S even though I wanted to perform at Elliott Hall, Loeb Playhouse, Long Center of the Performing Arts and other fancy music halls. However, dreams came true!

I had chance to join Purdue Philharmonic Orchestra in Fall 2015. They had two regular concerts each semester. One was in the middle of the semester and the other was at the end of semester. The first music piece I performed is the Planets by Gustav Holst. I played the celesta. It was my debut at Loeb Playhouse. The concert was great, and I was excited about wearing tuxedo (my first time). At the second concert, I was much more excited because I was playing Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach. I loved Baroque music and this piece was quite challenge. There were many times using my ring finger crossing my pinkie on my right hand. But I was not afraid of it since I played a lot of pieces by Bach and I knew how to overcome it. That concert was perfect! I wish I had a video recording to catch that moment. Later on, I joined Purdue Wind Ensemble and Concert Band. There were many fun pieces with piano part. I also had a chance to play ragtime music that I never played before. I loved each piece that conductors chose. Sometimes, the piece was easy for me, and sometimes it was hard. But no matter what level it was, it always developed and cultivated my ensemble skills and technical skills.

Purdue Wind Ensemble
Purdue Wind Ensemble

Dress rehearsal
Dress rehearsal selfie

One of the amazing experiences for me through Purdue Bands & Orchestras was serving as blazer in Fall 2017. I knew much more about All American Marching Band (AAMB). I never participate marching band and always want to join and see how hard it is. However, as a graduate student, I really don’t have much time doing marching. They practice every afternoon and perform at home football game day. NO WAY!

Blazers distributing birds
Blazers distributing birds

Blazers!
Blazers!

Being a blazer is a good compensate. I helped AAMB in home football game, blocking fans when they parade to Stadium, learning the music they play, setting up the equipment they need, giving the water, and tearing down after the game. Blazers are like the backup support for AAMB. AAMB can focus on performing and do not worry about any other issues that blazers take care of.

with Prof. Jay S. Gephart Al G. Wright Chair, Director of Bands
with Prof. Jay S. Gephart, Al G. Wright Chair, Director of Bands

with AAMB Drum Major, Robert Steele
with AAMB Drum Major, Robert Steele

Gold & Black Sound
Gold & Black Sound

Last Fall semester, I also joined a pep band called Gold & Black Sound (GABS) for the Purdue Women’s Basketball team. I played the melodica. I also learned the cheers during the game and some music as AAMB played. Also, I just realized that our women basketball team was really good! They did a great job in the home game.

Thanks Prof. Bodony for bringing me to the Department to begin my amazing band trip. I like his style of conducting and he always gives strong support. Thanks Prof. Gephart for giving me many opportunities to show my talent. I had a great time playing Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 5 “Spring” with flute principal at Elliott Hall before the concert starts. It was a nice warm-up performance. Also, I played the melodica in SLAVA! That solo jointed with soprano saxophone was perfect. Thanks Prof. Nave to encourage me to join GABS. It was my great choice. I was glad to join GABS and I became a big FAN of Purdue basketball. I also thank Prof. Fletcher for inviting me to Concert Band. I love Shepherd’s Hey by Percy Aldridge Grainger and Where never Lark or Eagle Flew by James Curnow.

with Conductor, Adam M. Bodony
with Conductor, Adam M. Bodony

with Conductor, Douglas R. Fletcher
with Conductor, Douglas R. Fletcher

Joining Purdue Bands & Orchestras enlightens my school life! I can continue playing music when doing my research. I have opportunities to play music with other talented students together and give performances in public every semester. I enjoy the rehearsal atmosphere and performing on stage by giving the audiences beautiful and lovely melody. Even though Purdue does not have music department, these non-music major students still perform professionally. I am proud to play music with them. I could not image how my Ph.D. life would have been if I did not join Purdue Bands & Orchestras.

Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 5 “Spring” with flute principal at Elliott Hall
Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 5 “Spring” with flute principal at Elliott Hall

 

I played “River Flows in You” during the intermission of Concert Band in 2017

Ragtime music: (I was nervous about it in the beginning because it was very easy to make mistake and then could not follow the music. When I listened to several recording, they either played the wrong keys, or did not follow the tempo. In the dress rehearsal, I even still made some mistakes. But, in the concert, I made it! I was pretty happy and felt fully released. Now I made the bible version that people can watch! Check it out.)

Mavs’ Tips and Tricks with Google Calendar

Hello everyone! Happy Valentine’s Day!

For today’s post, I want to share with you some of Google Calendar’s tips and tricks that I have found helpful in graduate school. I am now in my third year in my Ph.D. program and I have finished my required classes. I am also working as a research assistant.  That means LOTS OF UNSTRUCTURED TIME! Now, for some people having unstructured time means having a lot of free time… But for me having a lot of unstructured time is dangerous — because there are days when I would rather watch the latest Korean drama than work on my research. So how do I deal with it? Let me show you the ways…

1. Use Google calendar.

I love my Google calendar. I am super dependent on it – I have it on my phone and it is the first thing I access when I get in the office. I have also configured it to send me an e-mail every day at 5 am to inform me about everything I need to do. Here’s a screenshot on how to configure the settings to get it to send you email notifications. (The settings shows up when you click the gear icon near the upper right corner)

2. Have multiple calendars and color code them. 

I have multiple calendars but I make sure that I see all of it in its entirety. Now you may wonder, why multiple calendars? I have calendars I share with research group members for projects and  I would only want to share relevant information ((You wouldn’t want your project members to know that you have a dentist appointment when it doesn’t concern them!)).

Keeping multiple calendars – and a separate one for my personal needs (sleeping, exercise) also ensures that I actually get some shut eye. One of my resolutions this year is to sleep better because it makes me a more functional person, a better grad student and a happier person in general.

Now, what’s with the color coding? Color coding also helps you track your time. I found tracking how much time I spend on projects keeps me accountable and helps me make better-informed decisions on how I spend my time. Supposing, I have 10 hours to spend on Project X, and 5 hours on Project Y and found myself needing more hours on Project Y because Task 1 took much longer, I can readjust my time based on what I may have done in the past.

Here’s a screenshot of what my work week looks like this week.

3. Mark milestones on the calendar. 

This year I wanted to be more strategic on how I spend my time on projects. I am attending multiple conferences and if I am not mindful the deadline just creeps in without me knowing. So I decided to plan my semester. If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out NCFDD’s Every Semester Needs a Plan https://www.facultydiversity.org/webinars/semesterplan18 and Aligning Your Priorities https://www.facultydiversity.org/webinars/18sundaymeet webinar. The site requires you to register but the webinars are extremely helpful in helping you break down big goals into smaller tasks and making time for them! I highly recommend them.

Anyway, I mark milestones in my calendar to let me know that by some time period I should have finished Project X’s section three.  You can set it up by adding all-day events. Here’s what it looks like:

I also use the milestone function to inform me of bills, conferences, big events I need to be mindful of.

4. Use the hyperlink to keep track of written documents.

One trick I have found very useful – especially if you use Google Drive to share documents with team members is to use the hyperlinks to inform members of any changes you have made on a written document. I also make a short note to inform them what I have done for that particular time period. It is a great accountability tool and you can see the status of the project.

Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

5. Use the task function.

I use the task function for things that do not require more than 15 minutes of my time or things I just need to remember (e.g. Return Yan’s bowl from the dinner party). I also use it to remind me of where I parked my car (I developed a coding scheme to inform me of which floor and which row I parked my car in Grant Street Parking Garage).

6. Have a Friday meeting.

I usually reflect and populate my calendar for the upcoming week before I leave work on Friday.  I spend about 30 minutes going through the process of listing down everything I need to do the following week (readings, writing I need to work on, etc) and then populating my calendar. Having a plan before my new week starts helps me prime myself for the next work week ahead. And oh, I consciously take a day off each week – to run errands, to recuperate, and to rest. Taking a break is good for one’s soul. Because I have a plan made on Friday, by Monday, when I pick up my work I know exactly what I need to do.

7. Be flexible.

One thing I had to wrap my head around is the idea that YOU WILL NEVER finish all the things you want to do and you have to be flexible in how to manage your time. There would be days when I swap one scheduled task for another – that’s okay, if it makes more sense, then why not? You also have to realize that for some tasks you will encounter technical difficulties (e.g., the task you scheduled was dependent on something else, you don’t have the appropriate tools for the scheduled task), psychological blocks (e.g. you find yourself dealing with debilitating anxiety) and external realities (e.g. you need to rush to the emergency room, etc). It’s okay, you don’t need to beat yourself up for it. You acknowledge the challenges and find ways to deal with them. Also, some times you need to be creative with how you use your time… I would walk on the treadmill as I finish my readings – I get my exercise and my reading done.

I hope the things I shared with you helps you somehow… The key is to find what works for you. 🙂

 

The winnings!

Great Experience at the Rice Business Plan Competition

A visiting scholar from National Taiwan University came to Purdue in 2014. He was interested in participating Rice Business Plan Competition. After hanging out several times, he thought I was the right person and invited me to join his business team. Since I was also the alumnus of National Taiwan University (same major as well) and it would be a great opportunity and experience for me to do something new, I accepted the challenge and joined the team.

The Rice Business Plan Competition, hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University, is the world’s richest and largest graduate-level student startup competition. The competition is designed to give collegiate entrepreneurs a real-world experience to fine tune their business plans and elevator pitches to generate funding to successfully commercialize their product. Judges will evaluate the teams as real-world entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from early stage investors and venture capital firms. The judges are asked to rank the presentations based on which company they would most likely invest. The goal of the RBPC is to provide the best overall educational and entrepreneurial experience of any business plan competition.

In 2014, there were more than 600 teams around the world submitting their applications and only 42 teams each year would be selected to the competition. The first day was practice round and elevator pitch competition. The second day was first round and feedback session. The last day was semi-finals and Finals. In first round, 42 teams were divided into seven flights. The first and second place teams of the First Round and the highest scoring third place team overall advanced to the Semi-Finals (which means 15 teams total). 15 teams are divided into 3 flights. The first and second place winners of the semi-finals advanced to the Finals.

Our team, EcoBreeze, a company based on researching and commercializing innovative, powerful and green cooling technology for customers in LED field, was selected to the competition.

When the competition came, I was excited and nervous. The elevator pitch kicked off the competition. In the elevator pitch competition, each team took turns and gave one-minute speech in front of around 300 people in the auditorium. Some teams were very experienced with their vocal variety and gestures. The presenter just two before my turn was too nervous to speak, so he stared into space and sadly stepped down from the lectern after a pin-drop silence one minute. This made me more nervous. I never did elevator pitch nor spoke in front of so many people on stage. Everyone looked at me seriously. When in my turn, I took a deep breath and then walked to the lectern. Let’s take a look my elevator pitch debut. I knew I could do better now but it was a great try, isn’t it?

 

Later on, we had the practice round. We received very important and great feedback from the judges and then modified our slides and talk. It helped a lot. Our first round went very well and we advanced to the semi-finals smoothly.

Advance to semi-final!
Advance to semi-final!

In other words, I was disqualified to visit Rice University and other attractions in Huston the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The semi-final was in the early morning and I almost stayed up for rehearsing. In the semi-final, the judges asked a lot of tuff questions and out team did not respond that well. Therefore, I did not expect to advance to the finals. At lunch time, the host announced the finalists. Our team’s name was on the board!!

In the Final
We are in Final!

We advanced to the finals and would be interviewed by Fortune magazine! My tears were rolling down my cheeks BUT I had to hold back my tears to give a professional speech in the finals in an hour. The finals were in the auditorium containing more than 500 audiences and judges. I told myself that it would be the last speech. Keep calm. I was the BEST! There would be nothing impossible.

Group photo
Interviewed by Fortune Magazine

 

Our team did a great job in the final presentation and Q&A including showing the real devices and the ideas. All the guests gave big applauses at the end of the presentation. After the presentation, I walked out of the auditorium. I cried again since I made it and all the pressures were released.

Presentation room 1 Presentation room 3 Presentation room 2

 

 

Photo with President of Rice University

At the awards banquet, our team won 3rd place with $7500 cash award! WOW! What an unforgettable experience!

Throughout this business plan competition, I met many elite students and venture capitalists. They shared their valuable experiences and stories. Also, I had some ideas and knowledge of business model and how to run the business. These great experiences are much more than $7500. I truly thanked for my teammates for inviting me to the business team.