Emulating his SMU mentors earned Amir Ali ’15, an assistant professor at German University in Cairo, Egypt, a sweet gift from his graduating seniors: a chocolate bar with a custom wrapper declaring, “To the Best Professor Ever! Thank You.”
After Ali earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Lyle School of Engineering, he returned to the German University in Cairo (GUC), where he received his MSc degree in mechatronics engineering in 2010. GUC is a private Egyptian university established in cooperation with the State Universities of Ulm and Stuttgart, Germany.
In addition to teaching undergrads, he is the founder and director of the university’s ARAtronics Lab, a research group composed of more than 20 graduate and undergraduate students. This year the ARAtronics team was 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,” says Ali.
His work in the field of micro-optical sensors aims to connect mind and machine. It may sound like science fiction to non-engineers, but advances in neural interfaces could have sweeping life-changing applications. For example, engineers are now working toward more lifelike prosthetic limbs that not only move more naturally but also “feel” sensations like heat and pressure.
The young academic was honored with the 2017 National Instruments Excellence Award in Academic Education and Scientific Research for the Middle East. And he recently published Principles of Sensing Based on Micro-optical Whispering Gallery Modes: Physics, Design, and Applications, a technical textbook.
In working with students from different faculties and diverse backgrounds, Ali draws inspiration from his Lyle experience.
He describes his SMU mentor and advisor Volkan Otugen, senior associate dean and the George R. Brown Chair in Mechanical Engineering, as his “role model.”
“I’ve emulated his way of thinking, interpreting problems and inspiring students,” he explains.
Edmond Richter, associate professor of mechanical engineering, has also been an important influence, he says.