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Q&A with ECE Associate Professor Besma Smida

ECE is a growing department with several new faculty members. In the third part of this series we are introducing Associate Professor Besma Smida.

How did you become interested in engineering?
I come from a country - Tunisia Ė where the field of engineering has a great reputation. Itís a good job to be an engineer. If you do well in school, you have some choices and became an engineer, perhaps a doctor or lawyers. So itís a cultural thing. People like the work of engineers, and itís recognized as an interesting job. I guess I shared the common Tunisian idea that engineering involved a lot of creativity and innovation.

What experiences led you to your present position?
I did my undergraduate work in Tunisia, earned my masterís degree in Canada, and then worked for a service provider company on the first 3G wireless communication in Montreal. After that, I earned my PhD at the University of Quebec and became a Lecturer/Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard before working at Purdue for five years. So Iíve had a couple of different experiences before I came here.

Can you tell us about your work as a professor in ECE? Could you describe a typical work day?
I have been teaching in the morning, then I meet with Ph.D. students, and then I read papers or write papers or proposals. We always have deadlines and my calendar is scheduled around those deadlines.

Have you received any awards or recognitions? What are your secrets that lead you to receiving them?
I recently received the NSF CAREER Award and other NSF grants. As a graduate student, I earned the highest academic honor afforded to Canadian students, the Governor Generalís Gold Medal. I was awarded the INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazineís 2015 ďInspiring Women in STEMĒ Award. With respect to my research, I just fall in love with theoretical problems and enjoy working hard to solve them, regardless of the new learning Iím required to do in order to find workable solutions.

What are your favorite hardware and software tools?
I use MatLab a lot at the moment but my research will undoubtedly force me to pick up new tools in the coming years.

Are you involved with any professional organizations?
I have been a member of IEEE for a long time. I was chair of Women in Engineering for the Chicago Chapter (which is part of IEEE), and recently I became a member of its Emerging Technology Committee.

What are you currently working on?
Most of my time is spent on the CAREER project. The title is ďFull-duplex wireless networks by means of reflected power: Theory and applications.Ē The objective is to create reliable full-duplex wireless networks by means of reflected power. Iím also looking at integrated radar and communication systems.

What do you do during your free time?
Iím a married mother of two so tend to go to a lot of soccer games on the weekends. I enjoy cooking, too. I also do a lot of reading, and especially love audiobooks. Iíve read a lot of philosophy lately, which I do during my commute to work. I read in three different languages, and with each language I have a preferred topic. In Arabic, I will read poetry and fiction; in French, I read psychology; and in English I read technical and scientific writing.

What direction do you see yourself in a few years from now? Or what would you like to accomplish at UIC?
I have a great new group of students, and I would like to see the students established with research that has a lasting impact. The biggest reward for any researcher is that your research is useful to some person and that people recognize your work in new technology. I would also like to create new partnerships that help me learn and grow as an engineer and researcher.

What would you be doing if you werenít an engineer?
I think perhaps I would have become an architect. I like the idea of combining aesthetics with mathematics, and I also like the idea of thinking about the relationship between physical materials and theoretical problems.

Learn more about the Associate Professor at Besma Smida.

Topic revision: r1 - 2016-07-28 - 16:53:19 - Main.davidst
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