Month: April 2021

Meet JLLA Senior Pierre Fils


Pierredens Fils is a third-year Ph.D. student studying Structural Health Monitoring through civil and environmental engineering. 


Born in Haiti, Fils came to America at a very young age. He grew up learning Creole and English simultaneously and observes each as being structural to his identity.  


His first research experience—at Oak Ridge National Laboratory—was around climate impacted buildings. While there, he focused on re-designing climate zones for the optimization of energy consumption. This gave him a taste for discovering new things, all while getting his hands dirty.  


He finds that the experience “set a foundation for self-learning, as well as navigating computational lab work.” Though he planned to “wash his hands of it and return to design,” he found himself fully engaged in the research. 


Fils currently focuses on damage identification and quantification methods for civil structures. He identifies the undamaged state of buildings or materials to quantify the extent of the damage. Through a collection of parameters and techniques, he looks at developing algorithms using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sensors to conduct damage monitoring. 


His experience at John Lof has allowed Fils to “step outside of this research while developing other important skills.” As previous Public Speaking Committee Chair and current Financial Director, he finds that he has grown his confidence considerably over the last two years.


He says of the Academy, “it caters to case-specific needs, and really forces introspection.” It’s about pushing the boundaries of comfort and learning to advocate. “There is no better way to help yourself, than to look inward.”

Meet JLLA Senior Mohammed Albayati


Mohammed Albayati is a third-year doctoral candidate in the Mechanical Engineering department and recently received a Graduate Certificate in Advanced System Engineering. He is working as a graduate research assistant at the UTC Institute for Advanced Systems Engineering (UTC-IASE). 


Albayati spent his undergraduate years in Iraq at the University of Tikrit. Soon after, he began a career with the North Refineries Company (NRC) as a project engineer. While there, he worked in isomerization unit installation and was part of the boiler installation team. 


After several years with the company, Albayati was offered a scholarship. He came to America in 2013 to pursue his masters at the University of New Haven. While there, he was given the Certificate of Advanced Level in English Language by ELS Language Centers  and was awarded the 2016 Mechanical Engineering Award for Superior Academic Performance.


Once he obtained his masters, Albayati returned to the NRC in Iraq. He found the culture and environment no longer fit his needs, and shortly returned to America. 


In 2019, he enrolled in the University of Connecticut, where he is currently working towards his PhD in mechanical engineering. His research interest is application of System Engineering and Model Model-Based Systems Engineering approaches for product development and Manufacturing.


Albayati stresses the importance of also “developing skills outside the lab.” As a member of JLLA, he says, “it’s about building confidence in yourself, so you can move on to that next stage.”  


Away from the professional and student life, Mohammed enjoys hiking, playing soccer, gardening, and spending time with family and friends. 


Leadership in the Field

The “Leadership in Your Field” workshop was led by Mohammed Albayati and David Etim to examine the aspects of leadership encountered by aspiring graduate engineers in the academic and industrial workplace. 


Hosts divided members into breakout rooms so they could discuss leadership themes and construct a pertinent list of panel questions as a group. The themesmentorship, navigating hierarchy, platforms for leadership, democracy in the workplace and emotional intelligence—were then developed into summary slides for the panelists:


Doug Young, the VP Program Manager and Leadership Developer at Northrop Grumman, Armin Rad, the CEO and co-founder of Encapsulate, Leslie Shor, the Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education, and Dan Burkey, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Diversity.


The first theme explored connections between mentee and mentor-specific skills. Several of these shared core items—listening actively, building trust, encouraging others, and identifying goals—were discussed in greater detail by the panelists. Doug Young described, “at the end of the day, it’s about relationships and developing those connections.” 


Jim Collin’s pyramid of fundamental leadership—the highly capable individual, contributing team member, competent manager, effective leader, and finally, the top executive—embodied the ensuing theme of hierarchy. For reaching the pyramid’s highest level, an individual must be able to develop a company’s greatness through the “paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will,” according to Collins. 


The next theme explored how one can demonstrate leadership aspects in the field through various platforms. This includes leading projects, organizing study groups, or training and mentoring newer team members. 


The theme of democracy in the workplace discussed concepts such as equal opportunities and equal weight to the voices of employees of the same level. 


In the final topic—emotional intelligence—panelists encouraged students to understand, use, and manage their emotions in positive ways to effectively reduce conflict. The four pillars—self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management—allow leaders to develop a more connected and motivated company culture.


Each of these themes can help to guide better business outcomes, enhance morale among employees, and provide more productive teams. Leslie Shor advocates the greatest part of working as a leader to be “getting and giving constant emotional support.”



Meet JLLA Senior I’jaaz Muhammad


I’jaaz Sultaan Muhammad is a second-year doctoral student whose current research constitutes biomedical engineering in pharmacokinetics, specifically as it pertains to drug delivery. 


As someone who has been homeschooled all the way through twelfth grade, Muhammad’s first exposure to public schoolat Health Career Opportunity’s  pre-college engineering programprompted his love of helping and mentoring other people.


He explains, “each of my mentees have gone on to do something significant in their lives; to work at NASA, start their own business, become a university scholar…” He says, “they all do what they want to do, and the thought…that maybe I could have helped them to get there…it’s my greatest reward.” 


Muhammad’s academic record deserves its own kind of appraisal. He knows four languages, and has been a Rowe, LSAMP, McNair, and Bridge to the Doctorate Scholar, as well as an active member of the Student Association of Graduate Engineers, the Graduate Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, and Engineering Ambassadors. 


As an e-board member of John Lof Leadership Academy, Muhammad holds the title of Parliamentarian. Within that role, he interviews graduate students prior to induction, and is responsible for advising and directing members under the organization’s various rules and regulations.


JLLA has assisted the development of his “echo-social skills,” or ability to network. While people are always saying that “network gives you net worth,” they never know where to go from there, and he believes John Lof has helped in “filling that gap,” or connecting a person’s network to their net worth. 


Muhammad’s general advice is to always keep your gratitude. He says, “it can be hard…and that’s why we remind ourselves to be grateful for the little things. That’s how you go to war with depression. Count your blessings, not because they could be easily taken away, but because you are experiencing them now.”

JLLA Hosts Leadership Philosophy Workshop


The “Leadership Philosophy” workshopplanned by Kyle Wayde and led by President Erik Ammermanntook place on Friday, March 26th. 


The aim of this workshop was to broaden members’ perspective of leadership styles and philosophies, so as to advance their sense of the role. They identified not only the responsibilities of a leader, but had the opportunity to develop their own leadership principles as well. 


The seminar was modeled after Family Feud, where each of the members were divided into rooms to participate in a “game show” of timed survey questions. At the end of the allotted time, the full answers were revealed and explained in detail. 


These challengesalthough difficultproved to be informative. While the survey questions ranged widely in scope, the elements of leadership philosophy were greatest by far. Included in this are the following: theory, attitude, guiding principles and behavior.  


Theory is essentially what a person believes, or the values they prioritize. Attitude is a reflection of thoughts and words, the aim of which being to bolster success. Principles are the priorities of a good leader, which should serve as the basis for all decision-making. And based on the preceding core ideas, behavior indicates how one must act in certain situations.

At the end of the game, the highest-scoring team was Mohammed Albayati and Bala Swaminathan.