Trainee Spotlight – Shayan Hojabri

Shayan Hojabri is a PhD Candidate in the discipline of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University working within Project 4 under the mentorship of Akram Alshawabkeh. He has been working in Akram’s lab since 2014 throughout his masters and PhD programs. Most recently Shayan received the PROTECT IDP Award in 2019 and Northeastern University’s COE Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award in early 2020. He attended the Local Environmental Action 2020 Conference and in the last year he presented at the 2019 SRP Annual Meeting, the 236th ECS Meeting, as well as the 13th International Symposium on Electrokinetics (ELKIN) at MIT.

Shayan was originally drawn to PROTECT due to his long-term interests in using computational and analytical models to understand complex physical phenomena. During his undergraduate studies, Shayan familiarized himself with programming techniques and numerical analysis through involvement with research groups and went on to begin a graduate degree in Environmental Engineering, with the goal of providing access to clean water for all communities regardless of regional constraints. “Having grown up in a water scarce region has created a deep-rooted concern on the future of the global access to clean water and the impact of environmental contamination on living species in me,” says Shayan. “The PROTECT Center has given me the opportunity to understand the combined efforts involved in this multidisciplinary research project on environmental health. Participating in environmental health conferences and understanding the adverse health effects of various environmental contaminants made me more determined to be a part of the answer for understanding human exposure and providing solutions to protect the affected communities.”

Shayan’s mentorship by Project 5 Principal Investigator and Center Co-Director Akram Alshawabkeh has provided him with a professional role model which showcased leadership, vision, and the ability to connect across disciplines. As Shayan’s advisor, Akram allowed him the flexibility in his research to be an independent and self-motivated scientist. “He encouraged me to develop my leadership skills by involvement in PROTECT’s environmental data compilation and integration efforts as well as working closely with PROTECT’s Training Core,” says Shayan. To improve his research skills, Akram encouraged him to learn macro-scale modeling and explore data driven simulation tools such as machine learning and deep learning as a complement for development of more advanced and in-depth simulations. In addition to this, Shayan was provided with teaching opportunities in College of Engineering, which developed his teaching portfolio and led to the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award.

Despite all of these opportunities and accomplishments, Shayan’s favorite part about working with the PROTECT Center has been the sense of community and support amongst everyone involved. “I have learned that a multidisciplinary research group provides researchers in different fields to perceive the problem from different perspectives,” explains Shayan. “I learned the importance of diversity and inclusion within research groups for creating a sense of belonging for everyone involved. I used to find it challenging to present amongst team members, and to expand my professional network, but by providing me opportunities to practice my communication skills during Training Core projects, many attended seminars, and a platform to present my contribution to the project to a supportive team, I am now a confident scientist capable of conveying information about my research and even look forward to presentation and networking opportunities to have a better academic impact and receive feedback for improvement.”

Shayan is currently working on two publications which address the mechanisms of hexavalent chromium and trichloroethylene (TCE) contaminant removal and provide the readers with adequate tools to consider for designing such removal systems. He will be graduating with his PhD in August 2020 and in the future, Shayan is seeking opportunities in Research and Development, and is considering industry and academic post-doc positions related to fluid dynamics and mass transfer. He hopes to bring industry experience and leadership to a tenure-track position and continue contributing to the educational community through research and teaching. He was recently accepted to participate in The New England Future Faculty Workshop and Northeastern University’s Future Faculty program to navigate his path, prepare, and plan for his academic career plans. We are thankful for Shayan’s contributions to the PROTECT Center and wish him the best in the future.