Eghdami Has Earned a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering

Activities at UVA: Graduate Engineering Student Council, chair and academic chair; Graduate Consulting Club, vice president of operations and co-vice president of projects; Department of Engineering Systems and Environment Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee; Student Council's Community Outreach Committee

Q: Looking back to the time when you applied to UVA Engineering, why did you choose this school? 

A: I have a close friend with similar academic interests who was studying systems engineering at UVA. He told me about the systems engineering program and the extent of research being done here during our conversations. That was interesting to me, particularly because I was interested in interdisciplinary research, something that includes social sciences and economics. Being that I was interested in both economic and systems modeling, this program seemed very appealing to me due to being in line with my interests.  

After your time here, how are you different now – how have you grown as a person? 

I think my experience at UVA has been an exciting exploration, not only to learn and experience different disciplines and research avenues but also to attain a better understanding of my personal and professional path. On a broader level, it has shaken the foundations of my viewpoints regarding critical thinking, interpersonal communication and social responsibility. Comparing the Sadegh who came on grounds and the one who is now leaving, I find the latter to be way more perceptive, tolerant, conscientious and goal-driven. He is a true believer in diversity and has a good understanding of the impact of the psychological, cognitive and societal limitations on maintaining an unbiased and objective approach in dealing with real-world issues.  

What was your favorite or most memorable educational experience at UVA Engineering, and why? Was there someone who helped you along your journey? 

I have met several amazing people here within different settings and contexts, and each of them formed delightful memories for me. I am personally a fan of those individuals who have intellectually challenged me, and I cannot even count them right now. My experience has been greatly impacted by my advisor, professor Garrick Louis, who gave me the utmost freedom and support in this journey, and I think his approach is an overall important lesson for me to pursue this method with whoever is going to work with me in the future. He always listened carefully and patiently to what I had to say, encouraged and supported me, shared his viewpoint and enthusiasm, and eventually introduced me to resources that could help me in pursuing my passion and idea at the time. He also helped me contextualize all those efforts and bring them under an umbrella that could be presented as my research path as a doctoral student.  

What’s next for you?  

I will be a consultant at Boston Consulting Group starting this August. My educational and research experience in the Ph.D. program of systems engineering will enable me to tackle real-world problems, provide modeling frameworks, implement efficient and practical analyses, and provide clients with a flexible and reliable solution structure. I will try to experience different industries and practice areas to acquire an overarching understanding of the consulting job before concentrating on public policy and international development as my favorite areas in management consulting. 

What positive impact do you hope to make in the future? Is there a big societal challenge you’d like to help solve? 

My dream is to establish an institution that works closely with the communities in developing countries to facilitate their economic development in a sustainable way. In doing so, this institution would pursue the technical, financial and institutional support that is required for the successful execution of the efforts and initiatives. It, indeed, encourages a growth path that is endogenous as it truly comes from the goals and capacities of each community, but provides external supports and resources to form a sustainable ecosystem. This setting has a systemic approach to development that considers different dimensions with potential impacts, such as education, politics, health and culture. I am not aware of any institution with such an approach, and I am obviously far away from the realization of that setting. However, it is a dream that impacts my decisions as I see each of them helping me in that direction. 

How has UVA Engineering prepared you for your future, for following your dreams or personal mission?  

There is a technical aspect which is the formal education and mentorship I received at UVA Engineering. That certainly has improved my capabilities in problem solving, systems thinking, modeling, and statistical analysis where all such capabilities are essential for the success of my career path and dream. However, the informal experience is as important, if not more; it generally comes from my interactions with the passionate people I came to know here, the students and professors of the courses I taught or TAed for, the seminars and gatherings I participated in, and the leadership and teamwork I undertook through extracurricular activities. I believe that the informal experience has a long-lasting impact on the foundations of my thinking and approach, which makes it a truly valuable takeaway from my experience at UVA. 

What advice would you give to engineering students who are just starting out? 

I would suggest that they look at their program as an exploration journey, something that made it a very pleasant experience for myself. In that sense, they should not feel bound by the formal structures. For example, if they feel curious about a course or seminar in another school, they should take it; that will certainly broaden their understanding of their ongoing research and education. Or, if they like to collaborate with a student or a professor in another department, they should go for it; that can certainly deepen their inquiry and teach them lessons they can never learn without. And it is important to know you can always ask for help. In other words, if you are facing any challenge, either personal or professional, there are several people around you that can provide help and guidance. That person could be a faculty member, or a person in the administration of the department or school, or even a peer graduate student who has had similar experience. Reaching out and asking for help always opens paths in wonderful ways. It is also true for your research ideas and endeavors; by sharing your thoughts and ideas within informal conversations with different people you might receive amazing feedback that significantly improves your work. Finally, I would suggest students to become involved in extracurricular activities based on their interests and to the extent that they can. That makes them develop and maintain other dimensions of life that not only helps their mental health but improves their soft skills that are essential for personal and professional success. Extracurricular and community activities can even impact your vision for life and shape a mission for your future.

Class of 2022: Sadegh Eghdami

Sadegh Eghdami has earned a Ph.D. in systems engineering.