2024 2024: Newly minted PhDs receive prestigious post-doc, tenure-track faculty appointments

2024 2024: Newly minted PhDs receive prestigious post-doc, tenure-track faculty appointments
Newly minted PhDs receive prestigious post-doc, tenure-track faculty appointments

Two class of 2024 engineering PhD graduates are moving on to highly competitive postdoctoral research and tenure-track faculty positions

PhD graduate Shabnam Mohammadshahi in Dr. Ling's lab

Shabnam Mohammadshahi, PhD '24, recently accepted an assistant professor position in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at New Mexico State University, and Shayan Razi, PhD '24, is beginning a postdoctoral research position at Stanford University. Both Mohammadshahi and Razi graduated from UMass Dartmouth's engineering and applied science: applied mechanics and materials program and share the same hometown of Isfahan, Iran.  

Shabnam Mohammadshahi accepts assistant professor position 

Mohammadshahi came to UMassD in 2022 after earning her first doctoral degree in Pusan, South Korea. During her academic career, she has published more than 20 journal papers and currently serves as a reviewer for several academic journals, including Physics of Fluids, International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, and Applied Surface Science. 

She was selected to participate in the Future Leaders in Aerospace Symposium at MIT in 2023.  

Toward more energy-efficient maritime transportation 

"My research focuses on experimental fluid dynamics using cutting-edge non-invasive flow visualization techniques," Mohammadshahi explained.  "After joining UMass Dartmouth for my second PhD, I started to focus on a unique project related to bio-inspired superhydrophobic surfaces (SHSs), supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  SHSs are surfaces that repel water. When a water droplet is placed on an SHS, it can easily roll off the surface. SHSs can be used to reduce drag on marine vessels at sea, significantly reducing energy costs. For instance, a reduction of 30% in friction drag can result in savings of up to $38 billion annually in maritime transportation. 

"In my research group at New Mexico State University, our primary goal will be to understand the fundamental physics of flow which interacts with nature-inspired surfaces focusing on not only drag reduction, but also anti-icing properties to improve safety and energy efficiency in aviation, transportation, and renewable energy. 

Mohammadshahi and Dr. Hangjian Ling
Mohammadshahi working in the lab with Assistant Professor Hangjian Ling

Mentorship and support 

"My advisor was Dr. Hangjian Ling, known for his pioneering work in fluid dynamic problems at the interface of material, biological, and environmental sciences," said Mohammadshahi. 

"One of the most impactful aspects of working with Dr. Ling was his support and dedication to my academic and professional development. Whether it was providing constructive feedback on the research, guiding me through experimental challenges, or offering invaluable insights during manuscript preparation. My experience working with him has been fundamental in shaping my academic career. I am immensely grateful for his mentorship and support which have prepared me well for my current role and future endeavors." 

Mohammadshahi also served as a mentor for students in the NSF-Research Experience for Undergraduates program, and hosted workshops at the STEM4Girls events in 2022 and 2023. 

Shayan Razi PhD '24 at the 2024 commencement ceremony

Shayan Razi begins post-doc at Stanford 

In Isfahan, Iran, Razi grew up surrounded by some of the world's greatest architectural treasures. Centuries-old cathedrals, mosques, and palaces face the threat of destruction due to the region's high seismic activity. These surroundings inspired Razi to become an engineer dedicated to developing more resilient infrastructure and helping communities withstand natural disasters. 

"I come from a city renowned for its historical architecture and enduring buildings, some of which date back hundreds of years," Razi said. "However, it is also located in Iran, one of the most seismically active countries, which suffers from poor infrastructure. I've witnessed firsthand the destructive impact and economic and social repercussions of natural disasters." 

Isfahan, Iran is famous for its elaborate and historical architecture
Isfahan, Iran's famed architecture

"Growing up in this environment, I decided to study civil engineering and was increasingly drawn to engineering mechanics with the goal of helping to build resilient infrastructure that could withstand seismic events and other natural disasters.  

"After completing my master's degree, I had a strong desire to come to the United States. The U.S. experiences a broad range of natural disasters, from earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault to hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, making it the perfect place for research opportunities to study how we can build more resilient infrastructure that can withstand different kinds of extreme natural events." 

Toward more resilient infrastructure 

"I worked to create a robust framework that can simulate damage and assess the functional integrity of civil infrastructure at the scale of a whole community.  Modeling the potential damage allows for more efficient resource allocation, more targeted rescue efforts and better post-disaster recovery strategy.  

"One of the most exciting things about my research was a project that investigated the application of physics-informed neural networks in solving source localization problems. I learned how traditional engineering principles can be combined with cutting-edge machine learning techniques. 

"I also had the opportunity to present at conferences and compete at the NHERI Computational Academy competition." 

Mentorship and support 

"My journey to the U.S. began in January 2020—just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced global shutdowns. As a newcomer from far away, the concern of leaving my family behind and starting a new life on my own was compounded by world conditions and pandemic-related health complications. UMassD gave me the support I needed to reach new heights.  

"I was fortunate to have an excellent advisor and mentor in Dr. Mazdak Tootkaboni, and the freedom to pursue the projects I was passionate about. I had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers at other institutions and receive guidance from scientists who are not only great scholars, but who also understand the struggles graduate and international students face.  

"The community at UMassD is incredibly supportive. The students are always eager to support and engage with one another. From academic symposiums to multicultural events, there's always something happening on campus. For instance, Dr. Vijaya Chalivendra hosted gatherings for doctoral students in the College of Engineering where we could practice presenting our research, connect with fellow students, and learn about each other's work." 

What's next: Stanford University 

"I recently started a post-doctoral position at Stanford University. I will continue to build upon the knowledge I gained at UMassD, integrating the power of data-driven and machine learning approaches in computational mechanics. At Stanford, I aim to apply these computational advancements to address the complexities of renewable energy technologies. 

"I also hope to stay in touch with UMassD and keep contributing to this place I've been a part of."