Hometown: Omdurman, Khartoum State, Sudan
Current Job: Protection and Design Consultant at Patterson Power Engineers, LLC.
MS Program: Electrical Engineering
Akram Saad is originally from Omdurman, Khartoum State, Sudan but calls Chattanooga home now. He’s currently a Protection and Design Consultant at Patterson Power Engineers, LLC.
Akram graduated from UTC’s College of Engineering and Computer Science with an MS in Electrical Engineering in August of 2018. Akram received the General Robert Neyland Young Engineer of the Year Award this year. This award recognizes the young engineer who has made outstanding contributions to his/her profession, public welfare and the community at large during the early portion of a career.
Why did you choose UTC CECS?
When I was offered a full assistantship from the Department of Electrical engineering at UTC, I was already considering a Ph.D. offer from another University in Ohio. The deciding factor was my brother who graduated from UTC with a Master's in Electrical Engineering in 2014. He informed me how the Electrical Engineering Masters program at UTC will equip me with the skills necessary for my career as a power systems engineer.
How has the MS program helped you with your career ambition and where you are today?
It has always been a goal of mine that my career should have a tangible impact on my community. As part of my current full-time job, I prepare design packages for power system substations that deliver electric power to thousands of customers. Also, the MS program has allowed me to build a strong professional network, which has allowed me to have a seat on several of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) subcommittees. My work with those committees has resulted in positive changes to industry standards. Finally, the program effectively prepared me to pass the Fundamental Engineering (FE) exam. I, now, am on the verge of becoming a licensed professional Engineer in Power Systems.
What have you liked about the MS program?
I have benefited from the superior quality of the course catalog, faculty members, and adjunct faculty members. Specifically, I enjoyed the EE MS program’s Smart Distribution Network course. The course is the result of a partnership between the industry and academia. Every week, a guest speaker is invited to educate the class on his or her area of expertise. This exposure to the industry through the eyes of top-notch engineers, consultants, and managers provides students with the opportunity to build their professional network and explore career paths.
What area did you focus on or were there specific projects/goals you had while in the program?
Chattanooga is one of few cities in the world that offers fiber-optics in their distribution system. Many UTC professors are conducting research to utilize this state-of-the-art infrastructure. I was lucky to be involved in one such research opportunity during my Master’s studies at UTC. The focus of the research project was to utilize data collected from smart meters deployed all across the city and identify anomalous consumption. The algorithm I designed will be adopted by EBP within the next two years.
In my second year, my focus was shifted toward bulk generation and power system stability. During that time, I worked within a research team led by Dr. Karrar to help TVA Nuclear group validate a certain behavior recorded in their system.
What were some of your accomplishments (personal as well as publicly-recognized)?
During my time at UTC, I published two papers and was recognized as the outstanding graduate student in Electrical Engineering for 2018. I was also able to apply to patent my thesis work that presented a more efficient design alternative for power system stabilizers with the help of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF). This past year, I won the IEEE PES Chattanooga Chapter Outstanding Young Engineer and the Gen. Robert Neyland Young Engineer of the Year.
Have you had support from CECS faculty/staff? Has there been one or two in particular who have positively influenced your studies?
I am going to break the support I received into three categories: personal, academic, and professional. While I received tremendous support from all faculty members, Dr. Eltom and Dr. Nur were my go-to for personal advice. Dr. Karrar has helped me a lot in all academic endeavors. Finally, Dr. Raga Ahmed and Gary Kobet had my back and gave the best career advice I could have ever received. I am glad to have a platform to express my deep gratitude for these and all UTC EE faculty members.
What has been the best part of your experience while you were in the MS Program?
One of my favorite parts of the experience by far was the opportunity to attend the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Career Fair in Pittsburg, PA.
Do you have any advice for future MS Engineering graduates?
I would say no matter what your focus is, you will find a faculty member who shares your passion and helps you achieve your personal and professional goals. Be sure you utilize all the resources UTC has to offer. Get to know your faculty and administrative staff. These are good people and will do everything in their power to support you. They work with and for you, not against you.
Pursuing graduate school is not an easy choice to make. If you approach the experience with clear goals, the benefits of the program will last forever.