Fellowship encourages future faculty


Jeanette Yan

Jun Li, doctoral student in Engineering, focuses his research on air conditioning systems and heat exchanger effectiveness. Li is a recipient of the Mavis Future Faculty Fellowship that helps to prepare students to take faculty positions.

By Sana Khadilkar, Staff Writer

Thirty graduate students in Engineering were awarded the Mavis Future Faculty Fellowship, which will enhance their experience in research, teaching and mentoring in their respective fields.

The fellowship prepares its recipients to take positions as faculty members in the future, provides them with resources to build strong application materials and helps them connect their research to teaching.

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Jun Li, doctoral student in Engineering and one of the recipients, said the fellowship gave him the opportunity to meet and train with peers who have the same job goals. He said the fellowship program also includes a weekly seminar where experts in the field are invited to speak to the recipients.

“Officers at College of Engineering come to tell us what a mentor/mentee relationship is like because that is the core of being a professor,” Li said.

Muhammad Umer Huzaifa, another recipient of the fellowship, said he feels he learned a lot from the seminars, and they have altered his perspective on his degree. He said the program made him consider what the next steps are for his future and how he can achieve his goals.

Another opportunity the fellowship program provides is mentoring undergraduate students.

Huzaifa said his new role as a mentor is very interesting because he has to make sure not to put too much pressure on his mentee and allow the student to come up with his own ideas.

“It’s focused on making Ph.D. graduates really understand what they are required of if they end up getting a faculty position, so it’s really geared toward that. It’s very nontraditional from taking courses like engineering (classes) or any other class and doing assignments,” Huzaifa said.

Kaihao Zhang, recipient of the fellowship, said being named a fellow gave him confidence that he can secure a faculty position in the future.

“It’s very exciting,” Zhang said. “It’s a very good opportunity for me because I really like research, and after my graduation I want to be a faculty member at the University, so it’s a good chance to start from the student, to an independent researcher, to a mentor.”

Each recipient can also choose an adviser as part of the fellowship program, who can help them understand what being a professor is like, said Sameh Tawfick, adviser to Zhang and assistant professor in Engineering, in an email.

Tawfick said he gives feedback to Zhang on how to make his application best represent his teaching philosophy.

The graduate students also receive help furthering their research through the fellowship. One aspect of the program is the capstone project, which requires the student to create a grant proposal. Li said the proposal helped him summarize his research and allowed him to see where he could proceed next with his research.

“I look forward to pursuing a career in academia that gives me the freedom to explore new territories and also train a new generation of students,” said Manju Chinnappamudaliar Rajagopal, one of the recipients, in an email. “To achieve this goal, I believe the Mavis fellowship provides the much-needed professional training that will work over my technical research at Illinois.”

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