Where are you from?
I am from Tehran, Iran.
Why did you choose UB?
I mainly chose UB because I loved the research that I’ve had the opportunity to do with my current advisor, Dr. Souma Chowdhury. UB's financial support and its reputation were also other important factors in my decision.
What do you like most about engineering at UB?
At UB, various labs are willing to take part in research collaborations. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with other research labs, which has broadened my breadth of knowledge.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
When I was a kid, I was eager to discover the principles behind this world. In one book, I learned that, as Pythagoras pointed out, a “number” or mathematical principle is the key to understanding the order, harmony, and beauty that we see in this world. This led me to study mathematics and geometry and finally to pursue a focus on mathematics and physics in high school. During this time, I also discovered that I found replicating artificial intelligence systems, such as robots, fascinating. I started my journey with robotics by participating in RoboCopJunior competitions. I continued by obtaining my BS degree in Robotics Engineering and MS in Mechatronics Engineering (during which I worked on humanoid robots). In my PhD, I am still working on AI and robotics – and my passion for these topics continues to grow with each year.
What is your favorite place on campus?
The Student Union, where you can see all of the excitement and diversity that exists at UB.
What are you working on right now?
I research how artificial intelligence and robotics, specifically swarm robotics, can provide effective and low-risk solutions to environmental issues and disasters. I’m proud to carry out this research in the Adaptive Design Algorithms, Models & Systems (ADAMS) Lab under Souma Chowdhury, an assistant professor in MAE.
What else do you do on campus and in the community?
I am a TA in the department and am a graduate of the SEAS 360 Certificate of Professional Development Program. I’ve volunteered in STEM outreach with the Science is Elementary program and, from 2017-2019, I was a project manager for an Engineering Intramural project.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of joining CoE SMART as a project manager to design and build a robotic snow removal system as an Engineering Intramural project. This gave me the exciting opportunity to manage and mentor around 20 undergraduate students from across different engineering disciplines (MAE, EE, IE, and CS) from June 2017 to May 2019. This work also provided limitless satisfaction since I had the chance to help people to achieve professional and personal growth, having a potentially lasting impact on their lives and the world.
What are you passionate about?
Leading a team in which we work together to solve a critical and challenging problem to positively impact our daily lives.
Has there been a particular faculty or staff member that has been formative during your time at UB, and how so?
My PhD adviser, Dr. Souma Chowdhury, has influenced me both professionally and personally. Specifically, I learned how to communicate my ideas effectively and clearly. Other than him, I would love to mention Professor Robert Neubert from the School of Management; during a two-hour meeting with him, I learned a lot and he shaped the way I am now thinking about my future professional life.
What are your future plans?
I hope to build a successful research group that: 1) allows students to conduct cutting edge research, and 2) provides opportunities for undergraduate students to do hands-on experiments on robotic and intelligent systems. This will help to train the next generation of researchers and engineers.
What is your advice for prospective students?
Don't be stuck in your lab; go outside and engage with various activities that you find at UB. This will help you to discover unknown aspects of yourself –and to find good friends for the rest of your life.
Payam Ghassemi received the Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award in 2020.