We are pleased to have Dr. Pendar Mahmoudi as our Alumni network interviewee! We recently caught up with her to get her thoughts on grad school and to find out what she’s up to now. Thanks Pendar! (For the curious, her name means thought - think ponder!)

What graduate degree(s) did you do at UW? And when were they completed?

PhD in Chemical Engineering, completed May of 2018.

What was your undergrad program and where did you do it?

Chemical Engineering at Sharif University of Technology in my home town of Tehran, Iran.

Why did you choose UW for graduate school?

My supervisor and the project I was set out to do were big factors.

Who was your supervisor?

Professor Mark Matsen.

What was your research focus in graduate school?

Polymer physics. More specifically looking at the behavior of polymer melts (think liquid polymers before they harden to become the numerous things that we use them for) using theory. I verified the theoretical predictions using computational methods.  Although it is a very fundamental problem at heart which finds significance at very minute scales (angstroms to nanometers), it will become important as the field of nanotechnology becomes more integrated in our daily activities and helps the development of advanced materials and products.

What's a personal challenge you faced as a graduate student?

Definitely time management. To be more specific, juggling my responsibilities as a student, a TA and researcher while trying to remain a healthy human being. I came to realize the importance of exercise and the wonders it does for everything. And being a 24h flight away from my family which I still am not used to.

What's a career-related challenge you faced as a graduate student?

Knowing when you are taking the wrong path towards solving a problem. It is alarmingly easy to neglect something or to not know what you don’t know and get stuck in a never-ending loop. My supervisor helped me gain the right critical thinking skills required to break cycles like this but time and experience will help best.

What were some of the most influential memories you have from your time in grad school?

Oh, I have so so many! I would have to say the interactions I have had with many graduate students whether down the corridor, in the stairwell, in events during my time as a WINGSS executive, celebrating small successes between seemingly never-ending times of struggle are what I’ll take with me. I am also forever inspired by the dedication and perseverance of many individuals passionate about academia. This path is not for the un-dedicated that’s for sure, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Oh and I really liked seeing the various drawings the students would leave on the whiteboards in QNC or the occasional sound of piano which was a nice break between work.

Looking back, would you still have gone to graduate school?

Definitely. In retrospect I might have spoken to more graduate students in my undergrad to see what was lying ahead to be more prepared.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently a Postdoctoral fellow in the group of Professor Abukhdeir in the department of Chemical Engineering. I’m working on the simulation of a fluidized bed reactor which is a multiphase system containing both liquids and solids which makes it a challenging problem.

What is your favourite thing about what you're working on now?

Definitely the amazing looking visualizations I get after running simulations for a few days and sitting down to analyze them.

What direction would you like to take as you build your career?

Well that’s difficult to know. If it is about preferences, I love the atmosphere of working in academia so it would be great if I could find a job that would allow me to remain in this field.

Has your career path trajectory changed from what you expected while in grad school? If so, how?

Not yet  : )

But it might since one never knows what opportunities we might come across.

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

Find a hobby you love doing and make sure to carve out time from your schedule to do it otherwise you’ll burn out faster than you think.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Photography. It’s interesting to be living in one place for many years and still find new things to capture in an image and be able to show it to the world.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

WINGSS was an integral part of my last year in school and I hope this great community continues to grow.