May 11th, 2013
Cynthia May Sheikholeslami, Egyptologist retired from the English Language Institute (ELI), is the Principal Investigator for a grant she has received from the Antiquities Endowment Fund, administered by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). The purpose of the grant is to have x-rays and CT-scans made of four 22nd to 25th Dynasty mummies found at the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari, Thebes (Luxor) in the early 20th century; these mummies are now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat, and the Luxor Museum.
Project team member Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology (SAPE), will be responsible for undertaking the x-rays and interpretation of the bioarchaeological data, while Cynthia will deal with archaeological data and historical analysis and organize training for the museum staff in how to improve conservation and display techniques for human remains in coffins.
The final results of the project will be published by the Polish-Egyptian Mission to the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari, of which Cynthia is a member, in a volume she is co-authoring on the history and finds from the temple dating to the 22nd to 25th Dynasties.
May 10th, 2013
Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad, Assistant Professor in the Department of ARIC (Arab and Islamic Civilizations) gave a lecture at Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London on May 1 entitled “Magic and the Occult: Ahmad al-Buni and his Shams al-Ma’arif,” which was previously announced here in the Bulletin.
That lecture is now available as a podcast on YouTube, HERE.
May 10th, 2013
Galal Zaki, Professor of Practice in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, was interviewed by Idris Tawfiq for the radio program “A Life in Question.” The interview was conducted on April 9 and broadcast on April 11 and April 14 on Radio Cairo.
The interview can be heard on YouTube by clicking HERE.
May 10th, 2013
Laila El Baradei, Professor of Public Administration and Associate Dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP), presented a co-authored paper entitled “Institutionalizing and Streamlining Development Monitoring and Evaluation in Post-Revolutionary Egypt” at the International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS) Global Assembly held in Bridgetown, Barbados from May 6-9, 2013.
May 9th, 2013
Mariam Ayad, Associate Professor of Egyptology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology (SAPE) has been invited to give a seminar (talk) at Cambridge University today (May 9). The talk is part of the Egyptian World Seminar series, and is sponsored by the McDonald Institute of Archaeology of Cambridge University. In her talk, Mariam will highlight the various mechanisms employed by the God’s Wives of Amun to attain and retain power and legitimacy.
Earlier this week, Mariam was also informed that she has been awarded a fully-funded Erasmus Mundus WELCOME scholarship that will allow her to spend a month doing research at the Freie Universität Berlin. The scholarship provides round-trip airfare and a stipend to support Mariam’s research activities while in Berlin. She hopes to use her time in Berlin to finalize her translation of the Opening of the Mouth Ritual, and to jumpstart a project aimed at producing an anthology of Ancient Egyptian texts dealing with women’s personal and professional lives.
May 7th, 2013
Tarek Shawki joined AUC as Dean of the School of Sciences and Engineering (SSE) in September 2012, following an impressive career with various foundations and universities. In this wide-ranging interview, he gives us his views on the opportunities for science in the Arab world, provides a brief lesson for beginners in applied mechanics, and shares a number of stories from his student and post-doctoral years at Cairo University, Brown University, and MIT. He also tells us about his surprisingly early experiences teaching online courses with the Mosaic web browser at the University of Illinois, some years before the early 1990’s launch of the worldwide web.
Q: Let’s begin with the recent news that you were named as a Fellow of the Education Fast Forward Foundation. Tell us about this foundation and the sort of work you will be doing there.
Education Fast Forward (EFF) is a thriving global education community of key thought leaders, educators and influencers, Education Fast Forward was the idea of Jim Wynn, Chief Education Officer at Promethean, and supported by Michelle Selinger at Cisco. Promethean’s Chief Education Officer, Jim Wynn, launched education Fast Forward on 1st November 2010.
EFF was created out of the need to identify and take action on the big issues facing education today. It is made up of Foundation Fellows who are all driven by a desire to move the debate into activity. For that to happen the members have made a conscious decision to include and nurture a new younger cohort of activists who will uphold the group’s work into the future.
EFF brings together thought leaders from across the world to pool their expertise and knowledge, to debate key issues and to extend their aims and goals to a wider audience. The four debates to date have covered topics such as ‘The Right to Digital Skills Development as a Basic Human Right’, ‘Making Learning Relevant’, ‘The Productivity of Learning’, and ‘From Learner Voice to Emerging Leaders’. You can check more information on EFF fellows and activities by clicking THIS LINK.
Q: During your career you have served in a number of important posts with cultural organizations. For example, before coming to AUC you were at UNESCO’s Cairo office, where you served as Director of the Regional Bureau for Science & Technology in the Arab States. What made you decide to return to working for a specific university?
I started my career, following the completion of my undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering, pursuing academic goals. I travelled to the USA back in 1981 to continue my graduate education at Brown University (Providence, RI) where I earned two M.Sc. degrees in Engineering and Applied Mathematics before earning a Ph.D. in Engineering. I then served as a post-doctoral fellow at MIT (Boston, MA) before joining the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) as an Assistant Professor of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. I served for 13 years at Illinois pursuing academic goals until late 1998. The first change in my career took place at that time (January 1999) when I joined UNESCO as the ‘Regional Advisor for Communications and Information in Arab States’ in the UNESCO Cairo Office. That was a major decision to move from Academia to a job in the UN system serving a regional mandate. More interesting is the fact that UNESCO was interested in my efforts to integrate emerging ICT technologies in education, science and culture. At that point of time, I was eager to apply the experiences gained in my academic career within the UN ecosystem where the impact of my work could be made wider. This is exactly what happened as I pursued projects at national and regional levels between 1999 and 2005. In 2005, I was moved to UNESCO HQs in Paris where I assumed a global position as the Chief of Section for ICTs in education, science and culture. This period (2005-08) witnessed a large number of global projects that I led around the world. In 2008, I was named the Director of UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Science and Technology in Arab States.
Following 14 years of international service, during which I have contributed to numerous national, regional and global projects and felt that the time is right to return to my home in academia in order to directly contribute to the modernization of ways through which we learn/teach science, mathematics and engineering. AUC was the optimal choice for me due to its high-ranking, solid reputation, strong school of sciences and engineering and, most important, due to the openness of its management to innovation and new ideas.
Q: Given your broad overview of science and technology in the Arab world, how would you describe AUC’s current standing and potential in these fields?
AUC enjoys a great reputation in the region and in the western world. Of course, it is mostly renowned for its liberal arts education for many years. In recent decades, the School of Sciences and Engineering (SSE) has emerged as a very strong leader in Egypt and in the region in terms of quality of education, quality of research and innovation. Although SSE is “younger” than many similar schools (colleges) in the region, it has established itself in a strong leadership position regionally as evidenced by the quality of its faculty, quality of research outputs and published patents. Here, I must add that the “vision” of SSE entails “To provide top-notch science and/or engineering education within a liberal arts context to national and international talented students who aspire to become innovative and responsible leaders in industry, academia and government ….” It is this very nature of AUC to deliver science and engineering education within a liberal arts context that gives it its special flavor and brand. At a time where we all think about building “knowledge societies,” AUC stands out as a unique institution where students are provided with a balanced mix of skills and subjects to assume leadership roles in emerging knowledge societies.
Q: The Arab countries obviously produce abundant scientific talent. What can be done to increase the number of patents from the Arab world and reduce the “brain drain” of top Arab scientists to universities in the West?
I fully agree that the Arab region, like all others, produce great scientific talents. The key challenge in the Arab world relates to the lack of science policies, lack of political will to identify science and education as top national priorities or national goals.
Most Arab states still lack a national science and technology (S&T) strategy and when policy is in place, it lacks innovation, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Science Report 2010. Initiatives in the region, however, are tackling the most serious issues in a bid to create knowledge-based economies. According to the report, released on 10 November, S&T policies and strategies are emerging in more Arab countries. Saudi Arabia, for example, announced its first national science plan in 2003. In 2006, Qatar committed to a 5-year-plan to increase gross domestic product (GDP) expenditure on S&T to 2.8%.
The region’s 0.1% to 1.0% expenditure on science remains lower than the world average of 2.2%. Arab states contribute less than 0.4% to the worldwide gross domestic expenditure on science and technology (GERD).
The Arab world is responsible for a meager 1.4% of the scientific papers published worldwide. Arabs register 0.1% of the patents registered internationally. The region can only boast one Nobel laureate in the sciences, Egyptian-born Ahmed Zewail, who won his award in chemistry in 1999 while working at California Institute of Technology in the United States. Boudjema Samraoui, a biologist at Annaba University in Algeria, is the only Arab to enter the list of top 100 highly cited scientists.
Despite the gloomy picture painted by UNESCO, the report found several positive indicators. Newly established science parks in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates can promote innovation partnerships between the private and public sectors.
Q: Let’s turn now to your own scientific career and your research specialties. One of your most important specialties is theoretical and applied mechanics. At what stage did you choose to work in this area? Also, given that many readers of the Bulletin are not scientists, perhaps you could give a simple explanation of the sorts of problems treated under the heading of theoretical and applied mechanics.
My undergraduate major, at Cairo University, was Mechanical Engineering and I did choose the concentration related to “Machine Design and Production” in my senior year. At that time, I realized that I have a great passion towards the study of “Mechanics” and especially “Continuum Mechanics.” Here, it may be useful to provide few illustrations of what this field is.
First, let us note that Mechanics is the branch of science concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment. The scientific discipline has its origins in Ancient Greece with the writings of Aristotle and Archimedes. During the early modern period, scientists such as Galileo, Kepler, and especially Newton, laid the foundation for what is now known as “classical mechanics.”
Now, we can say that “applied mechanics” is a branch of the physical sciences and the practical application of mechanics. Applied mechanics examines the response of bodies (solids and fluids) or systems of bodies to external forces. Some examples of mechanical systems include the flow of a liquid under pressure, the fracture of a solid from an applied force, or the vibration of an ear in response to sound. A practitioner of the discipline is known as a “mechanician.”
Applied mechanics, as its name suggests, bridges the gap between physical theory and its application to technology. As such, applied mechanics is used in many fields of engineering, especially mechanical engineering. In this context, it is commonly referred to as engineering mechanics. Much of modern engineering mechanics is based on Isaac Newton’s laws of motion while the modern practice of their application can be traced back to Stephen Timoshenko, who is said to be the father of modern engineering mechanics.
Within the theoretical sciences, applied mechanics is useful in formulating new ideas and theories, discovering and interpreting phenomena, and developing experimental and computational tools.
When treated as an area of study within a larger engineering curriculum, “engineering mechanics” can be subdivided into:
- Statics, the study of non-moving bodies under known loads
- Dynamics (or kinetics), the study of how forces affect moving bodies
- Mechanics of materials or strength of materials, the study of how different materials deform under various types of stress
- Deformation mechanics, the study of deformations typically in the elastic range
- Fluid mechanics, the study of how fluids react to forces. Note that fluid mechanics can be further split into fluid statics and fluid dynamics, and is itself a sub discipline of continuum mechanics. The application of fluid mechanics in engineering is called hydraulics.
- Continuum mechanics is a method of applying mechanics that assumes that all objects are continuous. It is contrasted by discrete mechanics.
My research area was related to the behavior of materials at very high rates of loading (such as impact). More specifically, to understand how do materials behave, deform and eventually fail under dynamic loading conditions (i.e. when forces are applied very fast).
Q: At Cairo University you were named “Most Outstanding Student,” obviously a very high honor. I would be interested in hearing whether you were actively involved in research projects with your professors at that stage. Or more generally, what work in particular impressed people enough to award you the status of Most Outstanding Student.
Well, I was the top of my class throughout my five years of study at Cairo University. I received perfect scores in all courses throughout my study years with one exception of a “B” in my third year in a course, which was taught by my own father (Prof. Galal Shawki, Chair Professor of Machine Design at Cairo University)!
I also scored the highest accumulative percentage grade (92%) over my five undergraduate years. This was an all-time record score in this department. I received many awards from the school itself, student bodies and from the Syndicate of Engineers that was delivered to me by late President Anwar El-Sadat.
Q: From Cairo you moved on to graduate study at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, one of the top Ivy League universities. Was there a particular reason why you chose Brown?
In fact, I took few graduate courses at Cairo University following my graduation and also joined the Military draft where I was a Teaching Assistant at the Military Technical College (1980-81) before being able to join Brown University (September 1981).
During my fourth year at Cairo University, my father advised me to begin applying for graduate schools in the USA and I only applied to Brown University and MIT since I was really interested in studying “Solid Mechanics” and those two institutions hosted the top faculty in this area of specialization. I was accepted in both institutions but MIT did not offer financial aid while Brown University offered me full scholarship even a full year before I officially graduated. I was not able to accept Brown’s offer as I realized that I must be recruited by the Military but they extended to me another scholarship two years later, which I gladly accepted.
At that time (the early 1980’s), Brown University, Harvard and MIT were the “academic heaven” for those aspiring to study solid mechanics. I was lucky to join such amazing world-class scientists at such a young age. My thesis advisor, Prof. Rodney Clifton, is an icon in experimental mechanics, plasticity and impact mechanics. Appreciation must be awarded to the great advice given to me by my own father and his colleagues, Dr. Abdul Salam Eleish and Dr. Mohamed Megahed who advised me to join Brown University.
Q: After finishing your Ph.D. in Engineering at Brown, you became a post-doctoral research assistant at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This sounds like an intellectual feast for an engineer. What sorts of projects did you pursue at MIT?
Definitely! Joining MIT as a post-doctoral fellow was my first professional assignment following my Ph.D. award at Brown University. In fact, this assignment was one outcome of my thesis defense examination as one of the external examiners was Professor David Parks (MIT) who expressed interest to my thesis advisor to have me join his team as a post-doctoral fellow. Naturally, that was great news to me as I joined Dr. David Parks team almost immediately during the summer of 1985 and worked with him on computational research in fracture mechanics. I worked closely with the research team on “Line-Spring Analysis of Surface Flawed Plates and Shells Using Deformation Theory” and “Accuracy of Deep-Crack Solutions in Fully-Plastic Edge Crack Panel Problems.” I also collaborated with Professor L. Anand on “Onset of Shear Localization in Viscoplastic Solids.” All of the foregoing problems involved large-scale computing research seeking to understand failure mechanisms of various engineering materials due to different sorts of flaws and loading conditions.
The experience gained at MIT was remarkable as I witnessed a completely different academic culture in contrast to that I learned at Brown. I expanded my academic network and understanding through close association with star scientists and researchers.
Q: Then for many years you were a professor at the University of Illinois, known as one of the best state universities in the U.S. Did you continue your doctoral and post-doctoral work at Illinois, or did you change direction after arriving in Champaign?
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recruited me in the fall of 1986 as a tenure-track, Assistant Professor of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (TAM). There were only five such specialized departments for TAM across the USA. At Illinois, I started my formal academic career in the area of my specialization and taught numerous courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
I taught courses in applied mathematics, numerical methods and computational mechanics, theory of elasticity, plasticity, stress waves, engineering materials, strength of materials and introduction to solid mechanics. I have also contributed to UIUC’s continuing engineering education efforts through videotaping numerous courses which were made available to students across the state.
On the research side, I pursued my earlier research on failure mechanisms of engineering materials especially at ultra-high loading rates and formed a research group of my own graduate students. I have also used the funds raised from various research grants to put together my own computational facility involving Apollo-Domain servers, HP-UX servers and later on NeXT computers. This facility grew to include over 60 desktops and 7 servers running different flavors of the UNIX operating system.
In 1989, I was fortunate to receive the rather prestigious “Presidential Young Investigator” (PYI) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) which recognizes promising young scientists and comes with $500,000 over 5 years. In 1992, I received my tenure at UIUC together with the promotion to the rank of Associate Professor.
In 1994-95, I was fascinated by the potential of the emerging Internet and the “http” protocol as the first “web browsers” emerged at UIUC and that browser was referred to as “Mosaic.” I went ahead and used the new protocol and associated development tools within my own classroom teaching. Throughout the period 1995-98, I have put 6 of my courses online. This was a time when you had to write html code by hand and building web courses was a real tedious job. The excitement to use the new technology and the expanded reach to students around the world captured my imagination so I endured the heavy work required (and I was younger too!).
Q: In the late 1990’s you served as Executive Director of the Global Campus. Please tell us about this organization and its purpose.
In 1996, I took my first sabbatical leave from UIUC and came back to Egypt for one year where I joined the UNDP-funded center called “Regional Information Technology and Software Engineering Center” (RITSEC). This center hosted a large group of young leaders in the areas of IT and communications. Following my early attempts to use IT in education (1994-96), I had the idea that the newly developing WWW may allow us to break the geographical barriers to learning and allow for a model of education where a student can seek knowledge from multiple sources through the emerging Internet. Hence, I put together a complete proposal involving a global consortium of “provider” universities who can make their courses available online for students (receivers) who are allowed to customize their learning paths towards a degree earned through that multi-source learning model. That picture was referred to as the “Global Campus.” RITSEC received One Million US dollars to fund this project from AFESD (Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development). Please note that this idea was in 1997 far before Apple’s iTunes U, Khan’s Academy, EdX and modern similar ideas.
UIUC endorsed their participation in the Global Campus concept and extended my sabbatical for another year to see it done. During that additional year, I did teach my students in Illinois over the web from my office in Cairo. This online experience took place in 1998 in a graduate course on “Fracture Mechanics”! Again, real e-learning done as early as 1998 when Internet speeds were really slow and development tools were at their infancy but it worked really well. The Global Campus project was continued at RITSEC after I returned back to UIUC.
Q: The School of Sciences and Engineering (SSE) has had a great deal of momentum in recent years. How do you aim to build on the recent advances in the School and solidify its position in Egypt and in the region?
Indeed! SSE has enjoyed great successes in recent years due to the cumulative efforts of its previous Deans, Provosts and its core excellent faculty together with sustained support from the University administration. I hope that I can continue the successful path led by my predecessors and championed by the SSE faculty. In fact, I hope we can work more closely on the school’s visibility, outreach, branding and on creating a portfolio of strong strategic partnerships with key governments, development agencies, research institutions and high ranking academic institutions. Moreover, as we grow steadily, we are working hard to streamline and automate numerous business processes towards a “Green and Efficient SSE.”
On the education front, I believe that the time is right for SSE and AUC to embark on a grand strategic revision of our education product through which we examine the needed 21st century skills needed for students, the design of our curricula and the optimal ways to integrate modern technologies into our learning environments. I am confident that we can efficiently revolutionize the ways by which we deliver science and engineering education through the appropriate utilization of modern technical computing solutions. We are seeking a revolution not only in delivery modes but also in pedagogy and curricular design. Furthermore, we will continue to study the expansion of SSE programs to reflect emerging market needs.
On the research side, we strive for excellence and for addressing problems of most relevance to the national needs. We are trying to advance our “Technology Transfer Office” and encourage our talented faculty to register various patents of their scientific discoveries. We work very hard to diversify our sources of research funding and compete for a larger spectrum of research projects. We are also establishing new labs for “Solar Energy” and “Water desalination.” At the same time, we are consistently strengthening and expanding our Youssef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center (YJSTRC) and the state-of-the-art Center for Nano-electronic Devices (CND).
We also hope to be able to reduce the standard teaching load for our faculty to allow them more time to do top-notch research. We are working on guidelines and various programs to enhance the quality of our adjunct faculty and to make sure that they are well integrated within the AUC education culture.
Furthermore, we assign great importance to the needs of our students; we listen to their concerns, try to accommodate their needs for more laboratories, thesis labs, more TAs, and try to pursue all avenues to enhance their overall experience during their years at AUC.
Q: Did you ever consider taking another career path besides engineering?
This is a complex question! If time goes back, I will definitely study engineering again as it provided me with fundamentals that proved to enhance my career in general (e.g. logical deduction, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.). As you can see, I have developed general interests in computational technologies and in education development over the years. Right now, I believe that we are all lucky to live at a time with no barriers to learning or to knowledge acquisition. If time and age pose no restrictions, I would be very excited about learning new subjects from business administration and finance to arts and culture.
May 7th, 2013
Fayza Haikal, Professor of Egyptology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology (SAPE) is quoted in an article by Ben Hubbard in yesterday’s New York Times on the Sham el-Nessim holiday entitled “A Taste of Spring that Reeks of Tradition.” The article can be read by clicking HERE.
May 4th, 2013
Graham Harman, Associate Provost for Research Administration and Professor of Philosophy, will give the keynote address (“A Speculative Reality”) at a conference entitled “The Real World: Concepts and Languages of Contemporary Realism,” to be held at the International Summer Festival at Kampnagel, Hamburg, Germany, on August 8-9, 2013.
May 1st, 2013
Cynthia May Sheikholeslami, Egyptologist retired from the English Language Institute (ELI), was invited to present a lecture entitled “The Mysterious Case of the Coffin and the Mummy (OHS A727),” at the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio, on April 18, 2013. The coffin and mummy, both from Luxor (ancient Thebes), were donated to the Ohio Historical Society by Dr. J. Morton Howell, the first American Minister to Egypt (1922-1927).
Cynthia also presented a paper at the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt in Cincinnati, Ohio, held from April 19-21, 2013, entitled “A 25th Dynasty Coffin Set in Columbus, Ohio, and London.”
April 27th, 2013
Fayza Haikal, Professor of Egyptology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology (SAPE) translated a short text of Rudyard Kipling into Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs for the museum in stone to be inaugurated in the town of Felicity, California. This museum reproduces in granite the important cultural creations of humankind as a memorial for future generations. For more see the website of the Museum of History in Granite, HERE.