Raised just 15 miles from the ancient pyramids in Cairo, Dr. Yehia Massoud, the newly appointed Dean of the School of Systems and Enterprises, always knew he was going to start his career as an electrical engineer.
Electricity as an invisible, almost supernatural entity working behind most of the modern world’s technology is what drew Massoud in during his youth. “I was always fascinated by electronics and computing,” said Dr. Massoud in a recent interview. “I wasn’t necessarily interested in how to utilize them at the time, but more so on how these things worked.”
His keen interest in electronics and computers led him to Cairo University, where he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. He ultimately decided to travel across the globe to The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts for his Ph.D. work in Electrical Engineering.
Though Dr. Massoud has invested many years of his life into higher education, he did not start in academia. “After my Ph.D., I joined industry,” said Massoud, alluding to his time spent at Synopsys Incorporated, a leading electronic design automation software company. “I thought that was the way to make real impact and work on something that was going to be practiced and used by people.” However, he came to the realization that he could have a “much bigger impact as a faculty member.”
Beginning in 2003, Massoud joined the faculty at Rice University, where he was granted tenure in just four years. Prior to joining Stevens, he served as the Head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and within five years saw his department rise 25 positions in the U.S. News and World Report rankings.
Massoud found that WPI’s strategy for improvement aligned well with the ranking system. “For example, we wanted to improve the quality of the academic program, raise the level of research impact, and increase the number of students at the undergraduate and graduate level,” said Massoud. “We were able to achieve a great success in terms of achieving our goals and the rankings followed.” He also recognized that emphasizing the applications and breadth within the curriculum was a key part of the improvements at his former institution. “I was also interested in getting our students into top positions after you graduate so I always met with companies when they came to visit,” said Massoud, listing off companies such as Google, SpaceX, Tesla, and Apple. “We wanted to see what kind of things [these companies] look for in our students, which would help them achieve high positions and high salaries.”
One could say that Dr. Massoud’s strategy at his former institution aligns with that of the Stevens’ 10-year Strategic Plan, The Future. Ours to Create., which, according to the Stevens website, has “charted a course for Stevens to become a premier, student-centric, technological research university.” Massoud admits that when he was contacted for the SSE Dean position, he was “very impressed” with Stevens.
“As an institution, Stevens puts a great emphasis on having top-quality programs, which is something I strongly believe in” said Massoud. “It provides the the highest quality of education, and not just textbook education, but knowledge that prepares one to be ready to join the workforce and become future leaders of science and technology.”
Massoud comes with many accomplishments and accolades, both in industry and academia. He has published over 200 papers, developed novel compressive sensing systems for signals needed for biomedical implantations and wearable devices, has two IEEE Best Paper awards, served as the editor for several scientific publications, and was awarded the NSF CAREER Award, in addition to many others. While the physical transition from institution to institution is cumbersome, Massoud finds that all of his previous experience has given him the gift of perspective that he can now share with Stevens.
In the same early-December announcement, Provost Pierre stated that he “[was] very pleased that a scholar and academic administrator of Dr. Massoud’s caliber will join the Stevens senior academic leadership,” and insisted, “Dr. Massoud’s leadership will be a vital part of our efforts to continue Stevens’ steep upward trajectory as we further develop our stature as a premier institution.”
Massoud is determined to catapult The School of Systems and Enterprises to the very top. “We will work together to make this happen,” promised Massoud. “We will work with the faculty, students and the administration to take the right steps and reach that level.”
Much of Massoud’s life has been defined by academia, but he does admit that he is quite the avid ping pong player and football fan. “The reason I like sports, like football, is that I really like the strategy of the game,” said Massoud, referencing the New England Patriots’ success (unfortunately, success that did not play out at this past weekend’s Super Bowl). “It’s impressive to see how they plan for success, build a winning team, and sustain excellence.”
At the end of the day, sports and electrical engineering aside, Dr. Massoud took on this new position to make an impact. “I am directly affecting students’ lives,” noted Massoud. “If I can help improve someone’s path towards success and excellence, it gives me great satisfaction and this is why I am in leadership.”