The Alumni Association is honoring 26 NC State professors with the 2014 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.
Today we’re visiting with Abdel-Fattah Mohamed Seyam, a professor of textile and apparel technology and management. Seyam is one of four professors being recognized as a Distinguished Graduate Professor.
What prompted you to become a professor? My excellent ability in conveying knowledge to others was discovered very early in my life when I was in middle and high school during group studies. My peers then indicated to me how capable I am in teaching and explaining difficult materials in easy to understand techniques. At that stage of my life, I did not even know what a college professor does. I wanted to pursue an engineering college degree with a target to get a job at a textile company in Alexandria (my home city), Egypt, where the textile industry was flourishing there at that time. It was challenging to get to an engineering college then. I met the challenge and was able to get acceptance in the College of Engineering, Alexandria University, Egypt, and after matriculation, my choice was joining the Textile Engineering Department. Again, my peers noticed my capability in transferring knowledge to them during group studies. During classes, conducting projects, and writing reports and papers, I started to understand the role of professors and this understanding deepened with time until I became fascinated by the professor’s job that not only encompasses teaching, but also conducting research, discovering knowledge and mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students. I realized that I could be happier becoming a professor by preparing students to become textile engineers, technologists and researchers and make an impact on society that would be more significant than pursuing a job at a textile company. Making it to the top of my class for the last three years of pursing my BS degree rewarded me with an instructor job that I enjoyed very much.
What are the keys to being a successful professor? In terms of class room instruction, taking seriously the constructive criticism my students and peers give is the most significant key to the teaching/learning effectiveness. Good preparation for classes (regardless of their levels), using instruction technologies effectively, designing labs and hands on projects to complement and strengthen the lectures, and keeping current with the new and emerging technologies and published knowledge are also important keys to a professor’s success. In terms of research, it is important to understand each student’s interest, background, and needs before assigning research projects. Based on these key points, the plan of work of relevant training and courses to prepare students for undertaking a specific research and at the same time meeting their interest is crucial. I encourage students to be organized and engaged from day one of knowing their research project by establishing timelines to achieve specific milestones and final target. It is essential to make myself available to students periodically and as needed. I work more closely with students who need my help more.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? I have over five years of industry experience in the USA. While I worked in exciting projects as an R&D engineer and project manager, I missed teaching and mentoring students. In a university setting, the ability to create my own broad and varied research areas in the field is a very exciting aspect. Additionally, teaching/mentoring undergraduate and graduate students is highly satisfying. Without any hesitation, the greatest satisfaction as a professor is publishing and collaborating with my continuing and former U.S. and international students and watch them grow and occupy great positions at prestigious universities, research institutions, and governments all over the globe.