In the Spotlight - Noor Hamdan, '21 and '22
Meet Noor Hamdan, a recent graduate of the Civil Engineering BE program and currently in our graduate program as a Master's student. Noor is very hardworking and we are proud of her successes at Stony Brook. We know her determination will help motivate her to do great things in the future.
Tell us a little about yourself and what originally made you decide to study Civil
Engineering at Stony Brook?
My name is Noor and I am currently pursuing my Master’s in Civil Engineering as part of the Accelerated Program, which will allow me to complete my Master’s next spring, a year after I received my Bachelor’s degree at SBU. I decided to study at Stony Brook because I come from a family of alumni from this university. My father and two older sisters attended this school, all with different degrees, and fell in love with it. My pursuit of civil engineering comes from my background of falling in love with the mechanisms of nature and wanting to learn more about our environment with the goal to protect it. I decided to blend my passion for nature with my love for math and science for an environmental engineering degree. Civil engineering was the closest I could get to that at Stony Brook and still enjoy the classes I was taking without compromising my enthusiasm for nature and the environment.
Why did you decide to pursue the Civil Engineering Accelerated Program?
I heard of the program at the end of my sophomore year. My classmates and friends were slowly getting internships and work experience in the field whereas I couldn’t enjoy anything that was offered to me, nor did any company pique my interests. I started looking more into the program at the start of my junior year as a way to put off being in the workforce for another year. Being in the Accelerated Program offered me an extra year to figure out what I really wanted to do once I graduated. I decided to commit to the program the summer before my senior year, where the experience I had in the field that summer did not appeal to me at all.
For students considering applying to the Accelerated Program or are currently in the
program, what advice do you have for them?
Find a class you like, that catches your attention, and reach out to that professor. It’s more than likely they’ll love to share their research with you while you are still in your undergraduate program. There, you’ll be able to get experience in what you might be doing in the program and decide if you like it or not. You are doing two years’ worth of work in the span of two semesters; it gets hectic. Being engaged with a professor you click with helps make it enjoyable. It also helps to have an idea of your interests, outside of engineering, to help you combine that passion and formulate your Master’s project that you’ll be working on for that year. Start reading scientific papers, and use Google Scholar to search subjects you might be interested in. These papers and ideas will give you a sense where the field is heading and where you might want to take it yourself.
Are you currently working on any research projects? If so, can you share a bit about
I am! I am currently working on two projects. The first one is a project with Dr. Carrie McDonough and Dr. Arjun Venkatesan. It is an electron beam technology project designed for the treatment of water spiked with per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) at three different pH levels. I work on high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) data analysis on the degradation byproducts of PFAS after the water has been treated. I am also working on my own Master’s project, under the guidance of Dr. McDonough. I am comparing three different method extraction procedures and performing a risk assessment of bioaccumulation for PFAS in marine polychaete worms. I apply analytical chemistry methods for the experimentation of the tissue extraction procedures and perform HRMS data analysis to identify a conclusive method.
What is your “dream job”?
I want to open a library. I want children everywhere to fall in love with learning and knowledge as much as I did when I was younger. I want to run a library where children are reading and learning from books from all over the world about every subject in every language. To be able to share that knowledge and provide a space for everyone in the community to learn and not gain a profit from it is so admirable to me and is absolutely the end goal in life. A little unorthodox, especially since I plan to continue my education by pursuing a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, but I believe being able to give back the knowledge that I gained in those spaces to communities in need of them is essential for a thriving society.
Has there been a professor or mentor at Stony Brook who has made a positive influence
on your academic journey and in what way?
I have had a few professors that have influenced me and my journey. I owe a lot to Dr. McDonough, without whom I would have no idea what I would be doing once I graduate. I have been a part of her lab since spring 2021, and I have learned so much from her since. I didn’t have any lab experience before being in her lab but she took a chance on me and I am so grateful for it. She always has the best advice and direction career-wise and always has an answer to every question I ask, no matter how ridiculous it seems. I minored in Environmental Humanities in my undergraduate program, where Dr. David Taylor mentored me and helped me regain my love for the environment at a hectic time. He helped me realize that I am fully capable of doing anything I want to and instilled a belief in me to strive and not settle. He has helped me gain merit scholarships and has always been a reference and a friendly face to go to for advice, be it life or career.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you faced while at Stony Brook and what
did you do to help yourself stay motivated in the program or with your schoolwork?
I used to work at least two jobs while being a full-time student for most of my undergraduate career. It was hard to juggle the different jobs, along with classes, and still being home to see my family. Some months were more difficult than others, especially during midterms and finals. A lot of all-nighters, coffee, energy drinks, and all-around grinding were what pushed me through till the end of the semester. Having a solid support system, like my family, where I could come home to a home-cooked meal and encouraging words were what motivated me. If my dad and two sisters could do it, so could I. It definitely helped to have a group of friends on campus who were always available to get a quick bite or do some last-minute cramming in the library too.
When you have free time, what do you enjoy doing or what are some of your hobbies?
Are you involved in campus organizations?
It can be hard to find some free time with everything going on but when I do, I love to read. I buy a book or two every month that ends up sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust but as soon as that sliver of serenity comes, I enjoy any book on that shelf. I read anything from economic theories and class analysis to natural, scientific books. My favorite books blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction, where true stories are told within fictional characters. I think to be able to reflect on our reality in a fictional sense makes it more surreal but awakening at the same time. My current read is Paradise in the Sea of Sorrow: Our Minamata Disease. I also love being with my cat and watching cat TV with her, so that definitely boosts some serotonin levels!