"I would like to contribute to the improvement of the world around me."
Yalda Saadat is in her third year of the PhD program in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMD, where she is researching network resilience and recovery analysis of complex systems under Dr. Ayyub. She grew up in Iran, where her father is an engineer and her mother is a teacher. “I was inspired by both of them,” she says. Her uncle was also a civil engineer, and the profession has always interested her. She has always enjoyed math and likes to build.
She received her B.S. in Civil Engineering in Iran, where she met her husband, who is also a Civil Engineer. She then worked for several years at an engineering consulting company. She then came to the U.S., where she got Master’s degrees in both Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she was also a research assistant in the Mechanical Engineering Department’s Renewable Energy Design Lab.
After graduating with both MS degrees, Yalda decided to pursue her PhD, and she was admitted to several universities including University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Johns Hopkins, and Penn State Universities. However, her interests were better fitted to UMD, which she chose specifically in order to work with Dr. Ayyub. Yalda says she has really appreciated the faculty, the students, and the environment here, as well as Heather Stewart, the Assistant Director for Graduate Student Services, whom she calls “amazing” for her help to CEE students. Yalda has really enjoyed the classes she took with faculty including Dr. Phillips and Dr. Bensi. She was a Teaching Assistant for Dr. Ayyub, Dr. Lovell, and Dr. Bensi for several semesters. “I learned a lot from them,” she says. She is now Dr. Ayyub’s Research Assistant. She found balancing her TA work with her research challenging at times, but always tried to be available to her students. “When I see those students for whom I was their TA in the past stop by my office to say hi or introduce me to their friends as their favorite TA, it gives me a fantastic feeling,” she says.
Yalda’s research focuses on network resilience, and in particular on network infrastructure and complex systems. Of Dr. Ayyub, she says “I think I couldn’t ask for a better advisor.” She has published several papers with Dr. Ayyub on a project on which they are collaborating with Tongjie University in China and a visiting scholar, Yanjie Zhang. Yalda is also now a member of the Future Faculty program, which prepares PhD candidates for applying for academic jobs. She has also started working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology on resilience of supply chains, which she calls “very exciting area.” She collaborates with economists and Researchers at NIST under the direction of Dr. Ayyub. Sally Saleem, a Master’s student, is cooperating with her on this project.
Yalda is also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Engineers without Borders, and the Society of Women Engineers. In her free time, she enjoys painting, reading, exercising, Cha Cha dancing, playing piano and hanging out with family and friends.
Yalda still has one or two years in the PhD program, but thinks she would like to stay in academia afterward. She is still passionate about Civil Engineering, saying about the field: “You need to be determined and a logical thinker to solve the problems. I like the challenge.” She adds: “I would like to contribute to the improvement of the world around me. Civil Engineering is a good area, because constructing and building something for others gives you this feeling of contribution.” She lives and works according to a Susan Sontag quote that inspires her: “Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager,” Sontag wrote. Yalda is, vital, eager, and always paying attention.