It might sound unlikely, but a childhood aversion to swimming sparked an interest in technology for Yasser Aboelkassem, assistant professor in the College of Innovation & Technology.
Growing up in Cairo, Egypt, Aboelkassem was hesitant to join in during family trips to the community pool. To help him see that swimming was fun, his parents showed him a mechanical swimming toy in the bathtub. Aboelkassem was fascinated by the mechanics behind the seemingly simple toy, sparking a lifetime of curiosity and innovation.
Read on to learn how Aboelkassem works to create that same joy and wonder in his students.
Advancing Human Medicine
In his research, Aboelkassem combines mathematical modeling, biophysics, engineering, and data analytics to advance healthcare by developing multi-scale computational models of disease. It's called computational medicine, and Aboelkassem is particularly interested in its applications for cardiology.
By studying the biomechanics of cardiac contraction and arterial blood flow using multi-scale methods and machine learning techniques to identify potential markers for disease, Aboelkassem's research can help clinicians make the best treatment decisions for their patients and guide the design of future assistive medical devices.
"We see so many patients suffering from heart failure, and complications due to cardiac disease are exceedingly common. I hope that my work can assist these people's cardiac function and ultimately their quality of life," Aboelkassem says.
After earning his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech,Aboelkassem continued his studies and research at institutions such as Yale, Johns Hopkins, UC-San Diego, and San Diego State.
Industry Partnerships at UM-Flint
The College of Innovation & Technology's commitment to real-world education and experiences played a major role in Aboelkassem's decision to join UM-Flint.
"It's exciting being on the frontier of this new kind of academic program," Aboelkassem says. "Only a few colleges realize that the next generation of jobs requires more than what is classically taught in classrooms. It requires hands-on, group learning—a different approach that CIT offers students."
While Aboelkassem is quick to note that any STEM student needs a solid foundation in basic science, he also acknowledges that industry needs often outpace what is taught in academic institutions. CIT curriculum is developed in partnership with industry leaders, and that collaboration makes a difference for students in terms of both preparation and networking.
Family and Soccer, and UM-Flint
Aboelkassem is a family man, spending time with his wife and children when he's not engaged with research or classroom instruction. He also has a lifelong love of soccer, even playing on a professional team in Egypt before focusing on his academic career.
Aboelkassem was drawn to the teamwork that soccer requires, and he sees that same collaborative mindset at UM-Flint. Where he describes other college campuses as "huge islands" in which faculty from separate disciplines don't interact, he sees UM-Flint embracing a distinctly multidisciplinary approach.
"Here, you see people from math, biology, biochemistry, and engineering all working together. Even the Murchie Science Building is designed in a way that fosters collaboration," Aboelkassem says.
The Most Rewarding
Aboelkassem works to ensure that the concepts he shares with students in class are connected to the real world. If the course covers challenging topics like partial differential equations and linear algebra, he will point out how Google utilizes them in its search engine algorithms. It's a teaching philosophy that helps students understand the significance of their learning well past the final exam.
"I feel happy when students really grasp the material and understand the concepts, but what makes me the happiest is when I receive an email after they graduated or received a job offer. It makes me feel like we did something meaningful."
Logan McGrady is the marketing & digital communication manager for the Office of Marketing and Communication.