What he does:
- Assad Ebrahim leads an engineering and software development team whose goal is to give scientific sonar systems advanced capabilities such as real-time decision-making and the ability to operate as unmanned environmental observation posts. In his daily work, he is involved in engineering and software design, development and engineering operations, and efforts to secure funding through writing proposals and making presentrations. He is also on the management team of the company.
Math on the job:
- Since light attenuates quickly underwater, sound is the window into the underwater world. As such, all areas of mathematics relating to signal processing and analysis become very valuable. Signal and image processing techniques such as wavelet analysis and various transforms and filters, are used to pull out features of targets from the data. Where there is a need for data reduction, various statistical techniques are used, such as independent components analysis and time series analysis. For position location and target tracking, 3-D geometry, vector analysis and linear algebra are used. The automatic classification of targets uses the mathematics of cluster analysis, optimization, and fuzzy decision algorithms.
“In my work, solid understanding of a wide range of mathematics is more valuable than expert understanding of a single narrow specialty. In order to lead a team of diverse specialists and to communicate and build upon ideas, it has been important for me to be familiar with applicable mathematics, the mathematics that intersects with a large number of engineering and scientific disciplines.”
- Assad graduated from Swarthmore where he majored in Mathematics while taking courses in a variety of subjects in science, engineering, economics and classical studies. Also as an undergraduate, he was funded by NSF and Sigma Xi for an REU in Parallel Algorithms (supercomputers). This helped him develop his programming abilities and turned him toward applied mathematics. He received a masters degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Washington in 2001. “The most valuable aspect about a liberal arts education is that it gives you the analytical tools and broad foundation that allows you to continue to educate yourself throughout your life, including venturing into fields outside your areas of specialty when needed.”
Assad continues to be actively involved with young people and education outside his professional work. He has been recognized for excellence in teaching by the Department of Mathematics at the University of Washington. He has developed workshops on teaching and learning with the Center for Instructional Development and Research (CIDR) at the University of Washington, and for others, including a year-round Mathematics Clinic for the Seattle Isma’ili community. He also held for two years the volunteer position of Chairperson of the Aga Khan Education Board for Seattle, directing community programs related to education and counseling.
Assad's advice to students:
- Pursue sound technical knowledge, but also strengthen practical skills: writing, computer programming, statistics, electronics. It is the combination of theoretical knowledge and practical abilities that will allow you to contribute, especially in a small company. And small companies can offer exciting early opportunities to develop yourself both technically and in leadership.
“Continue to upgrade your knowledge throughout your life. We are in an age of such rapid technological growth that to fail to acquire new skills is to set yourself up for being marginalized early.”
“Although pursuing graduate school and a profession are demanding, keep your multi-faceted interests and act on your desire to make a difference in the world. Rather than taking time away from professional and personal life, these activities enrich you far more than you may realize at the time, building your confidence, growing skills that you can’t easily get from formal education or from employment, and strengthening your sense of purpose. An added bonus is that you are forced to become more efficient with your time.”