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Celebrating our Graduates: Kourani shares Illinois experiences, advice for current students


Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Ali Kourani
Ali Kourani

Access to collaboration and research facilities helped ECE graduate Ali Kourani throughout his doctoral studies in electrical and computer engineering and helped land him an industry job post-graduation. In this Q&A, he discusses his time at Illinois and his advice to other students (hint: it’s not research related).

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m settling in at Akoustis Technology in Charlotte, NC, where I have a job at as a senior design engineer. In my PhD, I was working on designing micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) oscillators for wireless communications. I will continue working on similar devices, but I’m moving a little bit towards designing RF-MEMS filters for 5G at Akoustis.

What made you decide on Illinois?
I started working on RF-MEMS oscillators as part of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Egypt, my home country. I had several publications on the topic and contacted my current adviser, Professor Songbin Gong, about joining his lab at Illinois. Gong is a well-established professor and researcher in microwave acoustics, and his lab was the perfect fit for me in pursuing my PhD. Since then, he has been extremely supportive in my pursuing research in advanced science topics related to 5G and Internet of Things.

How will your experiences at HMNTL/ Illinois help you in this career path?
Well, everything is about Illinois. After 4 years and 10 months, Illinois is the crowning experience of my time as a student in the acoustic oscillators field for more than eight years. Of course, Illinois has big facilities like HMNTL where devices are fabricated with help of bright students, postdocs, and collaborators. Through funding, I was even able to design a couple of oscillators with collaborators outside of HMNTL. Through classes, research, and collaboration, Illinois has put me in the best shape to start my industrial career path in advanced technologies.

What was your favorite memory from your time at HMNTL?
I would say the beginning of my time here, in 2016/2017, when I was introduced to my new Illinois family, to courses, professors, and staff. Also, since I came from Egypt, I had not seen snow in my whole life until 2016 – that was something new.

What research project are you particularly proud of from your time at Illinois?
I worked on an XO/PLL-less frequency synthesizer using MEMS oscillators for microwave applications. It was the biggest project I’ve worked on during my PhD. I am proud of that project because it was awarded the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTTS) Graduate Fellowship Award in 2020.

What advice do you have for current students?
I would say do not be afraid of failures. You will, if you try hard, succeed at the end. Don’t give up, because giving up is failure. Especially in our field when working with these devices, we put up with a lot of failure. It’s important to learn how to cope with it.

I would also say seek help. Always seek mental help, from the university or wherever. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. PhD students should be aware of the university’s resources; advisers and professors should know about it and encourage students to speak up.


Read the original article on the HMNTL site.