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Degree gets engineering grad where he wants to go

May 11, 2010

Aram Akhavan remembers being “one of those kids who would take things apart or break them to try to see what they looked like inside and how they worked.”

The curiosity never left him. Fortunately he turned it into something constructive. He graduates this spring from Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering with a degree in electrical engineering.

A perfect 4.0 grade point average –  and success in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College – have helped him get accepted into a doctoral program where he will “get really deep” into the inner workings of technology.

He plans to focus on analog circuitry design, particularly in wireless communications.

Akhavan also is into another form of communication – music. He began playing violin in the third grade and went on to earn a place with the ASU Symphony.

In music, as with engineering, he’s into complexity, with a penchant for performing the demanding compositions of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.

His range of diverse interests goes beyond engineering and music. Akhavan minored in business, with the thought of someday going into engineering business management or starting a company.

He’s gotten experience in both engineering and business with summer internships with Microchip Technology in Chandler and ON Semiconductor in Phoenix.

He also has chalked up some valuable research experience, working on electronic memory devices in ASU professor Michael Kozicki’s lab.

“Aram is co-author on a research paper for a major electrical engineering journal, which is very impressive for someone so young,” Kozicki said.

The achievements have not come without obstacles. The first was just getting into college.

Akhavan grew up in Scottsdale, but he holds Canadian citizenship. He was born in Toronto, where his parents moved from their native Iran almost 40 years ago.

That makes it difficult to seek U.S. citizenship until he is employed full-time, and it gave him a steeper hill to climb to find scholarships.

“I needed a scholarship to be able to afford college, but many places told me not to waste my time applying” because of his citizenship status.

He was eventually able to earn a National Merit Scholarship, providing enough to attend an affordable public university close to home.

That took universities with marquee names off his list.

“ASU was not on my radar screen at first,” he says. “But I found that academics are taken seriously here, and the engineering schools are rising in stature, and I’ve loved the atmosphere of a big, busy campus combined with the smaller environment I was part of in the honors college.”

Visiting other universities on his search for an engineering graduate program, Akhavan says he “got a good look at what their undergraduate programs are like. It makes me feel like I got just as good an education here as I would have gotten at any big-name school.”

He’s now headed “to my top-choice graduate program (at the University of California-San Diego) with one of the top professors in his field, and with a scholarship. And I’m going there because of what I was able to do at ASU.”