Maryam Parsa

Graduate Student, PhD (INTEL/SRC PhD Fellow)
Hometown: Tehran, Iran
Previous degrees: MSCE '15, Purdue University
MS EE and CS '13, University of Ottowa
BS '08, Khaje Nasir Toosi University of Technology

Don't rush. There are plenty of good professors and research opportunities with the best facilities at Purdue. Explore and see which group/research fits your interest best, and then decide to work there with all your heart.

Why did you choose Purdue for graduate school?

Several factors contributed to my decision for choosing Purdue University. Purdue is one of the top engineering universities across the US and in particular it has some of the finest professors and second to none facilities in my area of study. I was aware of the state-of-the-art research areas at Purdue that I could contribute and grow. In addition, I learned about several programs to promote diversity and leadership which encouraged me to select Purdue.

In fact I wasn't wrong. I joined Purdue as a Ross Fellowship Recipient, and later got the opportunity to demonstrate my capabilities and get my full four year Intel SRC fellowship.

Area of research:

According to Purdue ECE curriculum, my PhD research involves areas of VLSI and Circuit Design. However, specifically I am working on "Brain Inspired Neuromorphic Computation." We are redesigning computer hardware to mimic how the brain works, by exploring new algorithms, architectures, and devices. This research incorporates energy efficient deep neural networks, spintronic and state-of-the-art post-CMOS devices, and architectures. In particular, I am working on the multi-objective hyper-parameter optimization problems where we are optimizing our designs to achieve best accuracies with minimum power and area consumptions.

Best event or organization you’ve participated in within ECE?

One of the best events that I've participated is Birck Nanotechnology Center's Nanodays. NanoDays is a nationwide celebration of nanoscale science which is organized every year. In this event, K-12 grade students visit Purdue and Purdue students/staff perform simple small scale science and engineering experiments for them. It is heart-warming seeing how these students get fascinated when they see these experiments and understand science behind them.

Further, I enjoyed the tech talks from different corporations (INTEL Tech Talk, NVIDIA Tech Talk, …) organized by ECE at Purdue. These events help graduate students learn about various projects and researches within these companies.

ECE movie nights, corn maze, and bowling are also among my favorite fun events.

Best event or organization you’ve participated in outside of ECE?

As a woman studying engineering, I was invited to mentor pre-school students during summer 2015.

It was an inspiring summer, and I got the chance to interact with several young children and help them explore simple engineering concepts (creating parachutes, simple circuits, making toy helicopters, etc).

Purdue TED Talk was among other best events I attended at Purdue outside ECE. The talks gave me a new perspective on a variety of cultural, societal and educational topics.

In addition, my visit of Subaru Company with a team of researchers from Purdue was a great experience. We had the chance to see closely how different parts of the factory work from beginning to the end, and I got a lot of firsthand experiences. We also got the chance to talk with people who work for the company and learn about the pros and cons of working for companies such Subaru.

Last but not least, Purdue Career Fair every year brings top companies from around the US to hire interns and graduate students. Through these fairs, I got the chance to do an internship at Intel Corporation which was one of my greatest experiences.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a potential Purdue ECE student?

Don't rush. There are plenty of good professors and research opportunities with the best facilities at Purdue. Explore and see which group/research fits your interest best, and then decide to work there with all your heart.

Don't worry. Every PhD student will have ups and downs in their research. Try not to ever lose the big picture. The details will come around.

Don't be afraid of  learning and exploring completely new areas. This is an indispensable part of learning specifically in a field like ours where research and technology are changing at an exponential rate.

Who is someone in industry/academia that you look up to and why?

There are several people who I always admire and look up to. I did couple of internships at Intel Corporations and one of my managers there, "Kathy Hoopman", is someone who I always admire, consult with, and has as my role modal. She encouraged my curiosity. She taught me to be patient, and strong,  to stand up and defend for my rights, to balance my work and life.

I have read about a lot of women in industry, but among them "Vida Ilderem (Vice President at Intel Labs, and Director of Wireless Communication Research at Intel)" and "Sheryl Sandberg (Chief Operating Officer COO of Facebook)" are someone I would look up to. They are strong women who faced several challenges before they reach where they are and their life experiences are though provoking and educational.

In academia, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor work on human brain has been inspiring for me. Her life adventure, and how her stroke helped her better understand the human brain are extraordinary.

In addition, Prof. Mildred Dresselhaus (MIT) who recently passed away was an amazing scholar who I believe every women scientist should read about and follow her footsteps. Her efforts in expanding the opportunities for Women in STEM fields were remarkable.

And of course, Prof. Kaushik Roy (my own PhD advisor) is someone I always look up to, not only as my advisor, but also as a mentor who is always there for his 30+ PhD students. He teaches us how to focus on the researches every single one of us is doing, how to explore ideas without stressing about the final results, and how to enjoy being a PhD student!

What is your ultimate career goal?

Due to my experiences in industry I always wanted to continue my work in one of the top companies after I graduate from my PhD. But recently, I have grown interests toward academia. I have still time to think, but I am certain that I would like to work somewhere that my work and research would have significant and positive impact.

What do you do in your free time?

I used to play violin and play tennis with my husband, but after my baby (Hannah) was born few months ago, I have been spending all of my free time with her, and enjoy every single moment of being with her and watching her growing up! When we get a chance we go walking or hiking with Hannah (If weather allows of course!)

See more Women of Purdue ECE profiles here.

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