Amy Deeb & Mehdi Rahmati, New YP-BOOST Laureates, Roberto Petroccia, OES Liaison for the YP-BOOST Program
Introduction by Roberto Petroccia, OES Liaison for the YP-BOOST Program
I am very happy to share with you that the IEEE OES Young Professional (YP) BOOST Program was successfully restarted at the end of 2021. This program aims at helping selected YPs in their career development and engagement with the leadership of the OES society and maritime scientific and technological community at large. The two new YP BOOST laureates selected in 2021 are Amy and Mehdi who will be active for the following two years (2022–2023). We are very happy to have them on-board and, as you can read in what follows, they have already started taking part in leadership meetings and actively contributing to society activities. Two new YP BOOST candidates will be selected at the end of 2022 to serve in 2023-2024 and the application process will open in September-October 2022. I would like to invite all of you to visit the OES YP webpage (https://ieeeoes.org/young-professionals/), learn more about this program and apply to engage more within the OES society and give a boost to your career development and networking.
New YP-BOOST Laureates 2022-2023
Writing (or talking) about myself is something that I avoid at all costs, so when I was asked to write an article for the Beacon, I started brainstorming topics that might be of interest. Perhaps the article could be about the process and considerations of the OES strategic planning committee that I have been working with, or the dedication and ingenuity of the OES Chapter Chairs that I had the pleasure of meeting in February, or the challenging but inspiring Ocean Decade goals. Alas, when it comes to an article about me, I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose the best place to start is with what we all have in common: the ocean.
The ocean and I did not start out as best friends. I grew up in a suburb of Toronto, Canada, and, while we had the Great Lakes nearby, my memories of going to the lake were of dead fish and the smell of pollutants and rot. The ocean was a place we would go on vacation sometimes, but I always preferred a good book to the sunburns and crowds. It was not until I got older that my travels brought me to rocky beaches, winter shores, and secluded coves when I found a peace in the sound of the crashing waves and the smell of brine in the air. Now that I live in Nova Scotia, I cannot imagine living far from the ocean.
Although I still consider myself to be in the early years of my connection to the ocean, I have felt welcomed by the ocean community in Nova Scotia and globally. I have been fortunate to have had mentors, coaches and sponsors who have generously guided me both personally and professionally. I’m so grateful that they have helped me to discover vibrant networks of like-minded folks around the world. These remarkable people have inspired me to take action on causes that I believe in and support others in our community in whatever ways I can.
In 2019 I attended my first OCEANS Conference in Seattle where I got my first taste of OES and haven’t looked back. Since then, I have been selected for the YP BOOST program and have joined the OCEANS 2024 Halifax local organizing committee. OES helps me to feel like I am contributing to meaningful change – whether that is by helping women and under-represented groups feel included in oceans professions, or by working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals associated with Ocean Decade.
Professionally, I am interested in autonomy and resilience of systems in harsh environments. I have worked on hardware, software and regulatory elements for CubeSats in low Earth orbit, aircraft, surface ships and underwater vehicles. I enjoy taking on new challenges and exploring opportunities where an engineering perspective can advance our understanding or impact in a complex problem.
While I love to travel, since moving to Nova Scotia my partner and I have spent a lot of time exploring closer to home. He and our dog, Ajax, have introduced me to beaches and caves that are barely marked on any map and shown me a part of the province I never knew existed. Our cat, Dino, on the other hand, prefers the rainy days when we settle in with a good book and a cup of tea so she can curl up on my lap for hours on end. More recently, I revived a hobby my great-grandmother first taught me and crocheted a narwhal for my nephew. This way, even though he is growing up in Toronto, he will have a connection to the ocean right from the start.
Rumi, the great Persian poet who sought beauty and knowledge in the world, compares wisdom to an “ocean” for its undiscovered intelligence, phenomenal beauty, and endless horizons. It is well said, and I have always been astonished by the intelligence and the beauty in oceans. As a researcher in this field, I have always tried to understand its underlying challenges and discover its hidden capacities as much as I can. I was lucky that I’ve had the privilege of participating in a number of research programs in the areas of surface/underwater sensing, communications, and autonomy over the past few years.
My first interaction with the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society took place in 2017, when I published a portion of my PhD research in the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering. The society was very welcoming and helpful to me. Given this incredible experience, I decided to become more involved in the OES activities. In 2018, I presented two papers at my first OCEANS conference in Charleston, South Carolina. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with others from academia and industry, and I decided to attend this excellent conference every year, even if I do not have a ready paper to submit, as I did in 2019 OCEANS conference in Seattle until the Covid hit us in 2020.
Litter in the oceans was always a challenge for me, and I was always thinking about technological solutions to this crisis. My research in ocean litter detection, entitled LICOT: Litter-Information-Centric Ocean of Things, won the first-place award in the 2019 IEEE Communications Society Worldwide Student Competition: Communication Technology Changing the World, so I traveled to the Big Island, Hawaii, to receive this award. Over there, I learned that there are many other researchers and strong pro-environmental activists who are deeply involved in this global challenge. I met an activist who collects plastics and debris from the ocean and recycles them into a variety of products.
I was motivated to become more involved in communities that work to clean up ocean and other bodies of water. In 2020, I started a tenure-track assistant professor position at Cleveland State University, Ohio, with the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. Living in Cleveland and being close to Lake Erie has provided me with an excellent opportunity to expand my research ideas. As you know, Lake Erie watershed is home to roughly one-third of the total population of the Great Lakes basin. This lake is the final destination for a large amount of pollution that needs to be measured, monitored, and controlled. Having said that, I set it as one of my primary goals and efforts in my research laboratory, Intelligent Communications and Autonomous Systems laboratory (ICAS lab). As an example, a group of my students are developing a novel design for an autonomous surface vehicle capable of sediment sampling, a one-of-a-kind device that we intend to use in future Lake Erie projects.
As members of this wonderful community, I believe we should protect our water resources not only through scientific and technological methods, but also by raising awareness and reminding people of the importance of preserving these priceless resources of life and beauty. This is what I would refer to as wisdom.