Convocation Speakers, Spring 2020
Afra Nawar is a devoted mentor. Alongside her own rigorous coursework across two majors, she served five semesters as an undergraduate teaching assistant with two different professors. Nawar also offered time and talent as a math and engineering tutor for Arizona State University academic success programs.
“In both of these capacities, I enjoyed helping to make concepts clearer for students,” she says. “It makes me happy to help renew student interest in subjects by alleviating any difficulties they might be facing with their course material.”
Paralleling her support for peers at ASU, Nawar also co-founded a STEM club for high-school and middle-schoolers in her community. Doing so was important because she wanted younger students to experience the same excitement that she felt for engineering.
“With just our guidance, they built – from scratch – an autonomous car with integrated object detection,” she says. “Along the way, they learned basic circuitry and mechanical engineering concepts. But my favorite part was seeing the pride in their eyes when their project worked. My hope is that they will keep this excitement until they enter college.”
Nawar shares that a significant inspiration for her outward focus has been Fulton Schools Associate Professor Pavan Turaga.
“Research is pretty daunting for an undergraduate because you come into a lab knowing next to nothing,” she says. “But Dr. Turaga is always available for his students – answering questions, calming fears and helping them to grow technically and as a person.”
Working in Dr. Turaga’s lab, Nawar recently published a paper for the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference 2020 on the use of topological data analysis and machine learning to assess Parkinson’s disease severity.
Following ASU, Nawar is starting a new role as a software engineer at Honeywell in Phoenix. She is excited by this opportunity, though her desire to mentor remains firmly part of her longer-term plans.
“I am considering becoming an engineering professor,” she says. “In this way, I would feel like I am directly helping others to achieve their best. But even if I stay in industry, I hope to take on a managerial role where I can have the same impact on people.”