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Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering News

Ali Mustafa, B.S. Student

Ali Mustafa is an undergraduate student in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering. He already had a chemical engineering degree from the Technological University in Iraq when he applied for admission to obtain a second degree at Boise State University.

Ali was well prepared for a lucrative engineering career after obtaining his first bachelor of science degree in Iraq. He had done everything right, from maintaining good grades to getting work experience in the field. He thrived as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Air Force in Iraq for about six years. A relocation from Iraq to the United States revealed a hurdle Ali hadn’t anticipated. After moving, Ali discovered that most U.S. employers were reluctant to accept his degree from the Technological University in Iraq. This left the only option of non-engineering employment, which did not appeal to Ali. He always envisioned being an engineer so he started seeking an alternative method for reaching his goal. Ali realized that, in order to be an engineer in the U.S., he needed a degree that would be recognized by U.S. employers. Go back to school for another degree? The prospect would motivate many people to choose a different path, but Ali was not giving up on his dream.

Returning to school for a second degree meant Ali needed to choose the best major to supplement his already strong engineering background. He considered several engineering fields but was introduced to materials science and engineering through some of his first-year coursework. He also met with Dr. Amy Moll, a professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering who encouraged him to explore further.

To gain hands-on experience, Ali applied for an undergraduate research assistant position in the Magnetic Materials Research Group led by Boise State Distinguished Professor Peter Mullner. Ali collaborates with team members to grow and cast single crystals of magnetic shape memory alloys. “The hypothesis of our current research is that by increasing the thermal gradient to 200 K/mm through casting molten Ni-Mn-Ga into a heated crucible and onto a cooled seed crystal, the resulting single crystals will exhibit consistent homogeneity and repeatable functional properties. New materials like this could create less complex and more robust devices such as actuators, pumps, and linear positioning devices. The research team plans to present their work at the upcoming Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Ali is making the most of his second degree experience. “Boise State is not only where I get my education, it is my second home,” Says Ali. “Being a returning student provides some challenges but being far away from my family and friends in Iraq is one of the most challenging things I have ever experienced. I’ve made new friends and am gaining some great life experiences. My research teammates have become members of my extended family. Together we celebrate personal events and make scientific achievements. My goals are to find a job in the field of material science and to never stop learning.”

Sometimes, even with planning, life can take you in a different direction. Ali proves that, with perseverance and creative problem solving, goals can be achieved. “There is no easy way to get an engineering degree,” Ali says. “Keep fighting for your goals and find a way to love what you are studying.”

Ali recently expanded on how science collided with his life at a Story Collider event in Boise Idaho. Listen to his inspirational story to learn more.

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