He’d been at Illinois for all of 11 months, when then-lab manager Hussam Mahmoud got an unforgettable email from a professor he’d go on to revere.
It read: I will NEVER let you down. You will see. No matter what you do.
“Indeed,” Mahmoud says, “his support was endless and his assurance for a successful journey was evident from day 1 when I arrived at the UIUC.
“While I have lots of great memories at places that I could call favorites,” none match the “person who had more than a profound impact on me — Professor Amr Elnashai,” says Mahmoud, now himself an award-winning engineering professor at Colorado State (Ph.D. '11, civil engineering).
“Professor Elnashai, the former department head at CEE, who later moved on to become the dean of engineering at Penn State and currently the vice chancellor/vice president of research at the University of Houston, was my direct boss when I first joined UIUC in 2006 as manager of the Network for Earthquake Simulation (NEES) laboratory at UIUC.
“He then became my Ph.D. academic advisor when I switched three years later to become a full-time Ph.D. student. The thing is that for most graduate students, the advisor’s impact revolves around providing technical input and insight on research directions and how to tackle the main research hypothesis — and yes, sometimes there are some reflections on life.
“Amr, on the other hand, provided me with much more than that. The opportunities varied from attending international conferences to committee meetings in Europe, on his behalf, to interacting with high-profile visitors that came to visit the CEE Department at UIUC, since it was/is among the top ranked CEE departments worldwide.
“And on top of these great opportunities, he taught me how to structure my thoughts; how to develop a vision — although I am still having hard time with that; and how to develop short- and long-term goals.
“What more? How to dress sometimes, how to talk, how to be strategic, how to compromise and how not to compromise. His unwavering support and his reflection on where the future might take me is in part why I am where I am today.
“He predicted, and I just followed to make sure my future is somewhat matching his predictive model. After all, that’s what a good student would do — match data to models.
“It was truly an honor to be one of his students. I cannot thank him enough.”