‘Ultimately, you are a problem solver’

Associate Dean for the Natural and Applied Sciences Bahram Roughani explains why problem-solving is the universal college major

By Rita Buettner  |  Photo by Howard Korn

Bahram Roughani, Ph.D., is a trained physicist, but he thinks of himself as a builder.

I like to build things. I like to build new programs and have always been like that,” says Loyola’s Associate Dean for the Natural and Applied Sciences.

Roughani is new to Loyola, coming in July 2013 from Kettering University, where he established the school’s physics program and led it to earn the Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education from the American Physical Society.

His success no doubt comes from his love of building new programs; at Kettering, he helped establish a “co-op” initiative to help students get the work experience they needed to step out from school and into the workforce.

At Loyola, he’s laying the groundwork for the same success.

“I always move from the point of view of need,” he says. “If you want to expand anything, if you want to build anything, you should not do it for the sake of building or expanding, you should do it for the sake of addressing a need.”

And when it comes to preparing students for career success, Roughani believes the need is clear.

“In my opinion, a summer internship is a résumé builder, but is not really a confidence builder for the students. It’s just 10 weeks, not enough time for a student to prove to themselves that they can get things done,” he says.

In a co-op program, though, students may spend six months in one business setting, long enough that “they actually could end up with a project that they’ve completed. They have a product. They have something that they have built that they can present as an achievement. It gives them self-confidence, and it gives some something meaningful to show as a result of their efforts.”

The “co-op” concept goes beyond the traditional three-month summer internship to create a pool of students from several schools who are interested in more long-term work experience. They may spend an entire semester and half the summer working with one company, then another student takes their place during the second half of the year.

The students get a more meaningful work experience, and the participating companies have student workers year-round.

Roughani’s still in the early stages of developing Loyola’s co-op program, but he’s already reached out to NASA, the U.S. Army Research lab, and other industrial and academic partners.

Regardless of where his students end up working, Roughani is most interested in having them learn one thing: how to solve a problem.

“I often ask my students ‘What are your majors?’ and they tell me their majors, and in the end I usually tell them that they majoring in the same field. I tell them, ‘Ultimately, you are problem solver. Problems can be different shapes and forms and contexts, but if you have that mindset for problem-solving and you can think critically, you can apply it not only to scientific problems but also to anything else that we do in our lives.’”

Read more about how Loyola’s Bright Minds, Bold Hearts campaign will support the College of Arts and Sciences.

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