Dr. Attia serves as the Associate Chair and Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering Program Coordinator for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach campus.
Discuss your personal and professional background.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt. Went to high school in Dubai. I am a Copt. I came to the US when I was 17. I am married and have 2 sons, one of them is a junior in Software Engineering at ERAU and the younger is a sophomore in Biology (pre-Med) at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX, where he is also on the SU Swim Team. My wife is a Physician. I have been living in this area since 1995.
I have a BS in AE from Texas A&M (1988) and then MS and PhD in ME, also from Texas A&M (1991, and 1995, respectively). I worked as a senior engineer for Westinghouse Electric from 95-98 then as a senior design engineer for Siemens from 98-04. I performed thermodynamic (cycle and performance) and aerodynamic (component) design for Gas Turbine Engines. I joined ERAU as Full Time Faculty in 2004, teaching and performing research in the Propulsion track. I owned and operated an engineering design and consulting firm from 2003 to 2016. In 2016 I took over as Associate Chair and MSAE Program Coordinator.
What motivated you to pursue a career in the field of academia?
I grew up in a culture that put tremendous emphasis on learning so to me, academia is the pinnacle of any career. I always wanted to conclude my career in academia, I just didn’t know it would come so quickly. My original plan (when I was finishing up my PhD) was to work as an engineer for at least 20 years before transitioning to academia.
Why did you come to ERAU and what keeps you grounded here?
Sheer coincidence, I have to credit my friend and mentor Dr. Reda Mankbadi who convinced me to come here as an adjunct. I noticed the unusually high quality and seriousness of the students and decided to stay. They twisted my arm.
As a place of employment ERAU is unparalleled. It has the perfect balance between research and teaching, always putting students first. And I see how everyone treats the faculty. What’s not to like. I have also enjoyed some very good management between my current and former chairs and deans. But no matter what else is going on, it has always been the students that kept me here.
The University as a whole, and especially the AE department continues to gain in momentum and reputation. It is an absolute honor to be affiliated with such an excellent group of people.
What has been the biggest accomplishment of your career?
At industry I had the honor of serving as team lead for an engine upgrade. The team exceeded all its technical targets as well as being ahead of time and under budget. At my consulting firm, a colleague and I helped an airline find the root cause of faulty engine warnings that had grounded an entire fleet. At ERAU, it’s been the research relation we cultivated with Boeing. But I consider my biggest accomplishment to be the success of my former students. Many are in my network on LinkedIn, and some still come to visit. I love it when we talk shop.
What advice would you give to students who originally thought they wanted to pursue industry work, but they would like to focus on academia and research?
You must spend time in industry before coming back to an academic setting. It will make you a much better professor. I recommend no less than 5 years. You will gain true systems knowledge. While in academia continue to invest in your education and continue to do research, it will make you a better teacher.
Describe your dream vacation destination and why.
I grew up in Egypt and Dubai and lived in Texas and Florida so I hadn’t seen a mountain until I was 40. That’s when my wife decided to introduce the family to skiing. Needless to say, the first trip or two didn’t go well. But now I absolutely love it. I prefer Colorado because the slopes are much wider, thus more forgiving. I also love going to the beach but I am not sure that qualifies because the world’s best beaches are only 15 minutes away.