From Egypt to Iowa: One engineering graduate student’s journey

Ghada Gad, a graduate student in civil, construction, and environmental engineering (CCEE) at Iowa State University, has had to adjust to a new environment. Literally. There are plenty of cultural and societal differences between her homes in Cairo, Egypt, and Ames, Iowa, but the difference that really stands out for her is the weather. The first week Ghada was in Ames last January, the state of Iowa was experiencing record lows and lots of snow. Her major professor, Jennifer Shane, jokes that, “I half expected her to buy a plane ticket back to Cairo and tell us that we were crazy for living in Ames!” Ghada didn’t leave. She made it through the winter, and since springtime she has been enjoying weather in the Midwest much more.

The story of how Ghada came to be a graduate engineering student at Iowa State begins about a year before her snowy arrival. As a master’s student in construction engineering at American University Cairo, she had a chance to meet a few members of the Iowa State University engineering faculty. She heard through a friend, who was studying in the CCEE department at Iowa State, that several faculty members from Ames would be visiting her school in Cairo. Professors Jim Alleman (CCEE chair), Fouad Fanous, Amr Kandil, and Jennifer Shane were participating in an exchange of information with AUC faculty and to observe capstone presentations of collaborative efforts between students from both universities. The professors were impressed by Ghada. Shane recalls the feelings of the group. “Ghada appeared to be a very intelligent, well-spoken, hard-working student and all around someone that we would want at Iowa State University.” Ghada did some further investigation and was impressed by the opportunities she would have at Iowa State. She accelerated through the remainder of her program at AUC and received her MS in construction engineering. Now she is enjoying her new adventure and is working on a research topic for her doctoral dissertation. Ghada’s main area of interest is in examining the relationship between contracts and risks.

Ghada is impressed by the similarity between the educational systems here at Iowa State and at her alma mater, American University Cairo. Additionally, Ghada is happy to find fellow Egyptian students also studying at Iowa State. Being over 6,000 miles from home, it is nice for her to be able to talk with people who share similar experiences. Her story illustrates the diverse backgrounds of Iowa State graduate engineering students. Engineering graduate students have the opportunity to develop an invaluable global network of engineer associates while studying here, and that is just what Ghada is doing.


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