NJIT offers students innumerable opportunities. And if you come here and avail yourself of those opportunities, you’ll graduate with a bright future.
Consider, for example, Anthony Moussa, a senior majoring in electrical engineering. During his four years at NJIT, he worked two internships; one at PSE&G and one for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). He also worked as a calculus tutor and as a teaching assistant for the Mathematics Department. Additionally, Moussa was treasurer for the NJIT’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a student club on campus. He has a 3.87 GPA and, recently, as a result of all his accomplishments, he was named the Newark College of Engineering Outstanding Senior in his major: electrical engineering.
As a first generation student -- his parents were born in Egypt -- Anthony attributes his work ethic to his father, who was trained as a mechanical engineer. But when he immigrated to America, he had to retake his engineering licensing exam. His English wasn’t good, so it took him seven tries to pass. But pass he did.
In this interview, Anthony talks about his love of electrical engineering, his myriad successes at NJIT and his plans for the future.How did you get into electrical engineering?
When I was in elementary school, my family and I used to go to Central Park in NY for weekends. My dad worked as a mechanical engineer in a hotel near the park so we’d visit him. One day, I was with my dad when he received an emergency call from the hotel. Rather than dropping me off at the room, he took me with him. As soon as the elevator to the sub-basement opened, I was enthralled by all the machinery -- all the flashing lights and all the moving parts. I always had played with Legos Mindstorms, so I had an interest in how things worked. Therefore, seeing an actual control’s environment made me jubilant! Right then and there, I knew that engineering was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
You also got into computers early, right?
A few months later, on one of my visits to my dad, I saw that the hotel was upgrading its computers and throwing away PCs. I persuaded my dad to take one since they were all going to waste. He agreed. When we got home it was roughly about midnight, but I stayed up all night to assemble the machine. When the monitor turned on and the Windows 95 logo came up, I was ecstatic!
The more I played with the computer, the more my curiosity about computers grew. When I graduated from elementary school, my parents offered to buy me a new computer. But I asked them to buy me the components to build one. Eventually they took me to Micro Center to buy hardware. When I got home, I skipped lunch and began assembling all the components: the motherboard, the CPU, the fan, the video card, the hard drive, the power supply, the memory, the disk drive. I started stripping broken parts just to learn how they functioned. That night, I had checked off “build my own computer” from my To Do list. Ever since that day, I considered myself an electrical engineer in training.
If a high school student asked you what it’s like to study electrical engineering, what would you tell her?
In my eyes, electrical engineering is the study of the application of electricity to reshape and advance society. One of my favorite sayings states, “Scientists discover the world, while engineers build it.” From making cell phones, to manufacturing hybrid cars, to even designing medical equipment, the span of electrical engineering is only limited by one’s mind. As long as electrical engineers are inquisitive, their latitude in advancing society is endless.
The study of EE in college introduces you to the basic concepts. For example, NJIT teaches you about the building blocks of electrical engineering (resisters, capacitors, inductors, transistors, and diodes) and how to analyze them in a circuit. The university also teaches you about the common theory in all the branches of electrical engineering – power, controls, telecommunication, networking, and electromagnetism. Electrical engineering at NJIT is a never-ending learning process that is only inspired by interest and keenness.
How was your internship at PSE&G?
In the summer after my junior year, I acquired a job with PSE&G, where I worked as a system controls designer. High voltage power lines are fed to local substations and switching stations. At the stations, these high voltage lines are dropped to lower, voltages and distributed to neighborhoods. I was part of the team that actually designed these switching stations upgrades and modifications. We needed to accommodate more power distribution. I used Microstation, an AutoCAD like software program for engineers, to create or modify schematics of transformers, breakers, reactors, etc.
I am still working for PSE&G; they extended my internship into the school year. There is a lot I still have to learn. For example, microprocessor relays are programmed in such a way that a fault is isolated in less than five seconds to prevent any disasters. It would take me at least five years to understand this protection scheme alone, not considering everything else that is used in electricity distribution.
Can you talk about your other internship at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)?
At the time I applied for that internship, I had just completed my freshman year. I hadn’t yet taken any core electrical engineering courses. But I did have a 4.0 GPA, and it seemed to me that the Navy wasn’t looking for experienced electrical engineers but rather for bright and zealous engineers-to-be. So I applied and three months later, I received my acceptance letter.
That summer, I worked closely with a team of senior engineers to help design the Smart Connector – a testing tool inserted in between avionics boxes to test communication. This handheld tester analyzed data flow, power signals, voltages and currents. I took part in every phase of the engineering process from the design of circuits to the milling, prototyping, and testing of the plane board. I even assisted in program a microcontroller for I/O operations. At the conclusion of my internship, I was certain that I wanted to be an electrical engineer who specialized in hardware design.
What does an internship teach you that you can’t get in school?
During my sophomore year, I understood why NAVAIR was looking for an enthusiastic individual, rather than one with experience. Most everything I learned during the internship, especially about being meticulous in picking components when designing a circuit, was new to me but I was eager to learn. I remember the number one answer I received for most of my questions, “Did you read the datasheet?” There is no way to teach a person the importance of datasheets and how to pick an optimal component unless one is faced with a real life situation. For this reason, I will always be thankful for my experiences with NAVAIR – it opened my eyes to the importance of engineering decisions.
How did you start teaching calculus here?
In the fall Semester of my freshman year, I took Calculus I. I used to go to class 10-20 minutes early to help my classmates with homework. We used to have a quiz every week based on the homework. One day my teacher, Professor Martin Katzen, walked in while I was solving a problem. Although I sat down when I saw him enter, he insisted I should go back to the board and finish working out the problem.
After class that day, Professor Katzen asked how long I have been coming to class early to help other students. He was so impressed that he offered me a job as a math tutor for the Center for Academic and Professional Enrichment (CAPE). During that spring semester, I had Professor Katzen again for Calculus II. Eventually, he realized that I was coming to class early to help fellow students. He was so impressed with my dedication to help my classmates that he offered me another job opportunity as an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Math Tutor for that summer.
Talk about your experiences with the campus club, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).
For the last two years, the IEEE has always been a home for excitement and interest. The club now has over 90 members.
We recently finished designing a surround sound system, and we are currently working on an LED Cube Project as well as assembling a portable 3D-printer. Our projects have attracted several members, not only in the electrical engineering major. We are a vibrant club and we have recently purchased three computers, a printer, a power supply, a function generator, a soldering station and are looking at buying a new oscilloscope.
In my opinion, the IEEE is a family of engineers. Our friendships throughout the years has grew to an extent that we hold trips to NY just to see each other outside of school. Some members even go out on Thursday nights to enjoy each other’s company as well as some good food. At one point, pulling over-nighters for exams became bearable in that we all tutored each other. I will never forget all the laughs and struggles we shared as a club.
And you have three job offers now, don’t you?
As of the end of April, I have three full time job offers: one from PSE&G, one from ASCO Power Technologies, and a third from Naval Air Systems Command, known as NAVAIR. Each offer has its advantages and its disadvantages.
Which will you take?
Upon graduation, I plan on working for NAVAIR. Their primary purpose is to provide full life-cycle support of naval aircrafts. This support includes researching, designing, developing, testing, evaluating, and maintaining new cutting-edge technology. Some of the recent NAVAIR innovations include the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG). Both were developed in Lakehurst, NJ. EMALS launches aircrafts using electromagnetism, while AAG uses a water twister, mechanical brakes, and an electric motor to “catch” aircrafts. I have seen both in action in Lakehurst, NJ, and I honestly have to say, working for NAVAIR will be the most enjoyable years of my life; truly is a dream job! Like my dad always tells me, “If like your job, then you are not really working; it’s a hobby that you get paid to enjoy.”
(By Robert Florida)