Electrical and computer engineering professor Nazanin Rahnavard, Ph.D. received UCF’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Mentoring Doctoral Students at this year’s Founders Day Honors Convocation. The honor is given to faculty who demonstrate unprecedented dedication in guiding their Ph.D. students on their academic and professional journeys.
“I am extremely honored and humbled to be recognized by graduate students for excellence in mentoring doctoral students,” said Rahnavard. “This award is very close to my heart.”
Since Rahnavard joined UCF in 2014, she has graduated four doctoral students.
“I have a very critical role in shaping the future of my students,” she said. “I have a passion for preparing my students to become future influential professors, researchers and leaders who will push the boundaries of science and technology and touch the lives of many others through their discoveries and mentoring the next generation.”
Rahnavard believes the key to a strong student-mentor relationship lies in getting to know each student well to cater to their unique strengths, capabilities and learning styles. She also facilitates collaboration amongst her students, both within her own research group at Communications and Wireless Networks Lab and other research teams, as well as interdisciplinary collaborations within UCF and other universities.
From presenting at conferences and publishing in leading journals to assisting junior students and writing grant proposals, Rahnavard’s students are given every opportunity to ensure they are well equipped for their future careers.
That was certainly the case for Alireza Zaeemzadeh ’21PhD, who joined Rahnavard’s research group in 2014 as a master’s student. With Rahnavard’s support and mentorship, he completed his doctorate with 14 conference papers and four journal papers, earning several scholarships and awards along the way, including the competitive UCF Multidisciplinary Doctoral Research Fellowship in 2016. Now a Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he credits Rahnavard for her guidance and boosting his confidence to pursue a career in academia.
“I joined Dr. Rahnavard’s group as an international student and she played a very important role in educating me in different aspects of living in the U.S. and coping with the new environment,” Zaeemzadeah said. “She also helped me through tough times during my Ph.D. studies. Her encouraging words, her ultimate support and the open communication that we had surely influenced my performance and well-being during my Ph.D.”
For Rahnavard, mentoring her students includes not only guiding their scholastic journeys, but caring for their personal well-being as members of her academic family.
“The best mentors are those who become role models for their students and help mold them for success,” said Rahnavard. “I have had such great role models and I have passionately devoted my time, energy and knowledge to become one myself.”