Shahani's first defense marks career milestone

Saman Moniri's recent Ph.D. defense was a noteworthy event not only for him, but also for his advisor, Assistant Professor Ashwin Shahani.
Shahani's first defense marks career milestone

Saman Moniri, left, defends his PhD thesis via BlueJeans, while Asst. Professor Ashwin Shahani participates virtually from his home.

Monday marked a milestone moment in Assistant Professor Ashwin Shahani’s career: His first Ph.D. student, Saman Moniri, defended his dissertation: “Non-classical crystallization pathways in eutectic-forming systems.”

“The first Ph.D. student dissertation defense is a big moment in any assistant professor’s career, and any Ph.D. defense is a once in-a-lifetime milestone for the student,” commented MSE chair Amit Misra.

The fact that Moniri’s defense was presented virtually rather than in person did not mar the moment – just the opposite, in fact. Over 45 people – significantly more than typically attend in-person defenses – took part in the event conducted via BlueJeans.

Shahani joined the U-M faculty in the Fall of 2016, the same year he graduated with his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Moniri joined Professor Shahani’s research group in November 2016, after having just earned his master’s degree from U-M in chemical engineering.

“My experiences working under the mentorship of Professor Shahani have been overwhelmingly positive,” Moniri said. “I am very grateful for the helpful feedback that he has given me all along the way.”

As an example, Moniri cites a project they started in Moniri’s second year involving a special class of eutectics that grow into a spiral morphology, an area that is not well‑studied. Shahani had just been awarded the Young Investigator Program of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant for this exciting and impactful field. 

“Throughout our study and work on this project, Professor Shahani provided direct guidance while also giving me the independence to explore different avenues,” Moniri commented. “Given that much of the methods we pursued are novel, our weekly individual meetings consisted of not only updates but also a critical examination of our experimental results. We recently published a manuscript to report our findings. I am very lucky to have Professor Shahani as my mentor and advisor, and I will forever be grateful to him for helping me grow my career.”

“It has been a pleasure to work with Saman and to see him achieve this important and final milestone, a culmination of his hard work in my group,” added Shahani. “I am honored to have been a part of his journey.”

Congratulations to both Saman and Professor Shahani!