Mohsen Mosleh, Ph.D., a recent graduate of the systems engineering doctoral program at Stevens Institute of Technology, enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking and rafting in his free time. When he is not exploring the outdoors, he is conducting important systems engineering research with particular focus on how structural characteristics of social networks have an impact on the collective fair-behavior in a society.
Now with his recent appointment as postdoctoral researcher at Yale University, Dr. Mosleh plans to further expand on his research, taking the experiences he obtained from Stevens with him. In his new role at Yale, he will combine empirical observations from behavioral experiments with predictions generated by math models and computer simulations.
In explaining his research focus, Mosleh provides an example. “Consider how people treat each other in social settings; that is, fairness as a collective behavior in a social system. People interact with and learn from their immediate neighbors, who in turn, do the same with their own neighbors. In this example, the structure of the social network becomes important in the formation of behavior in this setting,” he explains.
The research, which is part of a broader effort in the Complex Evolving Networked Systems (CENS) Lab led by Steven professor Babak Heydari, not only provides insight to explain variations of collective social behavior at society scale, but also the implication in deciding organizational structures and engineering teams to promote pro-social behavior and improve performance.
Good advice from Stevens faculty and a journal club
Mosleh decided to pursue his doctoral degree in systems engineering after five years in industry working as a software and systems integration lead. Stevens offered him the opportunity to explore wide-ranging research problems at the system level.
“Stevens offers a great combination of outstanding academic researchers and faculty with several years of applied research experience at world-class companies.”
“I was interested in the practical and applied aspects of being a systems engineer, but I was also passionate about exploring and contributing to the theoretical foundations of this field,” he said.
He initially learned about Stevens through his social network. A number of his friends were graduate students who were very successful in their programs at Stevens, and then upon graduation, experienced an outstanding transition to the job market.
Ultimately, Mosleh enrolled in the Stevens systems engineering program because of the scientific contributions in his area of interest by the faculty at the School of Systems and Enterprises (SSE). “Stevens offers a great combination of outstanding academic researchers and faculty with several years of applied research experience at world-class companies,” he says. Stevens’ unique location was also a factor in his decision. “It is close to New York City, yet calm and quiet, with an amazing view,” he says.
In discovering the areas he wanted to focus on, he got the opportunity to be part of a journal club and group reading led by Dr. Heydari, assistant professor of systems engineering at SSE, where they studied material that fell within their mutual interest in the area of computational social science and behavioral economics. This experience was what led to his area of research for the postdoctoral study, according to Mosleh.
“Mohsen has had great research progress and achievements in the fields of complex networks and systems sciences during his years at Stevens,” says Heydari. “With leading labs and research centers such as the Institute for Network Science and Human Nature Lab, Yale is a pioneer in interdisciplinary research in these fields. The fact that Mohsen will be affiliated with these labs during his postdoctoral years will create a unique opportunity for him to build on what he has achieved during his graduate studies here at Stevens.”
Getting beyond the challenges in academic research
The doctoral academic journey is paved with much trial. Ph.D. students have to make strategic decisions on which research to pursue or courses to take, and ultimately, determining their career goals.
However, an experienced academic mentor can help with these important decisions.
“Professor Heydari helped me not only with the development of my research, for example taking a systematic approach to solving problems, but also advised me on my own establishment as an independent researcher and in developing skills in doing high-quality research,” says Mosleh.
Mosleh attributes Stevens’ academic and research excellence for playing a major role in his career success, and offers his own advice to present and future doctoral students.
“I think it is important that one follows what he or she is passionate about. There are ups and down with doing Ph.D. research and one should not give up. Moreover, Ph.D. studies are not all about doing great research, but it also offers great opportunities to develop presentation and communication skills, and appreciate the value of teamwork and collaboration – all which are important for a future career in academia or industry,” he says.