PhD Graduate Dr Karama HAMDI

Reaching new horizons: from research engineer to nurturing next achievers - Dr. Karama HAMDI finds fulfillment in helping students emulate her success

Dr. Karama HAMDI received both of her MPhil and PhD degrees in Electronic and Computer Engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).
Dr. Karama HAMDI attained both of her MPhil and PhD degrees in Electronic and Computer Engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

“My years at the HKUST have made me grow into someone who is stronger, more independent and has a broader mind,” says Dr. Karama HAMDI, an HKUST alumna with MPhil and PhD degrees in Electronic and Computer Engineering. Leveraging her expertise in wireless communication, she has evolved to take a leading role in nurturing the new generation of digital natives at Qatar University in Doha, guiding them to unlock their full potential.

Having completed her Bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering and senior project in artificial intelligence in Tunisia, Karama was keen to explore new prospects. “I dreamed of pursuing postgraduate studies in Southeast Asia because of its cultural and geographical diversity. The HKUST’s strength in different aspects of computing gave me the confidence to gain a multi-disciplinary background. I made the right choice,” she recalls.

Wireless communication has long been the fastest growing and most vibrant technological arena. Karama began exploring this field under the supervision of Prof. Khaled BEN LETAIEF, Chair Professor at the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering. “He is my idol. I learned a lot from his impressive knowledge. He provided mentorship when I ran into difficulties, and pulled me through when I thought about giving up. He really shaped my life at that time,” she says, expressing her heartfelt appreciation of the professor’s guidance.  

Besides her admiration for the magnificent scenery at HKUST, it was the role she played in a Chinese opera that was one of her fondest memories of campus life. “I performed before an audience wearing full make-up and traditional costumes. We trained in advance for the special moves we had to make on stage. It gave me a rare exposure to Chinese culture. The experience was mesmerizing,” Karama says with a grin.

Redefining herself to lift others to success

Karama progressed to Qatar University for postdoctoral research and teaching before landing her current job in 2014 as Head of Academic Advising at the College of Engineering. She is responsible for managing a team of 12 academic advisors who help undergraduate students realise their aspirations. 

In transitioning from pure research to senior administration, Karama found that the skills she had developed during her PhD studies were beneficial in her new role. “Things like objective-based planning, problem-solving, and perseverance were helpful. My expertise in communication technology boosted my team’s productivity, particularly during the pandemic. I really cherish the opportunity of working under the umbrella of higher education,” adding that she took courses in project management and team dynamics to enhance her advisory proficiencies. 

Looking ahead to the near future, Karama vows to continue exploring new expertise in order to best accommodate the rapidly changing needs of students. “My dream is to provide my advisory capabilities outside my current institution, and reach out to students in need around the world.” 

“My motto in life is ‘I achieve success because I expect success’. When you envisage yourself to excel, your mind stays positive, and you will achieve whatever you want. I always tell my students they have to have confidence in themselves.”

New gender balance in engineering 

With a background in academic advising as well as electronic engineering, Karama was able to observe an interesting trend in the engineering student population in Qatar. “There are more female students than male ones, in a proportion of about 60:40. And this is in a field that is often viewed as a tough, male-dominated one.” 

To encourage young women wishing to become engineers, Karama would suggest them to be resolute in their determination and assured in their self-confidence. “There is no easy path to success. But dare to dream, take risks, and keep challenging yourself to bring those dreams to reality. Every small achievement is a step in the right direction.”

“I believe in the power of progress. Imagine how good it feels when we achieve a major breakthrough. These big wins are great, but they are relatively rare. However, the small wins can boost our confidence tremendously, reminding us to persevere because it is the baby steps that add up to achieving our big goals.”

Practical advice for research students

In her role as an academic advisor, Dr. Karama HAMDI has shared these useful tips with her students at Qatar University. These may also be of benefit to research postgraduates who are about to take new paths: 

  • Develop soft skills – Hone your oral and written communication competences, which are just as valuable as technical know-how.
  • Keep yourself up to date – Stay abreast of technology trends and applications, as they will motivate your research.
  • Commit yourself to goals – Learn to set goals, and be consistent, firm and dedicated towards achieving them. But remember, there is no harm in changing those goals if you find they are no longer suitable. 
  • Stay focused – Minimize unnecessary distractions.
  • Take risks – Find your passion and unleash your full potential by challenging yourself outside your comfort zone.