Interview with Dr. Ali Khamesipour - STC’s new Program Manager and Assistant Professor

Faculty Recognition – Interview with Dr. Ali Khamesipour 

I received my Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Southern Illinois University in August 2018. I was employed as the Director of R&D at HomeWAV, A Video Visitation Solution for Correctional Facilities, based in St Louis, Missouri. My focus at HomeWAV was on optimizing the available solutions for the company’s product development and maintenance. My academic research interests are three folds: Bioinformatics, Healthcare/Clinical Informatics, and Bridging Industry-Academia.   

Radana:  Ali, welcome to CityU and the School of Technology and Computing, we are absolutely delighted that you joined our dynamic team! Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the STC Thursday ByteLet’s start off by telling us about your career path that brought you to where you are today. 

Ali: My Ph.D. at Southern Illinois University was mainly focused on Biomarker discovery methods based on Differentially Expressed genes in Micro-array data. Biomarkers are mainly used for predicting the incidence of cancer or other genetic disorders. During my Ph.D., I worked with multiple research groups in different research projects during my graduate studies at SIUC. I have mainly worked on Software Reengineering for Emerging Computing Paradigms. I was very interested in applying the knowledge I had gained from the research group to the classes I was teaching for the Information Systems Technology department (e.g. I used drone programming as a project for Server-side Web Development using JavaScript).  I also joined a project for the Development of a Clinical Decision Support System to Support Healthcare Providers during Tobacco Cessation Interventions. I firmly believe that strong collaboration is a necessity for a highquality research in interdisciplinary fields such as Bioinformatics and Clinical and Health Informatics.  
      During my Ph.D., I also taught multiple courses as a lecturer for the departments of Information Systems Technologies and Electronics System Technologies including, Server-Side Web Development, Mobile Programming, Client-Side Web Development, Advanced Java Programming, Imaging, and Information Systems in Healthcare and Introduction to Biomedical Instrumentation. Soon I realized my endless passion for teaching, especially in a non-traditional setup.  

Radana: Thank you – you come with a wealth of experience which will greatly benefit our students and department. What is one thing you wish you had known when you began your career? 

Ali:  One very important feature that usually does not receive enough credit, especially in a traditional education institute, is that education needs to follow a certain path which requires to be in-line with market needs. This is where bridging the gap between academia and industry plays a vital role.  

Radana:  Completely agree!! The industry has been saying that for years, and traditional universities are finally listening. How do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of things within your current role/area of expertise? 

Ali:  This is a very interesting question, thanks for asking. My approach for this matter has two main steps: First, to study the needs in a field in an industry that can be satisfied with the resources we have in hand, our students, and their capabilities. This is a valuable resource that can be used to focus on solving a problem that exists inside a business while teaching the student’s skill sets that they will need in developing their career path. 

Radana: Great answer, thank you. What are some of the things you’re researching and/or learning right now? 

Ali:  In my past job, my main area of focus had been on streamlining and automating certain repetitive processes. I have also had a focus on proper documentation to ensure contingency. I will be improving my skill set in these areas due to the importance. Consistency and contingency are two key aspects of every service and business. 

Radana: Indeed. We hear about success, but I think it is more powerful for our readers to hear you talk about your biggest failure (which I prefer to call biggest lesson); can you tell us about your biggest lesson, and what you learned from it? 

 Ali: I have failed many times in my professional career since I have switched majors more I probably should have. Every failure was a lesson learned. One should not be afraid of failure, on the other hand, we should be worried if we do not fail from time to time. One of my biggest failures happened in my previous role as R&D when I delivered a service that was a complete failure initially. This service turned out to be the key to the business scaling in terms of management and maintenance of the service after it was released.  

Radana: Thank you for sharing, you are absolutely right to say ‘one should not be afraid of failure’, by nature, I think we are, and it is the entrepreneurs that are not afraid of failing, that do great things, Elon Musk comes to mind. What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours? 

Ali:  My biggest advice to anybody who would want to follow a career would start with the big picture. We all need to have a goal to follow. Once we have a goal in mind, we can plan to get to it. In this case, every failure is us getting one step closer to our goal. 

Radana:  Great advice! What are the best resources that have helped you along the way? 

Ali:  The best resource is the mentors an individual will meet down the road. People that have followed a similar path have extremely valuable information to share that can always shorten the path to success.  

Radana: Mentors and collaborators are a key – I agree. What is the one common myth about your profession or field that you want to debunk? 

Ali:  I strongly believe in personalized education. One beauty about fields like data science and computer science is the fact that projects can have a flavor of real-life problems. I think traditional approaches in teaching are not enough in today’s world with all of the available resources.   

Radana: Great insight and I would agree with you. What have you read or listened to recently that inspired you?  

Ali: I have been intrigued recently by 1) The book Outliers: The story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and 2) A Systems thinking approach in teaching by Russel Ackoff that was done many decades ago to teach African American children how to read and write in an environment that there was absolutely no interest due to the cultural beliefs in the community. 

Radana: I read Gladwell’s book – great insights. I will have to put the other one on my reading list, thank you for sharing. Where can our students connect with you online? 

Ali:  I will be available through MS Teams and through email for CityU students. I do frequently check my LinkedIn account as well if that is a preferred communication channel. 

Radana: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, it has been a sheer pleasure. I look forward to working with you. Again, welcome to CityU and STC!