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K-State Today

July 21, 2014

Khan receives K-State Salina faculty fellow award

Submitted by Julee Cobb

Kansas State University Salina electronic and computer engineering technology professor Saeed Khan has been named the recipient of the university's Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award for the 2013-2014 school year.

The honor was given to Khan after he was nominated by a department head, with the McArthur selection committee making the final decision. The distinction, presented each year, represents a faculty member who has demonstrated teaching excellence, a commitment to research and honorable service to the university, college and community. The McArthur family, longtime residents of the area, established the award to support education in Salina.

Khan first began teaching at the university in 1997 as a part time, temporary professor. He moved to Kansas because his wife, Louise, whom he met at graduate school, was hired on the Manhattan campus as an associate professor of history. A year later, Khan joined K-State Salina as a full-time faculty member in electronic and computer engineering technology.

Khan was born and raised in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. Although teaching seems to run in his family — both of his brothers have been college professors and his mother was a middle school teacher — engineering did not. In fact, it was the medical field that Khan was expected to pursue since his grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were all doctors.

"For a young person in Bangladesh, there are really only two respectable careers: medicine and engineering," Khan said. "I come from a long line of doctors, and even though I was accepted into medical school, I just couldn't stand the sight of performing surgery."

Khan attended the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, the oldest and most prestigious engineering institution in that region. As a child, Khan remembers playing outside with his brothers in trenches leftover from the Bangladesh Liberation War. They would create mini construction sites for their toys, and this is where Khan's curiosity for engineering began.

Also as a child, Khan and his family traveled a great deal because of his father's job as a civil service officer. They spent time in Boston while Khan's father was receiving training at Harvard. The sights and sounds of New England were never far from his mind after that trip, and when it came time to apply to graduate school, Khan knew he belonged in the northeast United States. So he attended the University of Connecticut, where he received master's and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering.

At K-State Salina, some of the prominent skills Khan's students acquire are how to design, build and program circuits as well as gain a solid background in digital electronics, the electromagnetic spectrum and fiber optic systems. But one of the most important things he has realized in the classroom is the need for collaboration amongst other programs.

"A few years ago, some of my students entered a project called a 'cantenna' in the American Society of Engineering Education's regional contest and they won first place," Khan said. "It was a giant antenna made out of cans that allowed people to communicate up to 15 miles apart. The technology of the project would have been useless if we hadn't worked together with the mechanical engineering students to build it."

Khan not only believes in offering curriculum based on teamwork with other engineering programs at K-State Salina, but also preparing his students to be able to thrive in the global market. The two applied research projects he is currently exploring — wireless power transfer and navigation of unmanned systems in urban canyons — are a primary fixture in his classroom lectures. Khan wants his students to be creative and innovative, so sharing his research findings gives them an even greater understanding of problem-solving and exposes them to modern practices found in other countries.

Maybe it was the traveling he did as a child or even growing up in another part of the world, but Khan also encourages his students to live and work outside of the United States to gain a different perspective on engineering.

In the end, though, Khan says a student's experience always comes down to the attitude and atmosphere in the classroom.

"As a teacher, it shows if you don't love what you do," Khan said. "If my students aren't having fun, I know I'm doing something wrong. I'm really happy I was given the McArthur award because it validates my hope that every day, I'm doing something right."