Global Engagement

Student Profiles

Ammar Ahmed

Ammar AhmedAge: 26 years
Country of origin: Pakistan
Major at Clemson: Ph.D. in systems engineering at CU-ICAR
First semester at Clemson: Spring 2009

What other university/s have you attended?
GIK Institute (Pakistan), Lawrence Technological University (Southfield, Mich.), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.

Why did you choose to come to Clemson?
I always wanted a place where I could encounter the richest set of perspectives and views outside my own. What impresses me more about Clemson is that it is really not about achieving individual success, but about determining how will we make our impact on the world around us. Not only has Clemson given me an extraordinary opportunity to obtain my Ph.D., the highest degree one can earn, but also sleepless nights and the first step to self improvement. I was working for TRW as Systems engineer when I first made up my mind to go for a Ph.D., and at that time I said to myself, “I will only go to a place of learning where my research advisor is best in his rank and the environment is state-of-the-art.” Fortunately I found both of them. My advisor, Dr. Paul Venhovens, has achieved everything I used to imagine, and by learning from his real-life experiences in BMW, Munich, as well as his broad experience, it makes me believe that anything is possible. We do our research in CU-ICAR — Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research — a world-class facility built in joint partnership with BMW.

What advice would you give to a new International student coming to Clemson?

I was always been inspired by the lives of JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, and Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of Tour De France and a cancer survivor. I have come up with these two answers — Benefits of Failure and Power of Imagination.

Benefits of Failure: What I felt most for myself at your stage when I first came to United States was not desire for success, but fear of failure. I know I am not dull enough to suppose that you guys have never known hardship or heartbreak, but remember talent and intelligence never inoculate anyone against the caprice of the Fates.

Failure entails fear and stress and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default. But climbing out of failure by your own effort is indeed something on which to pride yourself. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will and more discipline than I had suspected. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.

I chose my second theme, the Power of Imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my career. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. It is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared. One of the greatest formative experiences of my life was to see the people in my locality waking up everyday just imagining that today their fortune would change; always optimistic about life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand from others, without having experience, even if our nationalities set us apart. But contrary to that, many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside poor lives; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know. As Greek author Plutarch once wrote in his writings— What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

What about Clemson (or the United States) was different than you expected?
In this six months in Clemson, I have become more confident about my abilities, that I can succeed in any sector. The faculty here wants to help build not just technical skills but the whole person. It’s like a basic training where they help you find the blind spots in your research area as I am becoming more comfortable tackling complex managerial challenges with imperfect information. At CU-ICAR I found education is not about facts in textbooks, but something that changes inside of us. What I like the most about this place is that you can create your own opportunities.

What types of on-campus activities (student organizations, research and jobs) are/were you involved in?
I have been at Clemson University for six months now, and I feel comfortable with my own incompleteness. I have served as a senator in Graduate Student Government, Social Chair CU-ICAR Student Association and as student member in Clemson Muslim Student Association. I am team member of indoor soccer team, and I also like playing volleyball.

What is your favorite place on/near campus?

My favorite place on campus is Fike Recreation Center and the Clemson Library. Near campus, it’s Starbucks coffee shop.

What are your plans after graduation?

My short-term goal involves consulting and working in the industry, and for long term, I am interested in entrepreneurship and plan to start my own business or work with other entrepreneurs. I want to create synergy by combining engineering and business together.

What are you career plans/aspirations?

I want to live a life where I can share positive energy, confidence, inspiration and compassion and the number of dreams I hope I can help others to achieve and perhaps also by taking an entrepreneurial idea to the next level.