Humans of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science

Michael Shahroodi

PhD Council

Personal leadership is not only about improving yourself, and your own skills, but it is also about supporting others and bringing about change. In this series of Humans of EEMCS, we talk to four people who are dedicated to personal leadership causes within the faculty, in addition to their normal duties. This fall, for example, there are elections for the EEMCS OdC. We find out what drives people to use their personal leadership skills to devote themselves to these and other committees.

“For me, personal leadership is about taking initiative. It’s about identifying a problem or challenge and instead of sidestepping it, going beyond your responsibilities in terms of your contract, for example, and crafting solutions.

My drive to solve issues has also led me to join the PhD Council. I met the former chair of the council at a PhD event. We were discussing some issues that we had heard about from other PhD students. We had ideas on how to solve or improve these issues. And then it just clicked: There are solutions, and they are also low-cost. Can we initiate the solutions? We realized we don’t need someone else to push it forward or initiate it. So we did it. And that is how I got nominated for the role in the PhD council.

Whenever I can conceive a solution to a problem, I feel compelled to act. This might be my drive, but it might also be a matter of prioritization. Either way, solving these issues is definitely worth my time, similar to the research I am doing. I think I learned my problem-solving approach from my parents, and particularly from my father. He was very much like that. He would always solve problems immediately, which I think is very inspiring.

Many difficulties are common among PhD students, and it's often assumed that since they've persisted for years, change is impossible. With the PhD council, we aim to debunk those thoughts. That’s why we have recently conducted a survey about the issues and concerns that PhD students experience. The preliminary results of the survey show a pattern across departments. For example, many PhD students had problems with advisement and their unmet expectations. We will release the results of the survey soon, and we hope they will help us find solutions. But I would also advise PhDs to check the results themselves. It might also help them see that they are not alone in some of these issues.

Next to the PhD Council, I like to provide solutions to PhD students through coaching. It just so happened that I started to do that for new PhDs. I just talk with them if they have questions or issues that they run into. And I think it is great to see that other PhD students are starting to do similar activities. One of them, for example, just joined a student representative body.

By taking part in activities like the PhD council, I help others, but I also learn many new skills myself. As an illustration, I am currently recording a PhD Council podcast series. In this podcast, I am talking to a lot of fellow PhDs about their research projects and experiences. This initiative allows me to expand my knowledge, sharpen organizational abilities, improve interviewing skills, develop editorial capabilities, etcetera! By the way, we are always looking for guests to join the podcast. It will give your research project exposure, and it will also help you to explain your research to others. Who knows, maybe it will even help to explain your research to your grandmother. Are you interested? Just send me an e-mail. 

The same goes for any questions or issues you might have as a PhD. Send us an e-mail at It is confidential, and we will try to help you in any way we can. And if it’s not up to us, we can provide feedback and guidance in regards to where to go to solve it.

In the future, I hope that everything will be more streamlined at the university, for example, in terms of forms being processed and in terms of complaints being delivered and handled. And I want to solve the first three issues that will be raised in the survey results. And make sure that it happens.

I am excited for the future and to work together on solving problems. Because every opinion matters and every idea can spark a change. So let’s continue this narrative together!”

Photo Location: Cafe Labs