CLEMSON — A Clemson University student made national history last month as the first woman in the country to earn a Ph.D. in automotive engineering.
Ala Qattawi was among nearly 200 students in Clemson’s automotive engineering program pursuing graduate degrees in the male-dominated field.
Qattawi’s work involves concept cars and establishing a scientific approach for the design of structural origami in folded sheet metal. She said the technology will improve automobile efficiency and functionality.
“The full achievement of products with respect to origami applications has different manufacturing procedures and different design guidelines and requirements,” said Qattawi, who is a research assistant at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. “It’s an emerging science. The anticipation of this process can make lighter-weight products and more complicated shapes with fewer operations in manufacturing.”
Qattawi said time saved in the design and manufacture of vehicles means savings for consumers.
Qattawi studied industrial engineering at the Jordan University of Science and Technology and graduated at the top of her class. She said she always enjoyed math and science and determined early on that she would pursue a career in automotive engineering.
“I like to solve problems and I like physics and chemistry a lot,” Qattawi said. “I like to learn how things work and how to actually manufacture something or design it from scratch.”
Qattawi acknowledges there are few female role models in her field. She hopes her accomplishments will inspire more women to pursue careers in engineering.
“Engineering exists everywhere. We use all the applications of it. We use all the tools and products that are actually designed and manufactured by engineers,” Qattawi said. “Good role models will encourage women to recognize their abilities.”
“Ms. Qattawi’s accomplishment is exemplary of the tradition CU-ICAR has in being first to deliver exceptional talent at the Ph.D. level to the automotive industry,” said Imtiaz Haque, executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center and chairman of the automotive engineering department.
“It also shows our passion and commitment to professionally developing women with outstanding capabilities for today’s and tomorrow’s talent pool,” he said. “Clemson University is extremely proud of Ms. Qattawi and her accomplishment.”
“This is a momentous time for our automotive engineering program and an inspiring occasion for our current and future female students,” said professor Laine Mears, the automotive engineering graduate program coordinator.
Qattawi gained more at Clemson than even she expected. She met her husband, Mahmoud Abdlehamid, at the university. He also is working on his Ph.D. in automotive engineering.
The couple recently welcomed home a new addition to the family: their first child. Baby Kareem was born Nov. 23.