IIT Alumni Association


One of the important lessons that I learned upon my arrival to the United States centers on the value of the practical experience available to undergraduate students in order for them to explore and prepare for a career that will be rewarding – both professionally and personally – and fulfilling. At Illinois Tech, co-ops and internships provide the opportunity to work in a professional setting for a time- period of three to eight months to gain “curricular practical training” in an area related to their field of academic study.

Is such programs, the company will have a training program where they introduce the student to the daily life of a young professional within a particular field; students gain skills within their future career pathway and also practical life lessons including the fundamental competencies and attributes necessary to be successful. In addition, students learn to be resourceful, to work on diverse teams, to ask questions, and to take responsibilities on many different levels. The work is challenging because the problems are often undefined but these experiences also give you an opportunity to learn in ways not possible in the classroom.

One of the challenges as a recent transfer student from the University of Damascus in Syria was the lack of connection, or a network. I was new to Illinois Tech, and to the United States and I wondered how I might secure an good internship program. Luckily enough, Illinois Institute of Technology has a strong Alumni Association that connects recent graduates of the university who have launched their careers and businesses with aspiring students like myself who are just about to start their careers. Students can go to the alumni association and ask to be connected with one of the graduates who may provide guidance and mentoring. Formally – and informally – I found this network to be amazing, and certainly one that I had not expected.

Through the alumni association I was introduced to Mr. Said Al-hallaj, the founder and CEO of AllCell, and himself a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Illinois Tech. After applying for a co-op and interviewing with Said and the team at AllCell, I had the chance to participate in a Co-Op program with AllCell, and this was a turning point in my career. Among the memories that I have taken with me from my co-op was diversity of the staff, the mentoring and coaching that I received and the fact that Said was not only providing opportunities for me but that he had other undergraduate and graduate students as interns and co-ops and that he had hired other graduates of IIT. AllCell was a microcosm of Illinois Tech and testing and training ground for entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers.

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I would like to close with this lesson. When I first arrived, Said and so many others reached out to me when I asked questions and inquired about everything. I have been swept up into this Scarlet Hawk enthusiasm, and now as a Spring 2015 graduate of Illinois Tech, I know look forward to the emails and LinkedIn messages from current undergraduates with questions. Though I am less than six months into my career, I know that I have a responsibility to share what has been given to me to others.

In my next post I will talk more in details about the program, the lessons, and skills I gained, and how I was able to use this program as a starting point in my professional career.

Safouh Takrouri

Electrical and Computer Engineering | Armour College of Engineering

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Gerald Doyle says:


    About AllCell

    AllCell Technologies designs and manufactures lithium-ion battery packs for portable, stationary, and transportation applications. Our patented thermal management technology allows production of compact, lightweight, and long-lasting batteries. AllCell’s thermal management technology is based on the use of phase change materials (PCM) to surround each lithium-ion cell, absorbing and conducting heat away to dramatically extend the life of the cells and prevent fire or damage to the battery. AllCell’s products avoid the need for expensive, complicated, and inefficient active thermal management systems, replacing pumps, motors, and hoses with an elegant passive system that requires no energy to operate and has no moving parts.

    AllCell produces several lines of standard batteries and also collaborates with our customers to design, test, and manufacture high-quality custom batteries for a wide variety of applications. Funded in part by a generous grant from the State of Illinois, AllCell recently completed an expansion of our production facility in Chicago that allows us to economically produce batteries in both large and small lot sizes.

    The thermal management technology that lies at the heart of all of our batteries was originally developed by a team of engineers at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Our technology was initially developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Future Force Warrior Program, which was in need of small, lightweight batteries that could withstand high discharge rates in extremely hot weather. As a result of that work, AllCell’s two founders (Said Al-Hallaj and J. Robert Selman) secured U.S. and international patents that cover the use of any type of phase change material for thermal management within electrochemical batteries or fuel cells. A list of peer-reviewed academic journal articles on the use of phase change materials for thermal management is available on our publications page.

  2. Gerald Doyle says:

    About Armour

    IIT Armour College of Engineering (ACE) traces its roots to Armour Institute; founded in 1890. Armour Institute was founded after minister Frank W. Gunsaulus gave what is now known as the “Million Dollar Sermon.” At a time when higher education was reserved for society’s elite, Mr. Gunsaulus called for the donation of a million dollars to build a school that would prepare students of all backgrounds for leadership roles primarily as engineers in a changing industrial society. Philip Danforth Armour a prominent Chicago meat packer and grain merchant heard Gunsaulus’ call and made the donation. Armour also stipulated that Gunsaulus become the first president of the school, a position Gunsaulus held from the school’s founding in 1890 until his death in 1921. Some innovative inventions that stem from research at ACE are the cell phone, magnetic tape recording, and barcodes.

    The mission of Armour College of Engineering (ACE) today remains preparing engineering students to be the innovators and entrepreneurs that will shape the future. In order to facilitate a collaborative educational approach ACE launched Armour R&D. Students are given the opportunity to explore topics of high priority and relevance throughout their undergraduate degrees. These themes include water, health, energy, and security. Students will have the opportunity to further explore these topics with the Program for Undergraduate Research in Engineering (PURE), Mentoring, Innovation and Development (MIND), and Student-led projects. The Inter-professional Program (IPRO) was developed at IIT and consists of student teams from the junior through graduate levels, representing the breadth of the university’s disciplines and professional programs that work to solve a real-world problem.

    A diverse student body provides an environment where students can draw from each other’s unique experience to tackle problems that affect the world. Armour College of Engineering’s has over 2,300 students, of which 48% are from foreign countries. Engineering is a field dominated by males, but ACE is proud to share that 25% of students are female and is currently lead by its first female Dean, Natacha DePaola, PhD. ACE students make up over 33% of the entire student body at IIT, making it the largest of the schools that collectively make up IIT.

    Under the direction of Dean Natacha DePaola, Ph.D., Armour College of Engineering has risen among the ranks of all public, private, and national universities achieving a rank of 59th in the United States in 2014. ACE also boasts and exceptional job placement rate of over 80% of graduating students in 2012. Not only do our alumni find jobs, they get paid more. IIT was also ranked #5 among Midwestern universities for the salary potential of its graduates that earn a bachelors degree.

    Armour College of Engineering (ACE) understands that forward thinking is necessary to remain at the cutting edge of engineering. The school is currently renovating what has been known as the Engineering 1 Building in order to bring it into the 21st century. It will be christened the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center and will make a defining statement about the university’s distinctive brand of engineering education. The five engineering concentrations that make up ACE are currently located in several buildings on the IIT campus. This creates not just physical separations, it impedes collaboration and the exchange of information and knowledge. Moreover, teaching methods have evolved beyond the traditional classroom model and now necessitate spaces and environments that promote a fluid and multi-directional exchange of ideas and information. ACE has also launched several initiatives to promote women’s role in engineering.

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