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Arriving in the United States from Iran in 2010 as a twenty-three year old, Behzad Aghababazadeh (MS ’13) knew he’d left his safety net behind and would face challenges unlike those at home. But Behzad felt compelled to jump at the chance to stretch himself.

Along with nearly fifty other Iranian students, he arrived in the Midwest through a joint program between University of Tehran and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “It was the first U.S. program authorized after the Iranian revolution,” he explained. “The opportunity—coming from a developing country to a developed country—helped open my eyes to the best practices in the engineering field.”

As a boy, Behzad was interested in electrical engineering—partly because he was drawn to computer hardware. “I had my first PC at the age of ten and began upgrading it myself,” he said. But his dad, who is an electrical engineer himself, was most influential in his career path. “He wanted me to be an engineer because he believes engineers have the most opportunities.”

While visiting home after earning his electrical engineering degree, Behzad realized he wanted something different professionally: to save energy resources instead of creating new ones. He searched for a program and discovered that the Master of Energy Engineering program at UIC offered everything needed to take him there. “Going from electrical to energy was a 180 degree change,” he said. “But I knew I wanted it.”

So he dove in, becoming president of UIC’s Graduate Student Council Sustainability Committee and working as a graduate assistant at UIC’s Energy Resources Center (ERC), where he helped complete energy audits for businesses and organizations. “The projects I did at ERC are exactly what I do now in my fulltime job,” he said.

He’s now worked for one year at Elara Engineering Inc. as an energy engineer providing energy efficiency consultations for Chicago buildings. His recent work includes assessments for Loyola Health Sciences Campus, and the Chicagoan, Dearborn Park, and Aqua condominiums.

“The move changed my life,” Behzad said. “It grew me up. I have good friends here now, a job that I love, and a network of professional connections.”

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