In this installment of Senior Member Insights, OPN talks with Mohammed Elamassie, an assistant professor at Özyeğin University, Turkey. He also serves as the executive codirector of the Centre of Excellence in Optical Wireless Communication Technologies (OKATEM) and the Communication Theory and Technologies (CT&T) Research Group. Elamassie received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in electrical engineering from the Islamic University of Gaza, Palestine, in 2006 and 2011, respectively, and a Ph.D. in electrical and electronics engineering from Özyeğin University in 2020.
Elamassie’s research interests are in the broad area of optical wireless communications. Specific topics include underwater visible light communications, vehicular visible light communications, airborne free-space optical communications, atmospheric channel modeling, diversity techniques for fading mitigation and MIMO communications.
Elamassie received the best paper award at the IEEE International Black Sea Conference on Communications and Networking in 2019. He is also the recipient of the 2020 IEEE Turkey Doctoral Dissertation Award. Elamassie is actively engaged in the academic community. He holds senior memberships in both IEEE and Optica and is an Optica Traveling Lecturer. In addition, he serves as a review editor on the editorial boards of Frontiers in Communications and Networks’ specialty sections, “Non-Conventional Communications and Networks” and “Wireless Communications.”
“I was drawn to science because it’s all about improving people’s lives. It’s not about appearances, backgrounds or beliefs—it’s about using our minds to understand the world and help others.”
What first interested you in pursuing science?
I was drawn to science because it’s all about improving people’s lives. It’s not about appearances, backgrounds or beliefs—it’s about using our minds to understand the world and help others. Science values everyone’s ideas and focuses on improving our lives together. That’s why I love science.
If your ten-year-younger self was looking at your career now, what would he/she be most surprised by?
Seeing my current career through my 10-year-younger eyes is a bit tricky. It helps to stay motivated for the future when I think about where I’ve come from. But I’ve realized that success isn’t just about me—many people played a part, some I recognize and others I might not. Even small things, like a smile from a kid during my morning commute to work, can boost my mood for more and better accomplishment. Looking back, I feel proud of what I’ve achieved and the obstacles I’ve managed to overcome. It’s a really good feeling.
What tips for successful networking do you have for early-career professionals?
Stand out by thinking bigger. Don’t just think of small steps and ordinary work. While these are needed to meet graduation requirements quickly, aim higher. Aim to impress yourself, not just your workplace. Innovation beats competition. Create something new and exciting to be proud of.
Be responsible for your words or actions. When you talk, make sure what you say is accurate. Don’t just say you heard it somewhere; take responsibility for the correctness of your information.
Respect experience. Older professionals have learned a lot over time. A short piece of advice from them can result from many years of learning. Don’t underestimate their wisdom.
Show gratitude. If someone helps you, genuinely thank them. Let your gratitude show through your words. When you’re thankful from the bottom of your heart, people can sense your sincerity.
Stay positive. Don’t give up easily. Challenges can be overcome with persistence and a positive attitude.
Collaborate and demonstrate respect. When you work with others, put in effort and appreciate their work, too. Collaboration involves mutual respect and combined effort. Networking is about building meaningful relationships and learning from others while contributing to your strengths.
Believe in yourself. Trust your abilities. You have the skills to succeed.
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made, and why?
Being creative in your career is essential, and I found the best career path after switching to academia from working as a design and supervising engineer. While I’m proud of my previous job, this change perfectly fits what I care about and enjoy.
I worked as an electrical engineer for several years at the engineering office of the Ministry of Health. My responsibilities included designing electrical layouts for various healthcare sectors, encompassing all aspects of electrical work, such as lighting. This covered a range of spaces, including surgical operation rooms, recovery rooms and even infant incubators.
“Moving to academia changed my career in a big way. It taught me to be okay with change, follow what I love and think in fresh ways.”
However, the idea of sharing new thoughts pulled me toward academia. This choice agrees with my belief that developing creative ideas and taking action are important in any job. In academia, it is possible to be creative, learn from smart peers and explore new research.
Moving to academia changed my career in a big way. It taught me to be okay with change, follow what I love and think in fresh ways. This decision made my career better and made me believe even more in being able to adjust and think differently. Looking ahead, I see every part of my career as a chance to grow creatively.
What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a career like yours?
A solid grounding in mathematics is essential for generating impactful research. Proficiency in programming using MATLAB and/or Python is a prerequisite, along with being a senior member of esteemed associations such as Optica and IEEE.
In addition, a successful researcher should possess a range of other skills. These include a strong passion, the ability to maintain patience, a commitment to consistent and extensive reading and a humble attitude combined with a hunger for acquiring more knowledge.
Describe a major turning point in your career. Was there a specific action/accomplishment that got you there?
A big turning point in my professional journey was when I got my Ph.D. in electrical and electronics engineering from Özyeğin University. While it is an important point, to me, the Ph.D. degree is not the ceiling. Rather, it is the start of something new. This accomplishment marked the beginning of a real effort to help make technology better for people. I want to use my gained skills to improve and advance technology for the greater good.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you were given as a student/early in your career?
Looking back, life was all about fun and games when I was young. If I were to go back to those times, I don’t know if being really serious would fit. But now that I’ve grown up, I’ve learned the value of being serious about things.
“Whenever things don’t go as planned, it’s like a chance to improve and get closer to what you want.” —Mohammed Elamassie
So, here’s my advice for students: take things seriously, especially your studies. Don’t just read to pass exams; read to really understand. Mistakes and failures aren’t something to be scared of. Instead, they can teach you the important stuff and help you become better. Whenever things don’t go as planned, it’s like a chance to improve and get closer to what you want. So, keep a mix of the fun side of being young and the serious side of reaching your goals.
What have you learned by being a mentor to others, and what have you learned from mentors who helped shepherd your career?
Mentoring has taught me a lot about working together and learning. As a mentor, I’ve learned how important it is to understand others and share ideas in a group. Mentors give really good advice, which has helped me in my career. This has shown me that being humble, always learning and having a strong professional network are really important for doing well in your job.
Helping others as a mentor is tough because it can affect their choices. But it’s been easier when I’ve been the one getting advice. I need to be grateful for my mentors’ help and think about what they said before deciding. In conclusion, mentor and mentee relationships have made me better understand people and how they make decisions. All of this has helped me improve both at my job and as a person.
At this point in your career, what are you most looking forward to next?
I recently started my job as an assistant professor at Özyeğin University. I also became an executive codirector at OKATEM Lab and the CT&T Research Group. Therefore, there are a bunch of exciting things I’m looking forward to. I’m really excited about showing my skills in these three areas. I want to help out with research projects and also be a mentor to grad students. I think it’s important to work together and develop new ideas.
I will also try to get funding for research projects. This will help me do more research and support more students. I’m also interested in exploring new research areas and keeping up with the latest trends in our field. Looking further, when I become an associate professor, I’m hoping to start a new research group. This will let me bring together other researchers and help guide them. It’s a great way to share knowledge and make a difference.
In a nutshell, I’m really excited about the opportunities coming my way. I want to make a mark in research, teaching and leading groups, and I’m eager to see where this takes me.