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Montgomery College Student Success Stories

Out of the Ravages of War, a Young Iranian Girl Discovered Her Future Vocation
Montgomery College Today, Fall '04

Niloo Ghaemi MC alumna Niloo Ghaemi discovered her vocation in a bomb cellar in Iran. In the winter of 1987, Ghaemi and her extended family evacuated their homes and took refuge from the Iraqi bombing of Tehran in the basement of her uncle’s knitting factory which had been converted into a bomb shelter. Out of boredom, Ghaemi would wriggle under the huge textile-making machines, gazing up at the intricate gears and bolts. “How could anything so huge make something so nice and delicate?” she recalls thinking to herself. “Someday, I want to create these gigantic, powerful machines.” The factory helped Ghaemi escape the sirens, the bombs, and the war as she invisioned her future. “I dreamed of the day when I would get the opportunity to study and understand such machines. Those thoughts have carried me to where I am today,” she said.

Ghaemi and her family moved to Vancouver, Canada when she was in the sixth grade. She naturally assumed she would study literature—her father had taught her Persian when she was three—believing she couldn’t go into math or science “because I was a girl.”

Switching Gears
Several years later, the family relocated to the D.C. area, and Ghaemi switched gears, taking computer courses at Montgomery College. But her heart wasn’t in it, so a friend suggested she talk to Rockville Campus Engineering Professor Don Day. Day, a beloved mentor to legions of MC engineering students, knows precisely what strings to pull to get his protégés whatever support they need—financial, academic, transfer, and—emotional. He also has an impressive track record of helping his engineering students gain entry into some of the nation’s top engineering schools. “At first, I was scared of Dr. Day,” said Ghaemi. “I heard how tough his tests were, how straightforward he was. But he is an amazing, supportive person. He really made a big difference. I’ve never seen a professor care so much. He always pushes you to go get what you want.”

Engineering Success
The switch of majors clicked for Ghaemi. “Engineering excites me and I feel that I will be able to go anywhere with my degree,” she said. Ghaemi transferred this fall to Georgia Tech to study mechanical engineering. In her two years at the Rockville Campus, Ghaemi says that MC provided her with every possible opportunity. With Day’s encouragement, she reestablished a student organization, Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology. She became vice president of the Engineering Club. She was a guest panelist at the College’s Sonia Kovalevsky Day, a nationwide celebration designed to encourage young girls to explore the fields of math and science. She tutored at the Math and Science Center and worked in the Engineering Department as a teacher’s assistant. And she worked on a research team sponsored by the chemical engineering department at the University of Maryland, College Park.

“I sometimes feel that becoming an engineer in a male-dominated field requires me not only to be good, but also to be better,” said Ghaemi. “To become a female engineer is an incentive for me. It motivates me to pursue my dreams, to excel, and to encourage other girls not to get discouraged or intimidated.”