Abul Azad

Professor, Department of Engineering Technology

Abul Azad

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
Dahka, Bangladesh, is my hometown. I currently live in Sycamore, Illinois.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.

In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Engineering Technology

What do you like about working at NIU?
The university values diversity and inclusion, fostering a vibrant and welcoming campus community for students and faculty alike. NIU offers the benefits of a suburban campus environment while still being close to major metropolitan areas like Naperville, Rockford and Chicago. The university boasts accomplished faculty members who are experts in their fields, providing students with quality education and mentorship.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Stay organized with your academic program, get involved, seek help when needed, explore your interests, build your network, embrace failure and, most importantly, manage your time wisely.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud technologies are my current areas of interest. I lead a number of projects in these areas. One of the recent projects involves machine-to-machine collaboration where a drone and two ground vehicles collaborate through a base station to implement a system that can be utilized for an indoor search and rescue operation. Machine learning is utilized for modelling the drone’s flight path as well as for ground vehicle navigation through obstacles. The developed system was implemented on a field trial, and it was demonstrated successfully.

What do you enjoy most about mentoring students?
What I enjoy most about mentoring students is the opportunity to make a positive impact on their lives. It's incredibly rewarding to see students grow, learn and succeed as a result of our mentoring relationship. I also enjoy the chance to share my knowledge, skills and experiences with students and help them navigate challenges along their academic and career journey. Additionally, mentoring allows me to stay connected to the latest developments in my field and gain fresh perspectives and insights from students. Overall, the sense of fulfillment that comes from helping students achieve their goals and realize their potential is what I find most gratifying about mentoring.

What do you hope students take away from their college experience?
The first and main goal is to get academic knowledge. In addition, there are a number of areas one can enhance, like critical thinking and problem-solving skills, professional skills and preparedness, networking and relationships, cultural awareness and diversity, and an attitude for lifelong learning.

Overall, the college experience should be transformative, equipping students with the knowledge, skills and perspectives they need to thrive in an ever-changing world.

What’s one thing about NIU that’s surprised you?
Despite being located outside of major metropolitan areas, NIU has a strong reputation for collaboration with major national laboratories and has made significant contributions to fields such as STEM, education and the arts. The university's dedication to advancing knowledge and fostering innovation is impressive and showcases its ability to compete on a national and global scale.

What fulfills you personally and professionally?
Personally, I find fulfillment in making meaningful connections with others, whether it's through mentoring, volunteering or simply engaging in heartfelt conversations. Building relationships and supporting others on their journey brings me a sense of joy and purpose. Professionally, I feel fulfilled when I see the positive impact of my work on others. Whether it's helping a student achieve their academic goals, collaborating with colleagues to solve a challenging problem, or contributing to a project that makes a difference in people's lives, knowing that my efforts have made a difference is deeply satisfying. Additionally, I find fulfillment in continuous learning and growth, both in my own professional development and in supporting others to reach their full potential. Overall, making a positive impact and contributing to something larger than myself brings me a sense of fulfillment both personally and professionally.

Which of NIU’s core values align with your own?
Ethics and integrity.

Have you contributed to any NIU Foundation fundraising campaigns such as the Day of Giving or Huskies United? If yes, why did you decided to support NIU?
Supporting higher education is a way to invest in the future and make a positive impact on society.

Do you keep in touch with any NIU alums? If so, are there any doing something interesting and exciting that we should know about? Please share some information with us and we’ll consider them for a future feature. 
My typical method of staying connected with alumni involves inviting them to departmental events and presentations. Additionally, I make an effort to visit their companies when traveling to their area.

Who has influenced your professional path?
My professional journey has not been shaped by a single individual but rather by a continuous process. Nevertheless, I have always been driven to contribute to cutting-edge technologies through my projects and to engage with the broader professional community.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I did not have a specific career path in mind when I was younger. However, I have always been curious about electronics. It is important to mention that I've always placed value on my work, whether it's paid or voluntary.

Are you participating in or have you participated in any NIU shared governance or professional development groups? If so, how has your participation enhanced your experience as an employee?
Since joining NIU in 2001, I have been actively involved in various committees as part of shared governance. At the university level, I have served on the Faculty Senate and its sub-committees (including the Executive Committee, Personnel Committee, Resources, Space and Budget Committee, Academic Affairs Subcommittee, and Faculty Rights and Responsibilities Committee), Strategic Enrollment Management Committee, Undergraduate Coordinating Council, Committee on the Improvement of Undergraduate Education, University Press Board and Graduate School Appeal Committee. Additionally, at the college and department level, I have served on committees such as the College Council, Personnel Committee, Curriculum Committee and Grade Appeal Committee, among others. Serving on these committees has allowed me to gain insight into university affairs, such as Faculty Senate and University Council processes, undergraduate and graduate curriculum, college council, grievance and appeal processes, personnel issues and budget management. As a member of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, I was actively involved with the program prioritization process at Northern Illinois University. I also understand that a collaborative, transparent and shared governance administration is important in terms of upholding university standards and improving the quality of instruction and curriculum. During my three-and-a-half years in the role of associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs, outreach and diversity, I was overseeing CEET undergraduate programs, recruitment and retention, central advising and student groups, as well as supervising four staff members.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional or community organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am very active with professional organizations and involved in leadership responsibilities. Currently, I am serving as secretary of IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee, president of Global Online Laboratory Consortium and vice president of International Association of Online Engineering. These roles have allowed me to work with a large group of professionals with diverse backgrounds in areas of strategic planning, standard development, organizing and executing events, and gaining consensus on issues on national and international platforms. I have an active role in editorial activities for technical journals and was the editor-in-chief for the International Journal of Online Engineering for a length of time. I regularly review research and development proposals for a number of national and international funding agencies (US, Europe and Australia). I also have had opportunities to travel widely for various projects and professional activities and have held a few visiting positions in different countries.

Here is a list of specific professional engagements:

  • Secretary, IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC), 2018-current (various capacities)
  • President, Global Online Laboratory Consortium (GOLC), 2014-current
  • Vice president (as well as other capacities), International Association of Online Engineering (IAOE), 2012-current
  • ASEE campus representative, 2018-current
  • Member, Board of Trustees of the CLAWAR Association, 2006-2015
  • Member, project team on robots in personal care (PT2), International Organization for Standardization, ISO/TC 184/SC2/PT2, 2009-16
  • Member, advisory group on service robots (AG1), International Organization for Standardization, ISO/TC 184/SC2/AG1, 2009-16
  • Member, Executive Board of ASEE Computing and Information Technology (formerly known as Information Systems Division), (served as treasurer, program chair and chair), 2003-14
  • Program evaluator, IEEE nominated ABET/TAC program evaluator, 2005-11
  • Board member, CLAWAR Ltd (US activities liaison), 2005-09
  • On behalf of ABET, assisted the US Navy to prepare a consolidated list of competencies, skills, references and tools that are needed by civilian and military engineers of the service, 2005
  • Collaborated with NSF toward the development and evaluation of new facility for FastLane, 2008
  • Member, Executive Board of ASEE Illinois-Indiana section, 2003-06
  • Member, Institute of Electrical Engineers (UK), Solent Area Committee, 1999-01

What community organizations are you involved in?
Here is a list of organizations I participate in:

  • Fellow and life member, International Engineering and Technology Institute (IETI)
  • Senior member, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • Senior member, Instrumentation, Systems and Automation (ISA)
  • Member, Institution of Engineering and Technology (UK)
  • Member, American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
  • Member, International Association of Online Engineering (IAOE)
  • Member, Global Online Laboratory Consortium (GOLC)

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I enjoy spending time on a farmhouse while connecting with nature.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
I have been at NIU for 23 years now, and I have truly cherished my time here and in the surrounding area. Both of my sons attended NIU, and one is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in computer science here as well. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively for various projects and professional activities, which has enabled me to engage with individuals from diverse cultures, backgrounds and political perspectives. These experiences have broadened my worldview significantly.

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