Rising Stars

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Two UC Santa Barbara scientists, Sujaya Maiyya and Shaimaa Azzam, are among the roughly 150 women nationwide who have been invited to the prestigious Rising Stars Workshop. The annual event unites outstanding electrical engineers and computer scientists who are interested in pursuing academic careers. Participants were selected based on their academic excellence, their interest in a faculty career, and their commitment to advancing equity and inclusion. Attendees will present their research, interact with faculty from top-tier universities, and receive advice for career advancement. MIT will host the annual EECS Rising Stars Workshop virtually October 14-15. 

“I am honored to be selected, and I look forward to all of the opportunities the event offers,” said Azzam, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Galan Moody, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. 

A recipient of the Elings Prize Postdoctoral Fellowship, Azzam completed her PhD in electrical engineering at Purdue University, after receiving her masters and bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering from Mansoura University in Egypt. Her research at UCSB is focused on integrating photonic structures with two-dimensional (2D) materials to realize some of the building blocks of quantum photonic integrated circuits. Photonic devices are used to guide and manipulate light as an information carrier. Azzam’s work couples the “special” light emitted from 2D materials to devices that can guide, enhance, and eventually outcouple the light from the chip. 

In addition to connecting with other graduate students and postdocs at the workshop, Azzam is especially excited to interact with and learn from female faculty. 

“I am a big believer in the importance of role models, especially when it comes to minorities and underrepresented groups,” said Azzam. “That is why I believe getting specialized advice from successful women in academia on navigating the job market and academic life is crucial for aspiring female academics.” 

Maiyya, a fifth-year PhD student in the Computer Science Department, is co-advised by professors Amr El Abbadi and Divyakant Agrawal. She works to solve existing challenges to data privacy and security by designing, prototyping, and evaluating data management protocols that strike a balance between efficiency and security in both trusted and untrusted systems. Maiyya says that she is honored to attend an event that has a proven track record. 

“When I was a graduate student representative for faculty hiring within the Computer Science Department, we emailed all participants of the 2019 Rising Stars Workshop,” said Maiyya, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the People’s Education Society (PES) Institute of Technology in Bangalore, India. “Many of the women applied and interviewed for the position. One of them even received an offer. So, I recognize the significance of this workshop and am excited for the opportunity.” 

In addition to her passion for research, Maiyya says that she also enjoys mentoring and teaching students as a teaching assistant. The positive feedback that she has received from students further motivates her to pursue a career in academia. She hopes the workshop will shed light on how to turn her aspirations into a reality. 

“I am looking forward to learning more about the application process and what to expect if I become a professor, especially from the successful women who have already risen to stardom,” said Maiyya, the recipient of the 2021-22 IBM PhD Fellowship. “I would love to see more women faculty in computer science and engineering. I am trying to be the change I want to see in the world.” 

Shaimaa Azzam, Sujaya Maiyya

(left to right) Shaimaa Azzam, postdoctoral researcher; Sujaya Maiyya, PhD student