Former Postdoc Accepts Faculty Position at Tel-Aviv University

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Former WNCG Postdoctoral Researcher, Dr. Yakir Hadad, recently joined the faculty in the School of Electrical Engineering and the Department of Physical Electronics at Tel-Aviv University in Israel. His role as a tenure track Senior Lecturer is the equivalent of a tenure track Assistant Professor in the United States’ academic system.

Prof. Hadad received his BS and MS degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Ben-Gurion University, and a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Tel-Aviv University. At WNCG, Prof. Hadad was a Postdoctoral Researcher in Prof. Andrea Alù’s Metamaterials and Plasmonics Research laboratory.  

Recently, Prof. Hadad sat down with WNCG to discuss his new faculty position and to share insights from along his road to success. 

Q: How did you originally connect with this career opportunity?

In Israel, in order to continue on the academic track after completing a PhD, it is very common to go abroad, usually to the US, for a postdoctoral period, which is how I came to UT Austin in 2014. After a few years as a Postdoc there, my wife and I started looking for possibilities to return to our home country.

I was looking to apply for a faculty position in Electrical Engineering at some of Israel’s excellent research universities. I contacted the departments, applied, and luckily got several offers. However, as my Alma Mater, Tel-Aviv University was the more natural choice.

Q: What led you to choose an academic career path instead of a corporate / industry career?

I was a pretty curious child and loved asking questions. I loved discovering and learning to better understand why and how things work. At first, I was way more intrigued with biology and chemistry. Seeing bacteria under the microscope I had at home was almost all I cared about then.

My love for physics and mathematics came during high school, when I was lucky enough to learn these fields from excellent teachers who truly loved to share their knowledge. After high school I wanted to combine physics and mathematics, so Electrical Engineering was a natural track for me.

While I love the engineering work, I have always felt more attracted to the fundamentals. The freedom to do what I love and follow my curiosity led me to stay in academia and eventually become a researcher at a university. This career field helps me further the heritage I received from my excellent teachers. Being a university professor gives me the chance to mentor and educate, to follow my interests, and to push knowledge further.

I am looking forward to doing interesting research that breaks the current limits of science. I am looking forward to mentoring and educating students in wave theory and to help with creating a new generation of better engineers and scientists. 

Q: What type of research will you engage in during your new faculty position?

I will engage in theoretical and experimental research in the general topic of wave physics in electrodynamics and acoustics. My main focus is on the fundamentals of wave physics and my most important tools are analytic methods. However, I believe that to make science even better, particularly as an engineer, it is also important to keep eye on the practicality of the ideas I work on. Therefore, I am currently establishing a moderate wave physics lab that I will use for basic demonstrations of new concepts. 

Q: What advice from your life and career can you give to current students with similar academic aspirations?

First of all, do what you love and enjoy, don’t follow trends, but follow your own scientific truth and desire - eventually it will be rewarded. Second, try to challenge yourself with the non-trivial problems that you cannot guess their answer a priori. These are the gold mines. Finally, be persistent, it will never be too easy and if it is, then something is wrong. Don’t stop at walls -- they are there for us to break them, but don’t take it too personally when sometimes they don’t break.     

Q: How did your time at WNCG help prepare you for this new role?

In Prof. Alù’s group I had a chance to interact with some of the best people working on wave dynamics. This gave me a great opportunity to be continuously intrigued, to ask and to be asked challenging questions, to learn different approaches to thinking, and to work on cutting edge problems. 

Moreover, in such a big group, managing is important. Learning this skill and to some extent, being able to practice the ability was another unique opportunity. All that helped to improve my scientific and personal skills and better prepared me to lead a research group myself. 

Q: What was your most memorable moment during your time with WNCG?

Despite the wonderful scientific work and personal interactions with the group, my most memorable moment was the year my daughter was born. It was a very strenuous time but also a rewarding one. I find that important to mention because we need to remember that although doing science may be a very consuming practice, and may seem to us the most important thing we do, there are always more important things in life – which we should not forget.

Q: Are you currently looking for graduate students?

I am always looking for curious, smart, graduate students, postdocs, and interns with a passion for math and physics who want to pursue interesting theoretical and experimental research in wave physics. I am also looking for short term interns that want to spend a semester or two in the fabulous Israeli environment of Tel-Aviv. Potential candidates can check my website http://www.tau.ac.il/~yakirhad/ and contact me with their updated CV via email at hadady@eng.tau.ac.il.