This summer, the College of Human Ecology welcomed Yasser Gowayed as Chair of the Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design. Gowayed, who previously was professor of mechanical engineering at Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, began his five-year term on July 1.
“When you have a department like ours, with outstanding faculty covering design, physical sciences, management principles, and history, the potential is unlimited,” Gowayed said. “I saw the move to Cornell as a way to say that collaboration is our hope for the future, that we should infuse apparel design, fiber science and the human experience to develop innovative and creative solutions to better our lives.”
Within his previous roles in higher-education, he has been successful in forming research consortia between universities, industries, national laboratories, and small businesses, and leading research efforts funded major entities including NASA, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and Goodrich. Continuing this, Gowayed said that one of his primary goals is to help the department, faculty and students find their full potential by creating strong links with industry.
“To connect to the outside world and bring industry inwards into our department is vital as they need us and we need them to help move research and innovation forward,” he said. “We want these relationships to be an interactive source of knowledge, experience and research. This is one of the things that I continue to think about.”
Gowayed’s research as a faculty member focuses on developing computational models and experimental techniques to further the understanding of the mechanical and thermal behavior of polymer and ceramic matrix composites. He has taught classes in mechanics of composite materials and fabric structures for Seniors and Graduate Students, Introduction to Engineering for Freshmen, and Research Methods for International Graduate Students.
He is interested in novel teaching methods and cross-disciplinary educational paradigms and developed and taught non-traditional learning experiences – something he wants to ensure is a focal point for undergraduate and graduate students within FSAD
“Being undergraduate or graduate, students are active members in the scholarly efforts of the department,” he said. “There are so many venues that have been created within the department, such as undergraduate research and engaged projects in capstones classes. What this does is allows students to go beyond learning in the vertical sense and make lateral connections in the midst of their program and learning.”
According to Gowayed, a major part of this lateral learning is building upon FSAD’s collaborative nature, where students expand their knowledge and broaden their educational experience. This is something, he said, he would like to strengthen in the department, between departments at Human Ecology and between Colleges and programs across Cornell.
“Our department has its own diversity that makes it stronger and makes it vibrant because there are a lot of connections that are ongoing and ones for the future that have so much potential,” he said. “You can see that the collaborative possibilities are endless – I cannot imagine a field or department within the university that we cannot naturally link to.”
Currently, FSAD have research and learning collaborations inside Human Ecology, such as with Design + Environmental Analysis, and throughout Cornell, including between College of Engineering, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Arts & Sciences. Gowayed said that he is hoping for more and will be pushing for more during the early stages of his term.
“I consider this department as the nucleus of what Cornell’s radical collaboration can be built upon,” he said. “We hope to be one of the leaders of this type of collaboration with departments across campus.”
For Gowayed, the future of FSAD is bright as the next chapter of its mission and vision through education, research and engagement – that has set itself apart in the past – will expand and intensify moving forward.
“We have fertile grounds for growth and innovation. The more energy and effort we put into it, the more of an outcome we will get, and we are hoping that that is potentially unlimited,” he said. “I think this department will have a major role to play in guiding the research, technology and trends of the future.”