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When Usman Khan ’05 arrived at Lafayette from his hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, he was expecting to study hard and learn a great deal.

A year and a half later, Khan, a double major in electrical and computer engineering and mathematics-economics, is fulfilling his initial expectations by taking advantage of the many research opportunities and extracurricular activities offered here.

“It’s a relaxed atmosphere,” he says. “It is different from my background. I was a bit intimidated at first. I used to call everybody ‘sir’ and ‘madam.’”

“I never imagined college would be like this,” Khan continues. “It has given me an opportunity to develop myself and improve my social skills.”

Khan was able to hone his research skills as a participant in Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program. He worked with William A. Hornfeck, professor of electrical and computer engineering, to examine literature on fuel-cell technology. In EXCEL, students work closely with professors on research while earning a stipend.

“It’s pretty much central to the world’s economy,” says Khan, explaining that fuel cells — electrochemical conversion devices that produce electricity and heat by combining hydrogen and oxygen to produce water — could provide cheap, clean energy in a variety of ways.

Khan says the project provided an opportunity to work one-on-one with a professor and enabled him to explore a topic of interest from the perspective of both of his majors.

Hornfeck, who taught Khan in a First-Year Seminar, Technology and Society: The Energy Problem, notes that Khan performed well in the course and asked if he could do further research.

“He was able to assess the current state of fuel-cell research,” says Hornfeck, explaining that he hopes to make fuel-cell research a larger part of the First-Year Seminar and possibly create a Values in Science and Technology course for sophomores that focuses on the topic. “He’s wonderful to work with. He’s the kind of student-scholar that we love to have.”

Last January, Khan spent five days shadowing James Flowers ’69, project manager for the power and transmission department of the Omaha Public Power District in Omaha, Neb., through Lafayette’s Alumni Externship Program.

He is now researching a portfolio analysis method called the Markowitz Frontier for an independent study with Qin Lu, assistant professor of mathematics.

Although his counselor at Karachi Grammar School recommended Lafayette, Khan says he never expected the wide range of activities, personal attention, and occasional dinner invitations from professors here.

A resident adviser, Khan is a member of International Students Association, Muslim Students Association, Mathematics Problem Group, and the campus chapter of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He serves as a tutor for Calculus Cavalry and the Academic Resource Department and is an academic tutor through the Landis Community Outreach Center. He has played intramural squash and won this year’s intramural ping-pong championship.

Categorized in: Academic News