Aerospace in the Fast Lane: An Interview with Dr. Zaidi

James claims that all aerospace engineers know from a young age that that is their passion – and Dr. Zaidi seems to agree! Read James’ interview of his aerospace professor to get an inside look at why he’s an AE and how he landed the job at GTL!

Dr. Zaidi himself!

Today after what seems like an eternity, I finally sat down with Dr. Zaidi, my  Aerospace professor. I had been chasing this interview for quite some time, but every time something came up; either he was busy or I was. However, it was worth the wait.

Born in New York City, Dr. Zaidi like the rest of aerospace engineers, was destined for the field. We bonded over this during the interview discussing how in order to make it in this field, you have to know early on that this is what you want to do. Born to parents from Mumbai, India Dr. Zaidi would often fly home – what back then was not a nonstop flight, but a flight that was so long that they needed to stop and refuel somewhere in Europe each time.

This is where his passion came from. He told me, “I remember standing at the gate, my parents were in line, but I was glued to the window always looking at the plane. Back then it was the 747 – she was the Queen of the skies!” From this, he has gone on to build an entire profession and life around planes and aviation. Dr. Zaidi attended a vocational high school in NYC geared towards aviation. Before coming to Tech he interned with Delta doing aircraft maintenance.

Four years as a Yellow Jacket saw him earning his undergrad and set out for the world. Unfortunately, just as he graduated the economy tanked, making industry jobs much harder to come by. With an attractive offer from Tech’s graduate school, the professor was born. Six years later, Dr. Zaidi had his Masters and PhD. While in grad school a friend tipped him onto CETL, the Center of Enhancement for Teaching and Learning. Simply put, the center focuses on improving teachers’ teaching. “Taking the courses in undergrad I saw how there were a number of ways to improve the courses. The curriculum can be very difficult, and I wanted to do a better job at teaching than I had seen.” This what brought him to Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

Photo courtesy of Journey of Innovation (

And of course, two AE’s couldn’t be in a room without a little plane talk. So as the interview concluded Dr. Zaidi gave me some advice and an inside scoop on planes today. During Graduate school, his focus was on jet propulsion and he interned with Rolls Royce. Because this is a field quite similar to one I wish to go into, Dr. Zaidi explained to me, just like in lecture, how now is a great time to be an aerospace engineer. Modern day jets are reaching the plateau of the “S Curve” (graph depicting the efficiency of the engine), meaning that the normal turbines cannot be made more efficient. Instead companies are now shifting to new designs, different engines altogether, and all in all, truly amazing stuff. The current paradigm shift is very exciting for budding Aerospace engineers, and the field as a whole.

A true role model and great teacher Dr. Zaidi will no doubt go on to better our rep of Aerospace faculty at Georgia Tech.

A Little Rewind to Fall Break: Eat-aly and Some

No need to send a postcard – Harry’s parents were his travel buddies over fall break! Read his quick recap of traversing Italy – plus a little bit of Switzerland, too!

Posted by Harry.

This past weekend, I stayed in Metz. You can thank 3 exams and a paper for that, but also a short weekend of only the regular Saturday and Sunday (class was canceled on Tuesday due to a French national holiday, La Toussaint or All Saints’ Day, and rescheduled on Friday). So, since I’ve done really nothing of interest this weekend besides seeing the movie Doctor Strange (excellent movie by the way), I’ll throw it back a little to Fall Break, where I explored “Eat”-aly and some.

The Trevi Fountain!

Italy is the perfect blend of great sights and wonderful food. I had the great pleasure of traveling there with my parents, which was great for three reasons: I got to spend some quality time with them after being gone for so long, I rarely had to pull out my own wallet, and it was a nice change of pace from traveling with college kids every weekend.

The Colosseum

It was a much more relaxed trip as we made our way from Rome up to Florence, Venice, Milan; up to Zurich in Switzerland through some scenic routes and finally back here for some time in Metz.

img_3573I have to say, my favorite place was definitely Venice. I’m an avid fan of the outdoors and being on water, so just being able to walk around and be surrounded by it and have the opportunity to take boats around the city on water was a surreal experience for me. Otherwise that that, it was just enjoying the views that Italy brought and quality time with family that wrapped up a real chill fall break.


Check back in the next few weeks for an article about all of the planning and coordination it took to plan a trip with my parents!

The Walking Career Center: Alumni and Corporate Relations Manager John Fritsch

Meet John Fritsch, Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s Alumni and Corporate Relations Manager. He’s French, so be sure to stop by to ask him why his name is “John” and not “Jean.”

(Photo courtesy of John Fritsch)

Name: John Fritsch

Position: Alumni and Corporate Relations

Years at GTL: 10

Interests/Hobbies: Photography, trail running, music and guitar.

One line to describe GTL: “It feels like the world here. There are many nationalities converging to one point”.

Piece of advice for students: “Understand what you need to do when you are going into the job market. Be mature on how you approach and work with people. Have a vision on what you need to and mold it around your personality. And as an engineer, it’s more than just the technical side, you need interpersonal skills, too. That could make a huge difference in a job.”

Baguette or Croissant? Croissant.

Meet our resident Alumni and Corporate Relations Manager, John Fritsch. Or, as I like to think of him, the walking career center. His job is two-sided, linking students to both corporations and alumni. On the corporation side, it’s connecting students to companies through internships and jobs. On the alumni side, it’s simply introducing alumni to the students and managing the Georgia Tech-Lorraine alumni database. We all know the importance of getting an internship, but the graduate program here at GTL actually has an internship built in! Mr. Fritsch here is the catalyst by not only connecting the companies with GTL students, but also by hosting a graduate seminar that presents companies and all their current challenges to make better matches. “Mission First Job” hosts loads of companies – and is a bit like most career fairs. (Check out the details of the last session this  past spring, and prep for the next one!)

Outside of classes, John enjoys photography. Specifically, he’s experimenting with time lapses and night shots at the moment. He also enjoys trail-running, and has actually run in Yosemite when he was in the United States! Finally, you might find him playing guitar. An interesting note is that he has played guitar with a professor at GTL here once before.

Keep making the magic happen, John!

A Tribute to Kebabs

As the way of life of a college student merges with a study abroad in Europe, one thing remains constant: the eats. For any occasion – whether a late night snack or a quick lunch before hopping on the train – what does a GTL student reach for? Read Harry’s insight into the delicacy that is kebabs.

Posted by Harry

A typical kebab shop. Photo courtesy of Wien Bellaria Kebab Pizza.

“This past weekend, kebabs accounted for 6 of my 9 meals.”

“Yo man, I literally had the best kebab EVER in Nice!”

“Do you prefer Doner or Durum Kebabs? I have to say, I’m much more of a Doner fellow.”

-overheard at the GTL Lounge after a weekend.

Okay, you caught me red-handed. I completely made these quotes up. However (!), and I believe anyone who currently attends or has attended GTL in the past, can back me up that these quotes are completely valid in the sense that these could be real quotes; it’s just that no one has said them yet until now.

So why this craze over kebabs? Well for one, they’re extremely cost efficient in terms of both price and value. Around Europe, you can probably swing a kebab around for about 5 euros, and it’s usually only 2 more euros for fries and a drink. That makes for a full Georgia Tech-Lorraine student and a happy wallet. These kebabs are also massive! Like, they stuff them full with meat and veggies. Also, another quick benefit I’d like to throw in is that it’s very quick and convenient! You can find multiple kebab shops in any town, and they usually make it fresh and in a jiffy right there for you. The fellow GTL-ers and I have definitely had our good share of kebabs, and to that we praise:

“Kebabs are not a way of life; the way of life are kebabs.”

What a Break!

Disclaimer: This is not your average fall break. Granted, it never is at GTL, but James’ stories from the last week sound like something out of a James Bond movie than a weekend at GTL. What happened? Read to find out…

Posted by James

“I can believe I ruined this break,” I thought to myself as I rolled out of bed Thursday morning.

I reach over for my phone and see its 2 pm, the memories of yesterday’s travels start to fill my head. The all-day travel, routing on train after train, then eventually a plane to end all the worrying. Followed by one last train and finally a bus. The monotony of the travel was only interrupted by my vomiting and constant sickness. Yet, as the saying goes, there is a silver lining to every dark cloud, even here.
Now that some time has passed and the wounds are less sore, I see that my break may not have been normal or even “fun” at times, but it sure makes a great story.

As Thursday, Oct. 21st rolled around, the homework and tests had piled up and 20161022_141945_resizedeventually subsided, but they left a toll, a wanting to be free of school life for a change. We left for the east right on noon. and six or seven trains and 18 hours later, we resurfaced to see the beautiful Czech Republic. Prague, our main destination, bore our company for two days and two nights.


The city’s character is almost impossible to describe with words, and it’s filled with history and importance around every corner. Passing bridges or churches older than the nation I was born in was a truly humbling experience. With the Czech Republic being the sister country to my father’s homeland, Slovakia, I came with prejudices I soon forgot or no longer believed. There is so much culture that it’s all blurred together, and what remains in my mind is food and the people. For the cost of nothing one can spend hours sitting eating some of the best dumplings (Knedliky) in the world, and laugh with friends to forget about the world.


Next stop was Poland, specifically the small southern town of Zakopane. Here is where it all began. Arriving in the dead of night, we rose early next morning to conquer the mountains. The high Tatras of the Polish and Slovakian border were our target, and only after hours of pain -both mental and physical – could we claim our prize as King of the Mountains.

“How much longer until the waterfall?” I asked.

“Umm…” was Cannon’s response to a question I could barely breathe out of my mouth. The reason for hesitation was due to a mistake: we were climbing the wrong path. Never truly intending to summit this beast, we had our measly sights set for climbing to a waterfall and going home. Yet, due to a mistake we were apparently already three-fourths the way up the entire mountain. As my legs screamed, my joints ached in the cold and I stumbled to the top, I turned to my compatriots and said “Pain is temporary, but glory is forever.” Quite a good way to summarize the all-day climb.

Things began early next morning at 3am, and within hours disaster would strike. As I’ve told my friends now a careless mistake made me the lookalike of an action hero. During a bus-to-train transfer outside Krakow, a sleepy and deprived Jimmy left his passport and Eurail behind on a bus. As soon as I sat down on the train I knew! I darted off without saying a word to anyone and sprinted for the bus. But as I turned the building’s corner it was gone, nowhere in sight. My heart leaped in my mouth and I was truly speechless for the first time in my life.

As I turned to walk back to the train, I saw its doors slam shut and began to haul away from the station. My mind began to process everything, slowly waking from the two hours of sleep I had — “do I find the bus, wait, the train, my stuff, where, oh, uhhh!” In a moment of instinct I jumped onto the side of the train and hung on for dear life. Beating on the side door, I was eventually let inside and didn’t even have to tell my friends what happened. They knew. The embassy was next and within a day I had a passport in my hand. Before leaving Krakow I was lucky enough to find my old envelope entirely full of all my travel essentials, and as I flew back to Metz on Wednesday I couldn’t help feel I had betrayed my friends. We missed our flight to Sweden and in turn the second half of our entire trip.

But all was not lost. A spontaneous decision Friday morning saw me renting a car and driving 11 hours to Barcelona for one of the best two days of my life. And though I may have lost some money I gained a real life experience and one hell of a story.

I Want a BMW

BMW & Georgia Tech: two heavyweights in their respective fields. You’ve already heard about how GTL’s HTS 2100 class’s exciting visit came to be…now take a peek inside! Read Harry’s insider perspective on the trip to BMW.

Posted by Harry

Photo courtesy of BMW.

(Harry’s personal view on the “A VIP Experience of German Engineering” piece)

Sometime down the line in our future, we will be faced with a decision of buying a car. Now I don’t know about you, I find this really exciting, yet nerve-racking at the same time. We need to find one that fits both our needs and price. For me, that’s probably going to be anywhere between a Lamborghni and Ferrari (jokes). In addition, I think we’d all like a luxury car at some point. I didn’t know what I want, but I think after this class field trip to the BMW Headquarters, the choice is a little clearer.

I’m enrolled in a class called Society and Technology in a Modern World: Regions of Europe (a.k.a. HTS 2100). This class gives me a little break from all those engineering courses I’m enrolled in and takes me and others to cool site visits of particular industries. This past field trip was to the BMW headquarters in Munich, as part of the automobile industry. We started with an introduction to industrial engineering and technological innovations at BMW: they’re not only coming up with new designs and concepts to make their products better, but also making the process more efficient and safer for the workers. After a nice lunch that consisted of a couscous salad, sautéed vegetables, pan-seared duck and noodles, and dessert (the details of the lunch are critical to the story), we headed off to take a tour of the plant.

Now unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside of the plant due to privacy but what I saw in there pretty much blew my mind. A lot of work is done by robots, and these robots were big, powerful, and extremely precise. Some of the small, detail oriented work you’d expect a human to do was actually done by some of these amazing robots. Our tour guide also gave us some neat information, such as:

• About 1000 cars are produced in the Munich plant PER DAY
• Of those cars produced, two-thirds are actually custom ordered and the last third is sent off to standard dealers.
• To make another statement on the individuality of cars, it’s highly unlikely that out of all the cars that the Munich plant produces in a year, two cars will be alike just due to the sheer combination and consumer needs.
• A lot of other cool information.

Another unfortunate fact is that we were unable to go to test out some of these sweet rides because the test track was somewhere else. Still, to see the process from beginning to end where a big heap of materials turns into a luxurious vehicle was incredible. There’s just something about seeing a product being made and the work that goes into it makes it that much more attractive.

The BWM i8. Photo courtesy of BMW.

If you’re ever in Munich, I would highly recommend checking out the headquarters as you can not only tour the plant, but also visit the BMW Museum and the “Welt”. Otherwise than that, I would also recommend taking the HTS 2100 class for future GTL-ers if you’re interested in taking visits to some awesome sites such as this one.

A Strong Sense of Community

Quick! Name something that sets apart GTL from other places, and then read James’ reflections on how GTL and the people he’s surrounded by here – whether faculty, staff, or students – have impacted his sense of community.

In previous blogs, I mentioned a great sense of community encompassed here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine by our great Resident Advisers (RAs). Yesterday, on a good friend’s birthday I witnessed this community firsthand in our residents.

We soccer lovers go downtown to play soccer at a local field. Each Tuesday at 6pm you can find us talking to the locals, passing, running, kicking on this tiny little field. Yesterday was no exception, and as we finished up, we all decided we have to help Luke celebrate his birthday the right way.

We started the walk back and fell into great conversations with each other, covering really every topic conceivable. We started with sports, since we had just played some, then TV shows, movies, childhoods, dream jobs, on and on. As we neared the Lafayette dorm, it was time to shower and eat and celebrate with Luke. The scene was very odd; as I approached Luke’s room in the “D” wing of the complex, I said “hi,” left and right to all these close friends I’ve been getting to know over these months. As I opened his door, I saw a roomful of people. The “hello’s” began again, and we started celebrating.

As the night wore on and we fought about the correct ways to get downtown, the mood was completely different than what I was used to. Everyone here knew each other and liked each other. You can go anywhere anytime. However, here at GTL, each moment is unique. Everyone wakes up the next morning with a story, a great tale of the day’s escapades and glories. In my opinion the best part of these get-togethers of ours, is that you get to know other people, other ways of thinking. You really start to open up and experience new things. And you always have something to talk about, like places to visit next weekend, or for fall break.

Thinking back now, this in fact is not the first time I have experienced or witnessed this here at GTL. A few weeks ago we had a local game night in the GTL Lounge hosted by our student run BDE organization. We had the works, poker, board games, and more. Yet the night hinged on the famous ping pong tournament. Everyone was wondering if the great Ola would be beaten – could it be done? In fact it was done (not by me unfortunately). I lost to Ola 25-27, but by the end of the night, it wasn’t about that. People really bonded with each other through the ping pong, poker, whatever medium that was used to initiate socialization. Now, as I walk the halls of Lafayette and GTL it is quite clear these friends here will be some of the best I have, likewise for others.

This blog is more a thank you to our great RAs and faculty here who strive to make this study abroad experience different and unique. Initially I wasn’t sure how it could be done, but now I see, and sincerely thank you.

From One Hemisphere to the Other: Graduate Student Claire Hardgrove

At GTL, the question isn’t what can you do, but what can’t you do! Take graduate student Claire for example – she’s using her computer science research this semester to tackle environmental science problems. Meet this focused and driven Australian making waves at GTL!

harry-w12-p1-p1Name: Claire Hardgrove

Major/Field of Study: Computer Science

Year in Grad School: 1st year

Undergraduate Institution: University of Sydney

Interests/Hobbies: Playing the trumpet and learning more about computer science.

One piece of advice for students: “Set up your environment well so you can focus on studying. Eliminate all secondary distractions so you can focus on the task at hand.”

Baguette or Croissant? Croissant.

‘Ello, mate! I introduce to you to graduate student Claire Hardgrove, a woman who has traveled pretty far from Sydney, Australia to be here at Georgia Tech Lorraine. Once again, GTL strikes with its diversity as a global institution. Claire is currently studying computer science here, with an interesting background that may surprise some.

Before coming to GTL, Claire studied geoscience as an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney. You’re probably wondering the same thing I am (namely, how did you go from geoscience to computer science?). Well, it’s really very neat: she’s actually studying the robotics side of computer science and using computer vision and perception to tackle environmental science problems. It’s not the first time I’ve met someone combining computer science with another discipline to solve issues today (go check out the post on Shane Griffith).
Another thing Claire noted was that even with the language barrier, it’s been nice to be in a little “bubble” of English speakers to help her adjust. After her time here, she plans on hopping to another continent, and maybe even going to San Francisco! Best wishes to your studies Claire!