UBC MEL MHLP Professional Leadership Master Degrees

Advanced Materials Manufacturing - Maryam Khodabakhsh

Alumna Story - Maryam Khodabakhsh

Advanced Materials Manufacturing – Maryam Khodabakhsh

While building her professional experience as a materials engineer and later as a procurement expert in the steel making and automotive sectors in Iran, Maryam Khodabakhsh realized that many of the challenges she was facing couldn’t be solved with advanced technical engineering knowledge alone. They required an understanding of business strategy and leadership.

With this in mind, when she was looking for a master’s degree to update her technical skills, she wanted a program that incorporated managerial aspects.

The Master of Engineering Leadership in Advanced Materials Manufacturing offered both, combining: engineering classes on the most current advances in composites and manufacturing with business classes on strategy, innovation and leadership.

The business side of materials engineering

“It was refreshing to learn about areas that I hadn’t worked in as a materials engineer,” says Maryam. “Learning about additive manufacturing and composites was great, and I particularly enjoyed Dr. Anoush Poursartip’s class on composites because we were also asked to consider the business aspects of the industry.”

Students in the program complete three case studies where they have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they are learning in their class to a real-world problem.

“In the first project, we evaluated different materials to lighten the weight of automotive wheels with the aim of reducing emissions,” she says. “We then calculated the overall wells-to-wheels carbon footprint to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy.” (Read more about this capstone project, which showed that the energy consumption and emissions associated with lighter-weight materials can actually result in an overall higher carbon footprint.)

In another capstone project, students were asked to imagine that they were a tier-three composite manufacturer in the aviation industry and asked to develop an industry 4.0 application for their factory. “We had to build a business case and feasibility study that considered all aspects of bringing new technology to an existing system, taking into account technical issues and market demand.”

Gaining new management skills

Maryam says she had developed her skills as a manager during her professional career. “I learned by experience and seeing how other managers made decisions.” she says.

“However, my intention had always been to learn about management and leadership within an academic setting. I also saw this as an opportunity to learn about North American styles of management and leadership, which are different than those that dominate in Iran.”

A materials engineer with leadership know-how

Towards the end of her degree, Maryam applied for a position with a company looking for a materials engineer with commercial purchasing experience – criteria that perfectly matched her qualifications.

She was hired, and in January 2022, she began working as a Technical Buyer for Nano One Materials Corp, a company that has developed a unique patented process to produce low-cost, high-performance cathode powders used in lithium-ion batteries.

“One-third of the price of an electric car is the battery,” she explains. “Our company is trying to find ways to make the cathode powders used in the battery in a way that is less expensive and that has less of an impact on the environment. I am responsible for identifying resources and buying materials.”

Maryam credits the one-year MEL with helping her make a successful transition to a career in Canada by updating her sector-specific knowledge and equipping her with a better understanding of business practices and strategy.