My One-in-Thirteen-Million friend,


Saturday, Oct 4th. I have planned this trip to the Planetarium for a while, yet I never had time to do it. The planetarium Museum in Chicago is one of my favorite museums in the world, even before today.
My good luck this time allowed me to finally make that visit to the Planetarium and somehow I was gathered with Rex J. Walheim who happened to be there giving a lecture with a representative from NASA.
Now for those who don’t know who Rex Walheim is, well let me put it this way, he is one of the very few humans who have been in space, to be specific he is one in thirteen million!
Now let me get this straight, this guy has been in Space and back! and I, a young man from Syria who haven’t gotten on a plane until couple years ago, got to meet him.
For less than 45 seconds I got to stand and talk to him, he asked about my name. Majed, I said, and he replied asking if that was an Arabic name. When I said I was from Syria, it turned out that he has some knowledge of my country, he asked about the situation in Damascus and about my hometown and my parents, and at the end he asked about my future and wished me and my country a bright future. An astronaut asking me about my life and my future!
I am still taking it in. The confidence and the gentleness of a person who has achieved so much in his life got me thinking about mine. Will I ever be this big of a deal? Will I ever get to serve humanity as my Astronaut friend did?

Majed Abdulsamad

Armour College of Engineering, architecture major

Expected date of graduation 2016

To Our Countries لبلادي

To our countries… a beautiful piece of art done by two Syrian ladies in the hope of living in peace one day in the Middle East. This video describes the pain and war in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.

Syria(3 years of war)…A war that never knew its beginning… a war dreaming of an end”

Iraq(10 years of war)… A liberation that divided what’s already divided and broke what’s already broken”

Lebanon(40 years of war)…40 years that made little Lebanon very big in its scars and daily struggles”

Palestine(60 years of war)…More than 60 years of violations and howls of generations witnessing the illogicality of yesterday”

The video ends with the hope that one day we will see our countries living in peace and love

“To our countries, the countries of wars and pain. The countries of love and dreams. Our countries…”



Connecting ideas from Damascus, to Chicago, and then to Lima, Peru: my IPRO with MEDLIFE:


Last year Nearly 50 Illinois Tech students with academic majors across all of the academic disciplines formed a chapter of MEDLIFE (Medicine, Education, and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere), a national organization that supports the advancement of health care in Central and South America.

The main objective of MEDLIFE is to supply medicine, education and development to low-income areas in Central and South America via mobile clinics and a series of ongoing community development projects. During these mobile clinics, dedicated, local physicians and administrators provide free medical services and educational events on hygiene. Clinics held include dentistry, pediatrics, pharmacology, gynecology, nursing and internal medicine.


This past year, ten IIT students and a faculty member were sent to a mobile clinic in Lima, Peru during spring break (2014). Today IIT held a panel discussion where those students told us about their experiences, feelings, and the challenges during this trip. President John Anderson attended the panel as one of the sponsor of this organization.

To spread these ideas further, IIT launched an advanced IPRO project that will discuss the challenges that the students faced during this trip. The mission of our IPRO team is to find an innovative solution that could help the residents of Lima, Peru.

In our first class we started the brainstorming and tried to categorize the problems. Frankly after this discussion and attending the panel discussion I was shocked to learn just how bad the situation in Lima. Thousands of Peruvians live without regular access to pure water, healthy food, fuel or even secure shelter.


One of the primary problems that IIT students noticed was the large number of people who had cancer – relative to the population and the incidents of cancer in other countries. These high rates of cancer have been traced to traditional methods of heating and cooking. Since residents of Lima can’t offer fuel, they burn plastic so they can take advantage of its heat. The toxic fumes generated from this harmful smoke contributes greatly contributes to lung cancer.

An idea came into my mind to apply the “Organic Digestive Technology” that will help Peruvians to avoid cancer. Organic Digestive is a very simple technic that was introduced to me in The University of Damascus in Bioenergy class. The idea uses anaerobic fermentation to recycle the organic waste from every house and produce methanol that could be used for cooking, heating and even lightning.

While exploring this idea further, I learned about a plant near Chicago where they apply this technology so I asked for a tour in the plant during the weekend. The managers were very friendly and supportive and they offered to host the trip for part of our IPRO team. We had the chance to see the practical application for these technologies.

My hope is that our team will be able to recognize additional opportunities to deploy these ideas and technologies throughout the Americas. In addition, I hope that each of us will continue our innovative and often unconventional thinking to help people so many countries in my country of Syria and throughout the region where so many people are displaced – and wherever there is need in the world.

By working to solve this one problem of how we cook our food, heat our homes, and clean our clothes we can make so many other improvements to the quality of the lives of so many mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles …. around the world.

Safouh Takrouri

IIT Armour College of Engineering | Expected graduation, December 2014

Safouh can be reached at

About the author:

Born in Damascus, Syria, Safouh Tak is currently a 4th year student at Illinois Institute of Technology with earlier studies at Damascus Univeristy. Safouh’s concentration of study is Electrical Engineering at Illinois Tech with an extensive focus in the areas of renewable energy and sustainability.  While in Syria, Safouh was a participant in one of the earliest cohorts of students whose focus was centered upon the new field of sustainability.  Since arriving at IIT, Safouh and his colleagues are working to develop a “beta organization” to document the current research projects of Syria’s undergraduate and graduate students and to create a forum and platform for knowledge sharing and exchange and to provide a “virtual incubator for ideas” during a period of extreme stress to the higher education network in Syria.  Safouh can we reached at:

Modern Ruins

unnamed (1)

It took me so long to relate back the reality in Syria to the reality here in the US. For the past 5 years living in America was a real disconnect to what is happening back home. I could not compare the two countries; they are just so different!

However, my studio trip to Detroit this past summer was a great opportunity to unveil a strong avenue between the city of Detroit and Syria.

unnamed (2)

For the past sixty years, Detroit has been facing one of the largest population decline crises in the US. The city has lost over 40% of its population, which affected the social and economical structure of one of the major cities in the United States. Similarly the Syrian crisis caused a population decline by 17% of the total population in the past 3 years. The reasons of the decline in both cases are different but nevertheless the urban problems are the same. Ghost cities exist whether it is a war zone or a peace zone such as Detroit!

unnamed (3)

The trip sent me to the reality back home in Syria. I personally did not witness the destruction of the Syrian cities like Homs, Aleppo, and Deir Ezzor. But when I walked into the Packard Plant in Detroit, my mind was flashing back memories and images of the massive destruction back home. The sound of my feet crushing pieces of broken glass and other rubble reminded me of the destroyed cities of Syria.

unnamed (4)

Who can believe that such a place that is thousands of miles away from a war zone is facing the same destruction as a place that is being bombed on a daily basis? I kept walking toward the destroyed wall, fallen brick pieces and unstable floor plates until I reached the roof of the building where nature revealed itself up above.

unnamed (5)

On the roof of the Packard Plant, among all the destruction and rubble that made the Plant look like an unpleasant place to be, living plants were creating their homes. Nature had created its path all the way to the top of the building expressing a strong gesture of hope!

Hope is all we need in Syria! It does not matter what type or extent of destruction took place there, there will be always hope. The Packard Plant is one of the best examples of preserving what I like to call the “modern ruins”. Syria has always been a foundation of the ancient ruins and now it is giving birth to our modern ruins. The people of these cities that have been destroyed by a traitor-greedy regime should continue to speak about a new point of the rich history of Syria. And the question is still valid:

Are we (architects) willing to preserve our modern ruins?”



Good People Will Always Be Remembered: Mr Ayoub Talahimi (1928-2014)


The first time I met Mr. Ayoub Talahimi was when he invited a few Syrian students from Illinois

Mr. Talahimi is an American-Palestinian civil engineer with an outstanding career in Illinois. He was always interested in helping young engineers who came from the Middle East; he also was among the people who helped found the Arab American Association of Engineers and Architects (AAAEA) – a non- profit, non-political, non-religious professional organization headquartered in Chicago. He had a long and illustrious career with a great deal of community service and professional accomplishments; He was known among his associates as “Mr. Flood-Control.”

Mr. Talahimi passed away few months ago in June 2014; he had been born in 1928. It was my pleasure and honor to attend the funeral services with his family, friends, and all the people that he had helped throughout his life.

Mr. Talahimi earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1960. And even as a man in his early 80s, he quickly become a strong supported of the Syrian student initiative at Illinois Tech. He found time for so many of us – just as he had done throughout his career. In our meeting and conversations he exhibited so much energy for the future – and our future.

At this funeral, I learned and talked to many individuals – often decades older than myself – and came to understand that this was a man whose reach and kindness had extended throughout this lifetime, and so many of them were their offer their thanks and gratitude to a mentor, and friend.

At the end of the funeral, his son told me that we “represent the legacy of my father’s work” and “that the value of his work during his life” would live on with us.

As members of the IIT Syrian student initiative, we accept this responsibility to honor the life of Mr. Talahimi and all of those who have brought us to our arrival in Chicago at Illinois Tech.


Suhaib Ibrahim

Armour College of Engineering – Civil Engineering

Illinois Institute of Technology

Anticipated graduation date: December 2014


Suhaib was born in Kamishli, Syria​;​ he is currently a senior student at Illinois Institute of
Technology, with earlier studies at Aleppo University and Damascus University. Suhaib is a Civil Engineering student with concentration in structural engineering.

Suhaib is currently working with Jasmine Baladi Studio, an NGO that is working to support the Syrian kids in​ ​refugee camps is Turkey. Suhaib can be reached at


The end of an era marks the beginning of a new one

A few month ago, it was my graduation ceremony, I finally earned that BSc degree that I’ve been working on for several years, and even though on that day I thought I would never come back to school, here I am, enrolled in a part-time Master program now at IIT, to earn a professional MS degree in Telecommunication and Software Engineering. Meanwhile, I am working full-time for Motorola Solutions which I did a Coop with last year.

Abd Arnaout

I study Computer Engineering at Illinois Institute of technology and I am graduating in Dec 2014. I started working as a system engineer then I moved to the new trend Dev Ops as an Intern at Goldman Sachs living a very impressive experience. I am looking for continuing in this same area of Dev Ops or as software developer after I graduate. And that all will be the start of my career life which I hope to grow and vary touching areas of efficiency, critical systems and also medical engineering and research. I also see myself doing masters and phd one day.

Amer Rez

I’m graduated from IIT with a degree in electrical engineering and right now I’m working for a company that is helping me fulfilling my dreams in a good working environment, It’s such a great company in wish I get a chance to build something new and can make a change.

Tareq Hamawi

My Name is Marcelle Hana, I’m a social and economic development policy major, I graduate in 2016, I’m the president of Syrian Club for the second time. I’m looking forward to achieve more events and accomplishments in the club and in my life as a social scientist and hopping to continue grad school after IIT. I wanted to keep you people updated with most of our successful graduate students -and almost grad students- (proud to call them Syrians), and looking forward to hear more achievements and news from everyone.

-Marcelle Hana

“We allowed to ask, what questions are. Hmm? Hmm.”*



​In the transition to a free and freer society, we must permit and even encourage (and protect) our ability to ask honest questions of ourselves and of our country.

The freedom of asking questions should be integrated in our culture, we shouldn’t let anything to put borders or limits for our knowledge and creativity. This is the only way that will open our minds and guide us to solve the problems in our countries.

Suhaib Ibrahim


Armour College of Engineering – Civil Engineering

Illinois Institute of Technology

Expected graduation date: Dec 2014


Suhaib was born in Kamishli, Syria, he is currently a senior student at Illinois Institute of Technology, with earlier studies at Aleppo University and Damascus University. Suhaib is a Civil Engineering student with concentration in structural engineering.

Suhaib is currently working with Jasmine Baladi Studio, an NGO that is working to support the Syrian kids in refugee camps is Turkey. Suhaib can be reached at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 92 other followers