Fellowship Brings Syrian Scholar to Harvey Mudd

War has a way of rearranging things so that vast numbers of people who expected to live out their lives in one place suddenly find themselves in another.

A world-class, high-tech researcher, Ahmad Adib Sha’ar made his way from Aleppo, Syria, to the United States with his wife and children after the Syrian civil war erupted. He was assisted by the Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund, which supports visiting scholars from war-torn areas. Thanks to the generosity of donors, Sha’ar will be able to continue his beneficial research while serving as a visiting professor at Harvey Mudd College.

A cybersecurity expert, Sha’ar will teach at least one course within the realm of cryptography, programming algorithms, information theory and radar theory. He also will continue his groundbreaking research into prime codes and the wireless communication technique known as code division multiple access (CDMA).

“Harvey Mudd College has some really talented students,” Sha’ar says. “As I begin my time here, I can’t think of anything I’m more looking forward to doing than sharing my knowledge with them.”

Born in Aleppo, Sha’ar was educated at Kent University in Canterbury, the United Kingdom, where he earned a master’s degree in digital communications and a PhD in computer networks. He went on to work at universities in Syria and Saudi Arabia. Three decades ago, he co-invented prime sequencing codes for fiber optics and later applied them to radar and collision engineering algorithms. One of three engineers in Syria recognized as a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Sha’ar holds patents based on algorithms that he developed and co-authored a definitive paper that describes the methods of primary code sequences designed to minimize channel interference from multiple users.

Before Harvey Mudd, Sha’ar was a visiting professor at Salisbury University in Maryland. It was his first appointment through a IIE-SRF fellowship, which enables outstanding professors, researchers and public intellectuals from countries in turmoil to pursue their academic work in safety and to continue to share their knowledge with students, colleagues and the community. Since 2002, IIE-SRF has provided support to more than 650 scholars from more than 55 countries in partnership with over 350 host institutions in 41 countries.

“We believe that Sha’ar will make significant contributions to both our engineering and computer science programs, as well as advance his own research during his residence with us,” says department Chair Elizabeth J. Orwin ’95, James Howard Kindelberger Professor of Engineering.

Physics/engineering alumnus and HMC board of trustee member Mahesh Kotecha ’70 introduced the College to the Rescue Scholars program. He, another trustee and a third donor helped to fund Sha’ar’s position by raising $50,000 to match the IIE fellowship of $25,000. Sha’ar is one of 90 Syrian scholars who has been aided by the fund. He will remain at Harvey Mudd through the 2016–2017 academic year.