Catching up with VCU Engineering’s first graduates: The Class of 2000

Meet Shahab Siddiqui, Ph.D.

Shahab Siddiqui, Ph.D.

Semiconductor Research and Development Engineer

IBM Research

New York City Metropolitan Area

Are you surprised at how the college has changed over the last 25 years?

I can't believe it has been 25 years since VCU Engineering opened. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say VCU Engineering is a mega success! Student enrollment alone has increased almost twentyfold. Big congratulations to all the professors, staff and students. I am so grateful and lucky that I was part of it. Some of my family members joked back then that “VCU opened an engineering school for you," as I was a new immigrant to the U.S. and looking for electrical engineering programs in Virginia.

What do you remember most (or most fondly) about your time at VCU Engineering?

I would say Dr. [Robert] Mattauch’s Friday morning bagel get-togethers, studying in the study room on the first floor of West Hall and attending lectures by Dr. [Hadis] Morkoc, Dr. [Roslyn] Hobson [Hargraves] and Dr. Gary Tait. I also remember freezing in Dr. [Robert] Klenke's lab while working on ECE-364 projects.

What would people be surprised to learn about those early days of the program?

We didn't have a main VCU Engineering campus. Our faculty in the electrical engineering department was in the single digits. (Poor Dr. Tait was teaching half of the curriculum. He was an amazing teacher.) The school was going through its initial accreditation process then, as well.

What was the campus like back then?

VCU Engineering’s main building, West Hall, was not built. The VCU library was also smaller and quite different.

Tell us about a cool-at-the-time piece of technology or equipment from the college’s first years.

The Sun Microsystems machines in Professor Robert Klenke's lab were pretty impressive back then. Twenty-five years later, I believe the iPhone 12 processor is 10-20 times more powerful than what we were using in Dr. Klenke's lab.

What was your goal when you first started at VCU Engineering? Did you achieve it?

I wanted to become an electrical engineer, which I did. Looking back, it seems like I never planned anything.

What is the biggest difference between VCU Engineering then and VCU Engineering now?

Now VCU Engineering is well established, and a growing entity. When we were starting out, it was unknown.

Are you surprised at how VCU Engineering has changed over the years?

Not surprised so much as impressed, and very happy.

What are you doing now? How did VCU Engineering help prepare you for it?

I am a semiconductor research engineer at IBM Research. VCU Engineering equipped me to think independently, and never be afraid to experiment.

Is there something else you'd like to comment on as a member of the first VCU Engineering graduating class?

Graduation with an engineering degree is a great milestone, but never let the learning stop there. Stay humble and keep growing.