Cyrus Ashayeri: Petroleum Engineering Graduating Student Q&A

| May 7, 2021

Ph.D. graduate Ashayeri’s research focuses on the energy industry and the application data science and advanced machine learning techniques.

Cyrus Ashayeri

Cyrus Ashayeri. Image/SPE/Todd Buchanan

Cyrus Ashayeri
Los Angeles, California
Ph.D. ,Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science 

What first inspired you to study engineering?

My initial motivation to study engineering was based on the understanding that it provides a multidisciplinary foundation that allows professional career in the industries that I passionately followed as a young student. I’ve always been interested in the energy industry as it is the core to many aspects of the modern civilization. I finished my undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. The skillsets of a chemical engineer is one of the most diverse collections of engineering toolkits and allows pursuing a professional career or a graduate degree in many other engineering domains.

What was a highlight of your time at USC Viterbi?

I have been a graduate student at USC since 2011 with a break year after my Master’s degree. During these years I have benefited from several treasured opportunities, however my “Aha!” moment was exploring opportunities outside the curriculum courses. Early on, I was purely focused on course work such as assignments and term project, which provided me its fair share of education, but after the second semester at SC I started reaching out to faculty for professional advice, attending seminars and lectures, and engaging with different research groups. The lesson I learned through all these interactions after several years is that investing time in building a meaningful relationship with as many scholars and professionals within the USC network as possible has an invaluable rate of return. I was able to establish a mentor/mentee relationship with several professors and alumni in the Engineering School. It is amazing how open all these people are to assisting new students. Faculty and staff from different departments made themselves available to me upon request and they were always generous with their time and attention and each conversation opened a new door for me to improve my educational experience at SC. To name a few of these opportunities, I was able to receive a paid summer internship in one of the most prestigious research institutes in Washington DC, participate in a national entrepreneurship completion, co-author research papers with some of the best scholars in my area of study, and become president of a cultural student organization.

Are there any extracurricular activities or organizations you have been part of during your studies?

One of the most valuable experiences at SC was participating the Maseeh Entrepreneurship competition. Through this competition, Viterbi School provides a platform for students to work alongside mentors from the industry to develop their ideas into business plans and potentially a commercial success. My experience as one of the participants in this competition changed my perspective towards my education and my career goals. I highly encourage all engineering graduate students to learn about opportunities such as Maseeh competition and make the most of their time at USC to benefit from some of the extracurricular opportunities. Another outstanding experience at SC for me was joining a cultural student organization. USC systematically supports campus activities, and many offices have resources available for planning extracurricular events and activities. This is a unique opportunity that allows students expand their network and establish connection with people that share common interest outside their academic focus.

Tell us about a project you have been working on that made an impact on you.

I have focused on several research topics during my graduate studies at USC. The main theme of most my research is the energy industry and I have tried to investigate various components of this extensive industry. The core of my research has been on the technical aspects of energy production from natural resources. I specifically focused on the application of data science and advanced machine learning techniques in modeling energy resources. However, the environmental and safety sides of the energy industry is an essential part of a sustainable future. Therefore, I have continually researched the potential impacts of energy development projects and was able to collaborate with a research team in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department on publications in this area. Fortunately, the strong relationship among our department, and the Engineering School, and many of the major industrial players and government agencies facilitates interdisciplinary work and access to experts and resources.

What are your plans after graduation?

After completing my Ph.D., I would like to continue work and research in my current area of interest in the applications of data science in the energy industry. California is home to many technology startups that develop cutting edge solutions to some of the most challenging problems facing the energy industry. I see my near-term career goals continue in technology-driven companies that focus on mitigating the negative climate impacts of the energy industry.

What is something you’ll miss most about USC?

The vibrant networking nature of being a graduate student at USC is definitely one of the best things that I experienced during my years here and I will do my best to maintain some level of engagement through the alumni network after my graduation.

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