A Teacher’s Tenacity

RASHA MORSI - ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING
by Dana Forde,  February 22, 2011

Title: Assistant Professor of Electronics Engineering and Director, Center for Gaming and Simulation, Norfolk State University

 

Education: Ph.D., Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering; M.E., Computer Engineering, Old Dominion University; B.Eng., King’s College, University of London

At the early age of 14, Dr. Rasha Morsi knew that her life’s calling was teaching others. But the encouragement of a grade school math teacher propelled her on the path to academia.

“She kind of made me think, ‘wait a minute, I can do this … I really am good at math.’ Her words of encouragement were very important,” says Morsi, who was born in Egypt and raised in London and Egypt. “I knew I wanted to be a professor at a university. I knew I had to work hard toward earning a Ph.D. … and I’m very stubborn. If I say I’m going to succeed at something, I’m going to do it.”

Today, Morsi is living her childhood dream. She joined the Norfolk State University faculty in 2003 and since then has helped the university garner close to $1 million in research grants. Morsi is praised for her cutting-edge engineering research, which centers on modeling and simulation and the development and design of Web-based educational games and tools.

After arriving at NSU, Morsi set out to examine the plight of the country’s future engineers and technology experts, who, she says, need more research opportunities in the areas of modeling and simulation. In efforts to fill this niche, Morsi spearheaded the development of the university’s Center for Gaming and Simulation: an educational mecca that uses games and other Web-based tools to reinforce classroom instruction. Many of these tools, Morsi explains, generate random problem statements and allow students to solve questions in a step-by-step manner.

“Retention rates for engineering students are low nationwide, and employing new and innovative techniques in our teaching seemed like an excellent opportunity to improve these rates through trying to make learning engineering fun,” says Morsi.

She notes that through funding from the Norfolk Foundation, what started as a vacant space has expanded to more than a dozen gaming machines, including three-dimensional software and displays. “One of the things I love doing is helping to build an entity, and this really was an opportunity for me to be a part of building something from scratch.”

Dr. Sandra J. DeLoatch, dean of NSU’s School of Science and Technology, says Morsi’s visionary and leadership qualities have helped the university stay at the forefront of the engineering and technology fields.

“We are looking to find areas of excellence in our school and in the area of modeling and simulation; she (Morsi) has put Norfolk State in the arena … there’s a lot of modeling and simulation work going on presently, and she’s making us a major player in a big way,” says DeLoatch, adding that Morsi is last year’s recipient of NSU’s University Award of Excellence — the institution’s highest honor bestowed on faculty.

In recent years, Morsi has received numerous honors for her scholarship, including the department of engineering’s Overall Award for excellence in research at NSU, teaching and service work in the department of engineering. Morsi also strives to improve the recruitment and retention of minority females in the science, engineering and technology disciplines by advising NSU’s Girls in Science, Engineering and Technology Club, which she founded in 2004.

She is currently finalizing the development of a summer gaming workshop tailored for high school and middle school students and has future plans to develop gaming systems that target K-12
students.

When asked what career advice she would give to other young scholars, Morsi replies, “Don’t stick to what you know. Go for new opportunities and new avenues because you may still excel at those things, and it may even help boost your career.”



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