Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Heidar Malki

Professor Heidar A. Malki is Chair of the Engineering Technology Department. In addition, he has a joint appointment with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UH. Dr. Malki earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He enjoys reading, jogging, kayaking, and yard work in his spare time.

Q. What brought you to the University of Houston College of Technology?

A. As I was finishing my Ph.D. dissertation in fall 1990, I was looking for a job and wanted to move to a warm, big city that offered better opportunities to raise a family. The University of Houston provided me with the opportunity to interact with the oil and gas industry and NASA, while continuing my research. I moved here to take a position as an assistant professor at Texas Southern University. I needed a mainframe computer to access my files at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the UH Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering was able to provide an account. I would come to the UH Central campus quite often until the completion of my thesis. During one of my visits in spring 1991, I dropped by the College of Technology in search of summer or full-time employment. Dr. Luces Faulkenberry, Associate Professor and former chair of the Engineering Technology Department, told me about a new opening in the control systems area. Since that was one of my research interests, I applied immediately. I accepted a position as assistant professor at the College of Technology, and am still here as a happy faculty member and chair of the department!

Q. Are you involved in research now?

A. My interests include industrial applications of neural networks, design of fuzzy logic controllers with industrial applications, and neuro-fuzzy controllers. However, as the chair of a rapidly growing department, my time to engage in research has been somewhat limited. I have been a principal investigator (PI) and co-PI on several state, National Science Foundation, and NASA grants. My latest projects include Development of a Lunar Navigation System, funded by the NASA Johnson Space Center and Sensor Networks and Security Infrastructure, funded by NASA and the Department of Defense.

Through my joint appointment in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, I supervised a Ph.D. student who recently completed his doctoral degree. His doctoral dissertation was entitled Predictive Energy Management Methods for Smart Grids.

Q. What are your various roles?

A. As the department chair, my main responsibility is to oversee the curriculum, academic, and accreditation issues for four undergraduate and three graduate engineering technology programs. In addition, I support undergraduate and graduate students facing academic challenges; manage the department's budget, staff, and faculty; establish joint international collaborative programs with other countries; and hire faculty, graduate students, and staff for the department.

I usually teach undergraduate level C++ and control systems courses. In addition, I teach graduate level courses --introduction to neural networks, digital signal processing, and a graduate seminar.

Q. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

A. Like many department chairs, managing the department budget during the tough economic climate has been particularly challenging and a top priority. In addition, our ever-increasing enrollment has driven our need to accelerate the hiring of qualified part-time faculty.

Q. What advice would you like to offer to current or prospective students?

A. The College of Technology's engineering technology programs and faculty are highly recognized by industry. We are very proud of the quality of education that our students experience here. My advice to all students is to be mindful of the deadlines—for enrollment, courses and projects. Make the extra effort to attend classes and actively participate in them. Provide feedback to improve the quality of the programs. Actively participate in regional and national competitions to complement your learning and grow as a professional. In addition, I encourage the students to become a member of the college alumni to promote ET and the college.