Carnegie Mellon University
February 17, 2023

Education is a Family Tradition for Noha Abdelghany

By Amy Pavlak Laird

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Marketing and Communication, MCS
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Noha Abdelghany comes from a family of teachers. Her mother is a teacher. Her three older sisters went to college to be teachers. As the middle sister (she also has three younger sisters), Abdelghany was determined to do something different. She decided to pursue a degree in computer science, but she took a class her first year that changed everything. The class was a mix of mathematical logic and set theory.

“I just fell in love with it,” she said. “It was the best class that I had ever taken at that time. I would do my computer science homework really quickly and get back to the math.”

Even though math sparked something inside of her, she didn’t really consider pursuing a degree in mathematics.

“I was a little resistant because I didn’t want to be a teacher. And that was the only thing that came to mind. If I’m going to major in math, my only career option is to be a teacher,” said Abdelghany, an assistant teaching professor of mathematical sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.

But Abdelghany realized that math was her passion, so she switched majors, earning her bachelor’s of science in mathematics from Cairo University and her Ph.D. at Western Michigan University. Her research interests are in algebraic coding theory, the math that’s behind-the-scenes of many areas of communications, including television, email and text messaging. In her research, Abdelghany works to design error-correcting codes that can reliably transmit information across noisy channels.

Abdelghany loves doing research — but here’s the ironic part — she ended up loving teaching more than anything.

Seeing students actually getting it, seeing that light bulb go on, is rewarding for Abdelghany. And she also sees the value in being herself — a female mathematician — and how important it is for students to see relatable role models. As a visiting assistant professor at Colby College, Abdelghany interacted with a lot of minority math students.

“They would come to me and say: I loved it when I saw you in the classroom. It was really nice to see someone who is not the standard older white male. Seeing you, I feel like I can achieve something,” she said.

For someone who did not want to be a teacher, Abdelghany has found her calling. And she doesn’t hesitate to pass along her wisdom to her students.

“The problem-solving skills and critical-thinking skills you learn from majoring in math put you on the path to do anything you set your mind to,” she said.