Engineering Grad To Begin Doctorate at Princeton

Abraham Asafaw ’12 will attend Princeton to pursue doctoral studies in electrical engineering and quantum computing.

Abraham Asfaw

As an eighth grader in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Abraham Asfaw was fascinated with the physics behind making electricity and spent the entire summer trying to build his own generator.

It was the moment in Asfaw’s life when he was able to get a 1.5-volt light bulb to spark, that he was determined to make a future career out of his passion for electricity.

On May 20, Asfaw accomplished the first step in his career plans by graduating from Manhattan College with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a minor in math. He also was recognized with the Medal for Electrical Engineering and the Draddy Medal for General Excellence in Engineering at the Spring Honors Convocation on May 17.

The next phases of Asfaw’s education include a research position with Stephen A. Lyon, Ph.D., professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University, and in September he will begin his doctorate studies at Princeton in electrical engineering with an emphasis on quantum computing.

“Manhattan College has prepared me by giving the opportunity to explore a variety of disciplines,” said Asfaw, who is graduating with a 4.0 GPA. “I interacted with a number of electrical engineering, computer science, math and physics faculty, and quantum computing is actually what I want to study because it is composed of all of these fields together.”

Asfaw also credits his success at Manhattan College to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas O’Malley, who provided him with a scholarship during his four years at the College. Thomas O’Malley ’63 has served as chairman of Manhattan’s board of trustees for the past seven years.

Throughout his four years at Manhattan, Asfaw has thrived in the College’s Lasallian Catholic community. “Back home the high school I went to was Lasallian and I loved the sense of having some sense of moral grounding and ethics in addition to the academics,” Asfaw added. “And a Christian Brother who visited my high school spoke about Manhattan and I was attracted to the College because of its Lasallian tradition, so I expected to see the same thing and I was right about that.”

Inside and outside the classroom, Asfaw invested all of his energy in learning and becoming immersed in the campus community. He has remained an active member of the International Student Association since his freshman year and has served as the president for the last year. The association hopes to be a home for international students by immersing them in the culture of New York City and hosting social events on campus. 

If he continues to develop as he has thus far, it appears that he will be able to make significant contributions to the advancement of science and engineering.

In addition, he was the technical coordinator for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for the past two years and built their website. He also used his engineering, math and physics skills to tutor his fellow classmates working for the Center for Academic Success (formerly called Academics Support Services).

"If he continues to develop as he has thus far, it appears that he will be able to make significant contributions to the advancement of science and engineering," said Chester Nisteruk, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering. "He is very bright, personable and shows leadership potential."

One of Asfaw’s proudest moments of his senior year was spent preparing and participating in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) Micromouse Region 1 Competition in March, an annual robotics competition.

“We had very high hopes for the competition and we wanted to leave a mark and keep this a tradition in the School of Engineering,” Asfaw said. “So we actually built our own mouse from scratch, while a number of schools purchase a kit with the mouse already built.”

Asfaw’s role to create algorithms to set up the navigation for the mouse contributed to Manhattan College’s first place win. His role also coincided with an algorithms class he was talking last fall.

Peter Boothe, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science at Manhattan College, advised Asfaw and his classmates on the project.

“Abe is a fantastic student, and his work was in a class by itself. His conscientiousness and quickness made our independent study sessions a real joy,” Boothe said. “He also gave freely of his time and helped tutor his fellow students no matter what level of help they needed, from the remedial to advanced levels. He has been a great student, and we expect great things from him in the future.”