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Graduate Study

icon of a calendarNovember 23, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Michael Downes

Educational Escape

Father and son have a unique, friendly competition in their educational endeavors

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Robert Hall

One of Mouhamad Hammami’s favorite places to study on campus is the Oakland Center (OC). Mouhamad, who is in the process of earning his Ph.D. in medical physics, meets up with his study buddy, Abdul, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and happens to be Mouhamad’s father.

The two get together there regularly for coffee and to catch up on their work. While the OC can be a bustling area, it’s a calming escape for Abdul and Mouhamad, who got a new lease on life after retreating from their turbulent home country. 

“We came to the United States in late 2012 to flee the war in Syria,” says Abdul. 

Abdul and his wife, Manal Alnouri, escaped Syria with their one daughter and four sons. Mouhamad, who was 17 at the time of the move, is the second oldest child. He attended Port Huron High School and earned his associate’s degree at St. Clair County Community College. 

Two men walking down hallway

Mouhamad had some friends that attended OU, and heard nothing but good things about the university. It sparked his interest enough to visit the campus and eventually apply. The atmosphere was what attracted Mouhamad to OU and the professors are what kept him here. 

“The way the professors taught the subjects,” explains Mouhamad, “their passion, and how much I was able to learn was very influential for me.”

His passion for OU didn’t go unnoticed.

“When Mouhamad joined Oakland, he spoke so highly of it,” says Abdul. “All the years he attended, he’d wake up early, be very active and couldn’t wait to get to campus. So, I was wondering, what’s the magic?”

Abdul studied law in Syria right out of high school and traveled to the states in the early 90’s to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science. When they moved to the U.S., he earned a master’s degree from Central Michigan University.

Abdul’s drive and passion for education stems from the war in Syria. “There is a whole generation that grew up that doesn’t know anything other than war,” he explains. He is currently the CEO for a non-profit organization that focuses on providing education to those that are deprived of it in turbulent areas. “I know that when I further my education that it will reflect on those refugees that are unable to do it.” 

Two men walking on campus

Abdul enrolled for the Ph.D. program right around the time as Mouhamad. The two have worked together, ensuring each are successful, with a little friendly competition. “I was really impressed by my dad’s college degrees on the wall,” says Mouhamad. “I wanted to be the first in my family to earn a Ph.D. and be the first scientist and I was the first to ...”

“You can’t say that yet, you have to wait,” Abdul interjects, who could potentially earn his Ph.D. before Mouhamad.

“There’s obviously a competition with my dad,” says Mouhamad, “and I just want to be a good scientist in the future ...”

“By the way, he has an unfair advantage over me, he has a full scholarship, I don’t,” jokes Abdul.

“I got my first publication before you,” Mouhamad says through their laughter. 

In fact, Mouhamad was the first to earn a co-author publication in the Hammami family, and credits Dr. Wei Zhang for getting him involved in the research field. The two worked with the Michigan Space Grant Consortium and Mouhamad’s research earned him several grants and scholarships. But his work isn’t done yet.

“Long-term, I want to be in the academic world,” Mouhamad explains. “My goal is to become a developer in my field. I’ve been influenced by the great minds, Einstein, Rutherford, Bohr, Planck. I want to understand and change the universe like they did. I became really passionate about medical physics by taking my first course in the field by Dr. Brad Roth at Oakland University.”

Seeing their children not only striving to become educated, but truly enjoying it is all that matters to Abdul and Manal. However, their children wouldn’t have been able to reach these heights, without them being incredible role models. 

“I want to encourage my children,” says Abdul. “I want them to see that nothing is too difficult. We try to create a motivational environment. I want to prove to my children that you can achieve anything, at any age, as long as you are determined and motivated.”

Learn how you can earn an advanced degree at Oakland University.

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