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Minoush Nikham
January 17, 2023

For Minoush Nikham, engineering isn’t just a career, it’s her passion. And when it comes to getting an education, she says her experience at IVC is the cornerstone for her accomplishments thus far. 

“At IVC, I learned I could do it,” states the proud engineer. 

Before enrolling at IVC, Nikham began her engineering journey at another local community college. Expecting to launch into an unstoppable career, she quickly found the college wasn't a good fit.

“I had a professor at my last junior college … he said to pick a different major,” reflects Nikham. However, she wasn’t letting anyone get in the way of her pursuits. Before even considering her professor’s words, she transferred to Irvine Valley College and hit the ground running. 

“I was happy again. I regained my self-confidence … I was respected,” says the proud Laser-alum. “And I learned a lot of good engineering knowledge, which showed when I transferred to Cal Poly Pomona.” 

According to the dedicated student, establishing her engineering foundation at IVC is one of the best decisions she has made. From courses in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to even building a wall-climbing robot, Nikham says her experience at the Orange County campus was unmatched.  

“I think the classes that I took at IVC were better than the classes I took at Cal Poly Pomona,” admits the engineer. “The instructors at IVC were better than most.”

Specifically, she credits Drafting/CAD Instructor Matthew Wolken for providing her with the skills to land an acceptance into Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Engineering – the tenth-best engineering program in the country.

“I took all my math classes, physics classes, and engineering classes at IVC,” shares Nikham. “I really enjoyed being a part of their program, as I found there was much less stress at IVC than my previous junior college.”

Nikham and Wolken worked closely together while building the wall-climbing robot — called WCR —for one of Wolken's courses. To construct the machine, Nikham used various techniques, from fluid flow to heat transfer, to create the project in IVC's engineering lab. From designing, fabricating, 3D printing, and testing the robot, Nikham's hard work was even recognized by an engineer from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

“We did laser cut and problem solving, and I did a lot of research for an extensive paper,” reflects Nikham about the robot-building experience. “The robot car impressed a JPL engineer, and he selected my WCR car as one of the best student projects.”

Wolken says Nikham's work, and attitude stood out amongst students. During lectures, labs, and discussions, Nikham was always eager to keep learning more. “Her enthusiasm and willingness to ask thought-provoking questions was a constant source of motivation during class sessions,” shares the instructor. 

“She is a technically gifted student with a true interest in understanding course material and the methods by which it can be applied to the professional engineering world.”

And Nikham’s eagerness to learn didn’t stop at engineering. Dr. Sanjai Gupta, a mathematics professor at IVC, says Nikham happened to be "the complete opposite" of other students that venture into his classroom.

“Over the years, I have noticed that most students do not like participating in a math class," says Dr. Gupta. “Minoush is the complete opposite! Her enthusiasm, motivation, diligence, and love of learning make her stand out as a student.”

Now with a full-fledged career in the engineering industry, Nikham is proud to pay it forward. Nikham and her family members, Cybel and Jerry Maio, regularly donate to IVC and fund an annual student scholarship and a $5,000+ Certiport Autodesk Certification Contract through the IVC Foundation. 

The IVC Foundation accepts donations to help provide resources, scholarships, and programming that benefits students across the board. From veterans, STEM, foster students, and more, there’s a myriad of opportunities available for students through the foundation. And thanks to donations from those like Nikham and her family, it’s making all the difference — especially within the engineering program where Nikham got her start. 

“The IVC Foundation worked closely with our department to both streamline the S-STEM scholarship application process and increase the visibility of the program among our students,” shares Instructor Wolken.

“Additionally, the Foundation was extremely helpful in creating and managing the Maio Engineering Fund at IVC, which provides ongoing funding support for important equipment, certification exams, software, scholarships, and supplies.”

Now with a degree from Cal Poly Pomona, Nikham recently secured a job as an engineer at Orange County-based company, Applied Medical. Here, she uses her engineering skillset to help develop cutting-edge medical tools for use in the healthcare field.

As the grateful engineer reflects on her IVC experience, she offers students like herself a small piece of advice: “Take advantage of all the engineering classes at IVC before transferring to a four-year college,” states Nikham.

“You will gain a lot of experience and knowledge.”

Learn more about IVC’s Engineering Program.