Tandon Alum Wins Prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship to Study in China

Mohammed Omar

Mohammed Omar lived in South Africa, the Netherlands, and Singapore during his formative years, and when the time came to pick a university, he had his choice of schools in a number of world capitals. “It was clear to me that NYU Abu Dhabi was the right place for me,” he recalled, “because I knew that I could help shape it while it shaped me.”

That prediction proved correct; a member of the recently founded school’s inaugural class, he quickly became a student leader, helping to establish the student government there and twice serving as student body president. After graduating from NYUAD in 2014 with a double major in mechanical engineering and mathematics, Omar earned his M.S. in mechanical engineering at Tandon, where he worked under the direction of Professor Nikhil Gupta and became part of the first team to successfully create a metal matrix syntactic foam core sandwich composite of great interest to the U.S. Army and other organizations for its strength, flexibility, and light weight.

Omar subsequently accepted a job at the professional services firm AlphaSights and could easily have rested on his laurels, content with completing a rigorous course of study and winning a good position at a respected company. But resting on his laurels would have been a very foreign concept for him. Instead, Omar applied to become a Schwarzman Scholar, one of a small annual cohort who undertake a master’s degree program founded by Blackstone Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder Stephen A. Schwarzman.

"Engineers cultivate a set of analytical skills that can be harnessed to problem solve and innovate in fields that are entirely untechnical."
                — Mohammed Omar

Schwarzman Scholars study for a year at Tsinghua University, in Beijing, one of China’s premier institutions, attempting to develop an understanding of China and its role as a global powerhouse. They are chosen to participate only after a rigorous process designed to evaluate their leadership experience and potential; intellectual and academic ability; capacity to understand emerging trends, design solutions, and inspire others; and strength of character. The program, which has been lauded by First Lady Michelle Obama, is frequently compared with the Rhodes Scholarship in competitiveness and prestige.

Omar’s classmates now include a former Foreign Affairs Aide to the Korean Minister of National Defense, a Mandarin pop singer-songwriter and TV personality, and a Staff Assistant in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Obama Administration. Together, they’ll study public policy, economics, and international affairs — topics that might, at first glance, seem far afield for an engineer. However, Omar says, "Engineers cultivate a set of analytical skills that can be harnessed to problem solve and innovate in fields that are entirely untechnical."

He hopes to inspire more engineers to seek outside-the-box opportunities like the Schwarzman Scholarship. "We bring something different to the table, and must not shy away from opportunities that may involve unfamiliar courses of study,” he asserts. “Indeed, coupling our analytical thinking with an awareness of the international forces in politics, economics, and business will put us at the forefront of solving problems that are global in scope."