Working with cool things to solve real-world problems

A native of Iran, Samad Ali came to study wireless communications engineering at the University of Oulu in 2012. Ten years later, he is working in the industry to improve the standards in current and next-generation telecommunication networks.
Samad Ali

Working with cool things to solve real-world problems

Samad Ali had gained his Bachelor's degree in Telecommunications Engineering in Iran and after finishing his military service, he wanted to continue his studies abroad. He had specific criteria in making his decision: the education had to be top-notch and there had to be great connections to industry which meant opportunities in studying, working and getting internships.

“I really wanted to have the best education possible and that was the most important thing. I looked at places in Europe and in North America and applied to many. The University of Oulu is very well known in my field, and it is one of the very best places to study wireless communications. I chose Oulu as the place to do my master’s, and I really got what I wanted”, Ali says.

Ali came to Finland prepared to study hard and make the most of his time here. When he arrived in Oulu, he was pleasantly surprised by how smooth everything was.

“I remember my orientation with the Faculty and the first thing the coordinator said was, 'Don’t stress’. This is a different place!”, Ali says with a laugh.

Of course, he did study as hard as anywhere else, but he appreciated the level of freedom in the studies.

“As a student you have time and several chances to take tests, the professors are available to help you and the course content is always up to date. The University has a lot of freedom to put away outdated content and bring in visiting professors to teach the latest topics. You get to study and learn and that was so important to me, and the reason why I stayed here for my doctoral studies”, Ali says.

Machine learning is the future

Ali’s passion for technology has translated into a career that has him working at Nokia on standards research and at the University as a postdoctoral researcher. At Nokia, he is tasked with supporting the work of standards development. As all the Internet-enabled devices of the world communicate with each other, international standards are the way to ensure that messages are sent, received and processed correctly across devices and platforms. His work is a combination of coding, inventing, solving problems and writing and presenting his findings.

“I am working at the cutting edge of technology and science, which gives me joy every day. I wake up and I am working with cool stuff, using technology to solve real-world problems.

For example, improving energy efficiency means being able to use battery powered devices that are charged with solar energy in rural areas, which means bringing education to children in remote parts of the world and connecting them with the rest of us. There are hundreds of thousands of people like me around the world and every one of them is an important piece of the puzzle. That’s what’s important to me,” Ali muses.

As a self-professed techie, Ali is quick to beat the drum of using machine learning to improve the way our complex communications systems work.

“With machine learning, we will be able to have better networks in the sense that we will have higher transfer speeds, higher reliability, lower latency, they will be more power efficient. The complexity will also come down because the training of machine learning algorithms is usually very complex and difficult, but a trained ML model will result in a simple system. Well, simple from the computational point of view”, Ali says.

Easy adjustment to the weather

Usually, people who arrive in Oulu are put off by the weather, which inevitably turns unpleasant, and the light, which inevitably gives way to the darkness of winter. Ali is from the Northwestern part of Iran, which is mountainous and can have temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius easily in the winter. So, he was not too fazed by his surroundings in that respect.

“I have to say that for a person who is focused on studying and getting a great education, Oulu is a wonderful place. Nature in Oulu is very beautiful, in the summer everywhere is green and the winter has its own beauty. Moreover, you can walk and bike everywhere, so it is easy to get around which makes life much more pleasant.”

Even if he was accustomed to the cold, Ali did find it useful to study by the window to make the most of the very few hours of daylight available in the dead of winter. These are all practical matters, though.

“For me, the big surprises were other things. I remember meeting the head of my research unit for the first time. He said that "I am not Sir, Professor, or Doctor. I have a name, it is Jari, you call me that." This is unique to me and says something about Finnish society in general”, Ali chuckles.

"I am working at the cutting edge of technology and science, which gives me joy every day", Samad Ali says.

Samad Ali

Doctor of Science (Technology)

Master of Science (Technology) in Wireless Communications Engineering

Senior Research Specialist at Nokia Standards

“I love running, which is probably not that unusual or surprising, but I love running in Oulu also in the winter. I never thought it would be so easy to run on snow and ice. You do need to prepare with the right equipment. Cover your face, cover your head, wear layers. It took me some time to figure it out, but it’s great.”