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“Just call me Babak”

An essay by EECS senior Jaeyup Lee

“Just call me Babak”

ADMIRED: EECS lecturer Babak Ayazifar

Peg Skorpinski Photo

“Don’t call me professor or mister,” said the EE 20N instructor on the first day of lecture. “Just call me Babak.”

That was one way EECS lecturer Babak Ayazifar eliminated the gap between himself and his students. Another was “banzai.” He instructed students to shout out “banzai” whenever they wanted to take a break.

Banzai!

Although some professors can seem aloof, Babak is different. I believe he’s a remarkable professor.

I’m a transfer student and, during my first semester, everything was confusing. I decided to drop a course, which led me to Babak, my faculty advisor. That was the first time I met him. I showed him my petition, and he helped increase my chances for approval. He was so likeable, I wanted to get to know him.

Babak was born in Iran in the  late 1960s and immigrated to the United States when he was in high school. He earned his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from CalTech and his master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering from MIT, where he won the top graduate teaching award. In 2005, he joined the Berkeley faculty.

Last semester, I took EE 20N and discovered just how different Babak is. His lectures were exciting, and he was passionate about signals. At the start of each class, he woke us up with a dash of humor. Although class got harder, his sense of humor and enthusiasm kept it enjoyable. Every lecture was filled, even though the class was webcast.

Students also packed his office hours, sitting on chairs or on the floor. That’s because he didn’t just answer questions but gave mini lectures. He even held extra office hours for students doing poorly. He met with each one individually and gave study tips. Although his hours were in the late afternoon, he never skipped them or came tired. He once said, “It’s a great day for me when I see the glitter of ‘I get it now’ on a student’s face.”

Before the first midterm, we got an e-mail from Babak around midnight entitled, “Time to Hit the Sack (Dr’s Orders!),” with detailed reasons why we needed to sleep. I hadn’t been able to fall asleep, but his e-mail eased my worries and I slept comfortably.

Some of my classmates were talking after the test, and one said, “That was very hard, but I won’t drop this course even if I get an ‘F’ in it.”

Everybody likes him for many reasons, but mostly because he is a special teacher who cares for his students. He advises students to “Use your time wisely” and “Be just! Be just to yourself, your family, your friends and everyone else who’s had an impact on your life.” Whenever I’m tired and feel like giving up, Babak inspires me.

This essay is adapted from an IDS 140 assignment.

Learn more about Ayazifar at http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Faculty/Homepages/ayazifar.html