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Dr Usman Naeem, Senior Lecturer, School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Dr Usman Naeem is Senior Lecturer in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, and joins the Queen Mary Academy as a Fellow in 2022. In this profile, Usman talks about supporting students in recognising their personal growth, the importance of projects in the curriculum, and the therapeutic properties of Lego.


How long have you worked at Queen Mary?

I've worked at Queen Mary   since 2018. This is my second spell as I previously worked here between 2008 and 2009 as a teaching fellow while writing my PhD thesis. I have a long association with Queen Mary, as I did my bachelors and PhD here. From the moment I left my post in 2009, I was looking for an opportunity to return and give more back to Queen Mary because I hold the institution in such high esteem. I'm a product of Queen Mary, and I take great pride in working here. I love it!

You’ve recently taken on a new role as a Queen Mary Academy Fellow, what are you working on?

I will be working with the Queen Mary Academy as a Fellow in 2022-24, where I will provide academic leadership to Queen Mary’s use of Learner Engagement Analytics (LEA). I will be responsible for developing a strategy for driving forward the uptake and enhancement of LEA throughout the institution.

As an academic, I am someone who firmly believes in the benefits of LEA, as I’ve utilised this for many years as it allows me to get an understanding of the students who are not engaging in their modules.

Over the next couple of months, I will facilitate support sessions for academics to get the most out of LEA by helping them understand how to use it, how to set up their QMplus pages and raising awareness about the importance of quality of data.

What other key projects are you working on at the moment to improve the student experience?

mySkills is a project I initiated with my colleague, Claire Revell. The motivation behind this project is to empower students and enable them to build their own personal brand (via e-portfolios, LinkedIn etc), which will be based on the skills that they have acquired in their modules and extra-curricular activities. The premise of mySkills is based on students reflecting on the skills they have gained and populating this information on professional platforms such as LinkedIn. The benefits of doing this are two-fold. Firstly, students will have a log of the skills they have for each module, which will help them when preparing for summer internships, placements, job applications and populating their LinkedIn profiles. Secondly, this is another mechanism to measure engagement in the programme, which has a direct impact on retention.

mySkills has been integrated into the curriculum, as it is connected to several modules (employability anchors) at each level of the student’s degree programme. I like to think of this framework as an invisible module that spans the duration of the student’s programme. We successfully conducted a mySkills pilot last academic year with our Level 4 students. This framework has the potential to be transferable to other schools in the university and is something which we’d like to see in the foreseeable future.

We recently were awarded Westfield funding to hire student ambassadors who will spearhead the social media campaign for mySkills. They will be at the forefront of sending the mySkills message out to students and they have already created some fantastic content for us that we intend to use throughout the academic year, which will help us create a buzz amongst the student population.

Describe your average day/week.  

I don't really have an average week, which I'm happy with because that's one of the most dynamic aspects of my job and one that I thoroughly enjoy.

I consider myself lucky to be in a position where I engage with many students. I'm the module organiser for one of the largest modules in the school, which is a first-year module (Fundamentals of Web Technology) as well as the project coordinator for undergraduate and postgraduate projects. I enjoy my project coordinator role as I believe that projects are an important part of the curriculum as they allow students to showcase their problem-solving skills to potential employers. It can also have a positive impact on employability.

Recently, I became the Deputy Chair of our Devolved Research Ethics Committee (DREC) within the School, where we review ethics applications for research projects.

What do you see as your role in helping the University achieve its Strategy 2030 for education and the student experience?  

My role as a Queen Mary Academy Fellow is to facilitate an environment for our academics to be able to identify students who require support. Early identification of these students will then have a positive impact on both the student experience and retention because we are able to provide extra support at the right time.

In relation to employability, I think the mySkills initiative (initially conceived at school level in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science) is something that could grow institutionally and have a positive impact across our student population. The mySkills initiative provides students with a framework to support and recognise their success and personal growth.  While the project has a specific employability focus, the students will be considering their skill development alongside their discipline knowledge, encouraging them to make connections between what they are learning as an EECS student and how this connects with the workplace and their own career aspirations.

What’s your favourite place on any of our campuses?  

There are two places. Number one is the Great Hall. This is because I really enjoy teaching there and engaging with a large audience, something that I greatly missed during the pandemic. The other reason why it is one of my favourite places is that I look forward to participating in the graduation ceremonies. Of course, as a student I've had two ceremonies there, my bachelors and my PhD, and now I enjoy being a staff member on the stage and seeing students graduating in this great venue. My other favourite place is the Octagon, which I really love. Those are two special places for me, not only as a staff member but also when I was a student as I have some really fond memories there.

If you could tell a prospective student one thing about Queen Mary, what would it be?  

Queen Mary is a fantastic institution. It has a wonderful and diverse student and staff population, and it’s the most inclusive university that I know of.
Having obtained my bachelors and PhD from Queen Mary, I would always recommend Queen Mary in a heartbeat. It's the best!

Do you have any unusual hobbies, pastimes outside of work?

I have a passion for Lego, and I'd like to think of myself as a master builder (a bit like Emmet from the Lego movies!). I find it quite therapeutic, as I sometimes need a break from my busy work schedule.

Visit the Queen Mary Academy website to find out more about Learner Engagement Analytics at Queen Mary.



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