Georgia Tech graduates Fabia Farlin Athena and Irfan Al-Hussaini at the Spring 2024 Ph.D. Commencement Ceremony. The couple met in the electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. program and married in 2022. (Photo Courtesy: Rob Felt)

Despite attending the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology at the same time and graduating in the same year, Irfan Al-Hussaini and Fabia Farlin Athena never crossed paths. After moving 8,000 miles across the world — Al-Hussaini in Spring 2018 and Athena in Fall 2019 — their paths finally intertwined during their studies at the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE).

“I remember seeing her first coming out of the car and thinking, wow, she is pretty,” recalls Al-Hussaini.  

Their initial meeting was subtle. Al-Hussaini was helping another student move the same day Athena arrived. Although their first interaction was brief, it sparked a curiosity and mutual respect that grew as they began to encounter each other in programs and activities offered by the Bangladesh student association. 

Over time, the pair found themselves working through their academic projects and sharing insights into their individual research with an unexpected partnership that laid the foundation for a deeper connection. 

A Blossoming Partnership 

As they navigated the demanding waters of Ph.D. studies, Al-Hussaini and Athena’s relationship blossomed. They supported each other academically and personally, making the challenges of research and study more bearable. Not long after their relationship took a romantic turn.  

“We went on a group trip to Utah and when we returned, I got the courage to finally tell her how I felt,” said Al-Hussaini.  

After spending time together (often studying), the decision to marry seemed a natural progression given their deep understanding of each other’s aspirations and personalities. They got married in Atlanta in 2022, surrounded by family and friends from both Bangladesh and the United States, marking a new chapter in their lives together. 

“Being married as classmates came with a lot of advantages,” said Athena. “Many Ph.D. students do not have the support of talking with people who understand the challenges, but I have a partner who I could plan my life and career with every step of the way.” 


Fabia and Irfan's group trip to Utah

Al-Hussaini (back right) and Athena (front-left) on a trip with other students from the Bangladesh student association to Utah. 

Athena's on their wedding day

 Al-Hussaini and Athena on their wedding day.

 Al-Hussaini and Farlin on their wedding day.

 Al-Hussaini and Athena after the vows during their wedding ceremony.

Fabia and Irfan Spring Commencement

Athena receiving her diploma with Al-Hussaini not far behind at this semester's Ph.D. graduation ceremony. (Photo Courtesy: Rob Felt)

Fabia and Irfan Spring Commencement

The couple posing with Atena's Ph.D. advisor, Professor Eric M. Vogel, after receiving their diplomas. (Photo Courtesy: Rob Felt)

Graduation: A Full Circle Moment 

The couple walked the stage together at this spring's Georgia Tech Ph.D. commencement held at McCamish Pavilion on May 2. Choosing to walk together was a symbolic decision for Al-Hussaini and Athena. Although Al-Hussaini completed his Ph.D. in Fall 2023, he chose to wait so they could experience the milestone side by side. 

"I decided I wanted to wait," said Al-Hussaini. "We conquered so many milestones together, I wanted us to leave this chapter of life together to symbolize how we will spend the rest of our life."

Their journey together now looks to the future with a leap of faith and a new adventure, as most good love stories do. Both will be pursuing careers that reflect their individual and shared dreams — Al-Hussaini at NVIDIA and Athena at Stanford University completing a  Stanford Energy Postdoctoral Fellowship. Looking back, their story evokes the romantic idea of discovering love where it's least expected, as well as the power of education and community in bringing people together. Amid innovation and scholarship, bonds form, friendships flourish, and love finds its place.

“We are grateful to ECE because it is a place where we made so many dreams come true,” said Athena. "We credit Georgia Tech as much more than just the place we got our education, it turned out to be the unexpected, yet perfect, backdrop for our love story to unfold.”   

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