First PhD graduate heralds the start of an era of innovation

September 21, 2018

Dr Youssef Shatilla is Dean of Academic Programmes at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology

First PhD graduate Faisal Al MarzooqThe UAE will achieve a significant milestone in its year of innovation with the graduation of its first doctorate of advanced and sustainable technology. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology Class of 2015 will include the university’s first PhD graduate – who is an Emirati – an achievement of particular value given the impact of doctorate holders on advanced knowledge economies.

Graduate education is known to play a significant role in prosperous economies.

Data from the British National Institute of Economic and Social Research credited graduate skill accumulation with 20 per cent GDP growth in the UK from 1982 to 2005. Educated workers enhance productivity. The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has said that PhD holders are one of the “key actors behind the creation of economic growth”.

The term of study for a PhD graduate is typically from three to five years. By the end of a student’s studies, he or she will have evolved into an expert in a particular field. During their studies, the PhD students will have pushed the boundaries of science through their deep investigations, gained valuable research expertise, acquired advanced communication skills and created valuable networks across industry and academia through their collaborative engagements.

Their many years of advanced research may result in valuable intellectual property, which, with support from the technology transfer office, can be leveraged commercially. The finished product is a capable individual who possesses the understanding, abilities and awareness needed to produce valuable societal contributions – either as professors, industry experts or entrepreneurs. Masdar Institute developed its unique Interdisciplinary Doctoral Degree Programme (IDDP) in recognition value of PhD graduates, to provide the greatest impact on the UAE’s knowledge economy.

Instead of developing rigid doctorate programmes that could quickly grow outdated, Masdar Institute created the IDDP to allow PhD students to develop a customised degree programmes. The resulting degree programme draws on all of the various technical disciplines that are required to achieve true knowledge and innovation. Additionally, IDDP students benefit from Masdar Institute’s relationship with one world’s leading science and engineering universities – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An MIT faculty member is one of at least three research supervisory committee members for each Masdar Institute doctoral student, providing valuable guidance and mentorship.

The student who will become our first PhD graduate encapsulates all the best qualities and ideals of Masdar Institute’s IDDP. Faisal Al Marzooqi is an ambitious young Emirati who intends to use his doctorate to help his country reach the next level of its prosperity.

An Imperial College of London Master’s degree holder, Mr Al Marzooqi was previously a member of Masdar Institute’s Young Future Energy Leaders programme and is currently a member of the UAE Government Leaders Programme.During his studies at Masdar Institute, Mr Al Marzooqi worked with a team of professors from the microsystems, mechanical and water and environmental engineering programmes at Masdar Institute and MIT. His dissertation combined water desalination research and advancements in nanotechnology to produce a device that can desalinate water in a sustainable, energy efficient way.

He expects the device can be commercialised, and a patent application has been submitted for it.Following his graduation, Mr Al Marzooqi is eager to answer the call of the UAE leadership to build an innovation ecosystem. He intends to contribute to that by helping to bridge the gap between research institutions and those who require their innovative solutions – namely government and industry.

With Mr Al Marzooqi and other passionate and highly-trained Masdar Institute doctorate holders set to enter the UAE workforce, the country is one step closer to achieving its innovation goals. We are all very excited to see what they will help the UAE achieve.

Dr Youssef Shatilla is Dean of Academic Programmes at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology