Masdar Institute â€“ A Gateway to Sustainability
Foundation Program Students Focus on Specialized Research to Contribute to UAE’s Economic and Social Objectives
Abu Dhabi-UAE: 23 May, 2012 – It is a gateway for sustainability, making history and unlocking new forms of energy; it offers a unique interdisciplinary research environment in advanced energy with peers from over 30 countries; it is a dynamic, community-integrated, high-quality renewable energy-focused institution that actually works.
These are some of the remarks from some of the MSc first year students about Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
That the research-driven institution strikes such strong sentiments reflects its inherent appeal as a representation of what the humanity could achieve by being proactive sustainably. And such strong sentiments motivate these students to intensify their contribution to the community. But a key factor to motivation stems from the UAE National Foundation program.
More specifically, the Foundation program aims to help deserving Emirati students augment the knowledge required to undertake graduate level courses at Masdar Institute. It prepares the students for two years of advanced studies in one of Masdar Institute’s Master of Science (MSc) programs. At the same time, the program hones their skills and equips them for their role as future decision-makers.
Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President of Masdar Institute, said: “We consider the UAE National Foundation program as one of the basic elements in structuring the community of the future. By offering an enabling environment that will strengthen the knowledge base of the Emirati students, Masdar Institute directly contributes to building Abu Dhabi’s human capital, as mandated by the country’s leadership. This will in turn create industry leaders qualified and creative enough to innovate new sustainable and environment-friendly technologies.”
When launched in Fall 2010, only 18 UAE national students were admitted to the Foundation program. But since then, the program has generated intense interest among graduates and Masdar Institute’s efforts have begun to pay off. In September 2011, the Foundation program enrolled 55 students, a significant increase over the previous years. At present, the total number of students across the eight Master’s programs has reached 240, among which 71 are UAE nationals. The coming year is set to witness even higher enrollment of UAE national graduates.
Take Meshayel Al Ali for example. She has chosen ‘Optimal Carbon Price for Carbon Capture in Industrial Production: An Empirical Analysis on Two Industries in the UAE’ as the topic for her research. And she remains firms on what she would like to achieve. Meshayel says: “I am doing something for my country and try to establish models to set some policies and I am interested to work in environmental issues, especially carbon, to preserve the world for the next generation.”
“But everything was possible because of the Foundation program, which enhanced my capabilities and facilitated my choice,” Meshayel admits proudly and adds: “The technical curriculum essentially proved its worth during my research.”
An Architectural Engineer, Meshayel is working on research for the first time. She feels proud that she participated at the World Future Energy Summit 2012 with her first poster on carbon capture and storage. Having experienced the academic and research settings at Masdar Institute, Al Ali is keen to encourage her friends with Engineering background to enroll in Masdar Institute.
Shaikha Ahmed Al Zaabi, another Architectural Engineer, never imagined she would be working in Operations Research and Logistics. But now, she believes her research has the potential to offer great value for naval port operations in Abu Dhabi. Shaikha also believes the programs offered at Masdar Institute are in line with the UAE’s vision for a knowledge-based economy and sustainable development. She says: “I knew that by being part of this institution, I was bound to benefit greatly on a career level as well as on a personal level.”
For Shaikha, the Foundation program prepared her for the course ahead. “Without the Foundation program, I would not have come this far. The program strengthened my basic skills and paved the way for my academic progress.”
In terms of aesthetics and functionality, the campus itself was unlike any other building in Abu Dhabi, emphasizes Shaikha. She adds: “From afar, the structure seems like an architectural misfit in the middle of a vast desert. Its futuristic design played a large contrast to its surroundings. However, on reaching the Masdar Institute campus by riding the PRT (personal rapid transit) pod cars certainly made a great first impression, since I have personally not seen this technology up-close anywhere in the world.”
The electric-powered single-cabin driverless PRT pod cars offer the privacy, comfort and non-stop travel of a taxi service and the reliability of a public transport system. It is one of the sustainable transport systems that is being piloted at Masdar Institute.
Other first year UAE national students include Mohamed Al-Sharhan, a Research Assistant and a Graduate Student of the Engineering Systems and Management program. A Civil Engineer, he chose transportation as a specialization, so that he can become familiar with modern scientific techniques.
Mohamed says: “And I have no doubt that my fellow engineers and I will be able, one day, to convert all streets into environment-friendly roads. My passion for transportation, and traffic engineering in particular, is what prompted me to choose this specific specialization. I wish to serve my country in infrastructure and the development of advanced technologies in roads management and support Abu Dhabi move towards creating a low-carbon economy.”
After completing a semester of research at NASA’s Sustainability Base, not a single opportunity resembled a ‘challenge’ as well as a ‘home’ like Masdar Institute did, says Reem Ketait. She aims to draw from her Chemical Engineering background and current pursuit in energy-efficient systems to look into the water stress scenario of the UAE.
A first-year IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) scholar, Reem is spending hours in an interdisciplinary setting amongst leaders in renewable energy to strengthen her grasp in cutting edge technologies.
Reem says: “The influx of world leaders, industrial speakers, and international scholars coming to share their knowledge and experience to Masdar Institute students only reflects the magnitude of this place we call home. After all, our sun is one that rises and sets over roofs covered in solar panels, and a whole city made to be a success story for the entire world.”
A Chemical Engineer who is focusing her research on implementing Carbon Capture and Storage in the UAE, for Iman Ustadi sustainability was more of a ‘future plan’, before she joined Masdar Institute but now she has made it her habit. She says: “I was always impressed by the term ‘sustainability’ but felt that I am responsible towards this term, only after I joined Masdar Institute. Today I think of sustainability, in terms of applying and promoting it wherever I am.”
A member of Young Future Energy Leaders (YFEL) program, an outreach initiative by Masdar Institute, Iman recently she participated in a panel discussion to highlight the role of youth groups in managing future economies at the ‘Sustainable Arabia: Clean Energy 2012’ conference. Additionally she is also part of the ‘Takatof’ volunteering program initiated by UAE nationals that helps look at the different classes of the community, share their challenges, listen to their requests and even assist them with what is available.
The focus of Masdar Institute on sustainability and its collaboration with the MIT are the key influencing factors that attracted Sultan Al Awadhi, a civil engineer, and Engineering Systems and Management student. In addition to the full scholarship that the Institute offers to students, Al Awadhi is fascinated with top-of-the-range laboratory facilities for anchoring advance research. He says: “The library, for example, is equipped with an advanced search system that helps students gain access to many databases to support their research activities.”
One of the founders of Masdar institute Emirati Cultural Club, and an IRENA scholar, Sultan was able to start his research in “assessing the massive deployment of large scale solar and wind energy projects,” through using the IRENA data and lectures program. He is additionally a member of the YFEL program that offered him an opportunity to participate in WFES 2012 and create a business plan for renewable energy projects.
As the graduating students look forward to the fast approaching Commencement Day, most of the Foundation program students feel proud that they are part of an institution that continues to make them full-fledged professionals in clean energy and advanced technology areas. Shaikha Al Kaabi sums up: “A great opportunity is presented (through Masdar Institute) and it is up to you to grab it and use it.
“It is every engineer’s wonderland!” says Reem Ketait. “Even after I became a student here rushing between classes, I cannot help but find myself smiling at all the tourists that turn in circles and pause to stare at the buildings or snap a photograph, to make sure people will believe the stories they are going to tell!”
All these students are looking forward to becoming post-graduates in 2013.