Masdar Institute’s 2016 PhD Graduates Ready to Help Solve Global Climate, Water and Energy Challenges

September 21, 2018

Masdar Institute’s Class of 2016 PhD in Interdisciplinary Engineering graduates earned attention and accolades from academic communities locally and abroad for their pioneering sustainability-focused research, strengthening Masdar Institute’s position as a regional research and development leader of advanced energy technologies.

The PhD graduates have contributed valuable research findings to science through their innovative research activities and award-winning research papers and posters, which were published in esteemed scientific journals and presented at prestigious international conferences. The graduates are expected to leverage their advanced engineering doctoral degrees to contribute further to the development of sustainable technologies critically needed to solve some of the world’s most pressing climate, water and energy security challenges. 

Dr. Youssef Shatilla, Dean of Academic Programs at Masdar Institute, said: “The high-caliber, multi-disciplinary research conducted by our PhD graduates reflects the Institute’s exceptional interdisciplinary doctoral degree program, which aims to produce graduates capable of solving today’s complex problems. With their sharpened skills and knowledge, we believe these PhD graduates will make a difference in the field of sustainable technologies, locally and globally, advancing Masdar Institute’s mission to support sustainability.”

Class of 2016 PhD graduate Noura Al Dhaheri, who received her MSc in Engineering Systems and Management from Masdar Institute in 2011, is the first female in the Middle East to receive a doctoral degree in the field of seaside operations. During her PhD studies, Al Dhaheri developed a mathematical model to optimize the efficiency, safety and sustainability of the container terminals at Khalifa Port. The novel model provides optimal solutions for the scheduling problems faced during the loading and unloading of containers using quay cranes. The model will drastically reduce the amount of time a vessel is required to spend at the container terminal, which in turn will lead to significant energy, cost and environmental savings.

The UAE national received the distinction of having four research articles based on her thesis work published in top journals in her respective field, including the Journal of Manufacturing Systems in 2015, Computers & Industrial Engineering in 2016, Simulation Modelling Practice and Theory in 2016 and Annals of Operations Research in 2016.

Al Dhaheri is currently General Manager at Maqta Gateway at Abu Dhabi Ports, where she is working to optimize port transport and logistics operations.

Acknowledging the role Masdar Institute plays in preparing its students for future careers, Al Dhaheri said: “Masdar Institute’s focus on using applied research to solve industrial-based problems gives its students a serious competitive advantage, and equips them with the skills needed to enter the workforce and contribute to the development of sustainable solutions for real-world problems.”

Class of 2016 PhD graduate Carlo Maragliano is also already leveraging his degree as the Head and Director of the Research and Development Department of Solar Bankers LLC, an Arizona-based company that is developing a photovoltaic system for improved sunlight conversion.

Maragliano’s thesis research focused on a novel method for converting more of the sun’s electromagnetic spectrum into usable electrical energy. His research won best paper award from the Journal of Optics in September 2015. The Italy-native has co-authored over ten research articles, which have appeared in several esteemed scientific journals, including Nature Scientific Reports, Carbon, and Journal of Applied Physics.

Reminiscing on his Masdar Institute experience, Maragliano said: “I will never forget that Masdar Institute believed in me by giving me the chance to present my research at several international conferences and to conduct research in top American universities, including MIT and Boston Universities, with some of the world’s most brilliant people.”

Class of 2016 PhD graduate Majid Khonji focused his thesis research on improving the reliability and security of smart grids. The UAE National has had three papers based on his thesis research published in conference proceedings, with three research papers currently under review for publication in scientific journals.   Khonji leveraged computer science approaches to devise efficient algorithms to address a number of power systems challenges. His results provide practical and efficient algorithms to optimize the power allocation in large-scale power networks, which can aid in meeting the UAE’s goal of achieving a 24% share of clean energy production capacity in the country’s overall energy mix by 2021.

Khonji offered future doctoral candidates the following advice: “A PhD is the beginning of a researcher’s career. Therefore, a student should focus more on learning techniques rather than flashy applications, making actual scientific impact rather than media impact, and world-wide contribution more than small-scale local contribution.”

Sanaa Iqbal Pirani, who received her MSc in Materials Science and Engineering from Masdar Institute in 2012, is another Class of 2016 PhD graduate whose innovative research has garnered attention from scientific and industrial communities.

Pirani’s thesis research, which examined the issue of food waste in the UAE, earned the award for best presentation in the “Sustainable Cities and Infrastructure” scientific sessions at the 2013 World Resources Forum (WRF) and waste-mitigating food dish design she developed won the Hospitality Innovator Award at the Hospitality Technology Forum 2015.

The Canadian is grateful for the experiences and opportunities Masdar Institute offered her.  “Joining Masdar Institute was one of the best decisions I have ever made; it has helped shape my life in amazing ways. The opportunity to be part of the Masdar Institute community is one that many of us take for granted, yet is one that we will surely miss once we leave the Institute,” Pirani said.

She plans to leverage the knowledge and expertise gained during her studies at Masdar Institute to help make the UAE’s waste management sector more sustainable.

Other award-winning PhD graduates include Wala Saadeh, whose innovative hearing aid research won two awards at the International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS); Nazek El-Atab, who received the 2015 L’Oréal-United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) For Women in Science (FWIS) Middle East Fellowship award; and Sabina Abdul Hadi, who won Best Poster Award in the “Light Management and Avant Garde Concepts” category at the 42nd IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conference (PVSC-42).

With this batch of PhD graduates ready to enter the workplace, either in industry, government or academia, Masdar Institute has demonstrated the success of its interdisciplinary doctoral degree program to cultivate expertise in its graduates, who are now ready to solve complex and relevant scientific and technical challenges locally and abroad.

Clarence Michael and Erica Solomon
News Writer and Features Writer
13 July 2016