Undergraduate Interns from UAE and Abroad Experience Research and Academic Culture at MI
More than 30 undergraduate students, over half of them UAE nationals, are currently interning with Masdar Institute as part of the annual Summer Research Internship.
The students are spending their internship participating in research projects in a range of topics including clean energy storage, advanced materials, drinking water characterization, energy and water transport processes in vegetation, and exchange of CO2 and water between vegetation and atmosphere within Abu Dhabi’s Mangrove ecosystem. The six-to-eight week research internship program is offered throughout summer to undergraduate students majoring in science, engineering or computer science at varying dates to enable them have the most beneficial learning experience.
Dr. Lamya N. Fawwaz, Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Public Affairs, Masdar Institute, said: “The summer research internship program offers undergraduate students an opportunity to gain hands-on research experience ahead of their graduate studies. It also provides an insight into Masdar Institute’s world class laboratory environment and our faculty experts. We hope the interns take home valuable insight that will help them decide on their next stage of higher studies.”
Each year, Masdar Institute faculty organize research experiences for the internship program, coordinated by Dr Kenneth Volk, Outreach Manager, Masdar Institute. This year’s interns include students from Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, New York University Abu Dhabi, Khalifa University for Science, Technology and Research, and UAE University, as well as international universities like Pennsylvania State University. The interns are working on projects under the supervision of Dr. Saif Almheiri, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Dr. Annalisa Molini, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, and Dr. TieJun (TJ) Zhang, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering program, and Analytical Chemical Instructor Dr. Grzegorz Brudecki.
UAE national intern Sara Ishaq Al Khoori, mechanical engineering student from Khalifa University, is involved in a research project under Dr. Almheiri. The project aims to fabricate electrodes for lithium ion batteries using materials that offer better performance, such as nanostructured silicon (Si).
Al Khoori said: “My research project, which is relevant to my major, will help develop higher-performance lithium ion batteries with applications in electronic devices such as smartphones. I am sure the benefits will not only be restricted to the UAE, but extended to the whole world. The faculty and students at Masdar Institute are kind and supportive. I feel privileged to intern here and I am pretty sure I won’t hesitate to join Masdar Institute for graduate studies in the future.”
University of Sharjah student Abrar Mohammad Ali M. Abdool Lenjawi, who is majoring in sustainable and renewable energy engineering, is doing her internship at the Analytical Chemistry and Biochemistry ab at Masdar Institute. Under the supervision of Dr. Brudecki, Lenjawi is working on a project focused on local drinking water characterization from 12 June to 4 August. Her research has already produced basic results on composition of water samples collected from three different locations.
Lenjawi said: “The internship at Masdar institute’s Analytical Chemistry and Biochemistry (ACBC) Lab has expanded my knowledge and improved my skills with different lab apparatus. Working in a shared lab also gave me an opportunity to meet students who work in the same apparatus that I am using. I am really thankful to work in such a supportive environment, surrounded by encouraging faculty, lab support staff and students. This experience has given me a clear idea about my next stage after university.”
Three Emirati students – one from Pennsylvania State University in the US, and two from University of Sharjah – are currently interning with Dr. Zhang. They are working on different aspects of water and energy transport physics in plant leaves to understand how trees survive a range of climatic and geographic conditions – from the desert or coastal areas.
Mouza Alblooshi, an Emirati student from Pennsylvania State University, said: “The summer internship at Masdar Institute proved to be an exciting experience. It fascinated me even more to focus on nanotechnology and gave me in-depth insights into material science in energy and water applications. Working with Dr. TJ Zhang, I was introduced to many new scientific instruments, learned new processes, and had a wonderful opportunity to conduct research. My internship experience in my hometown was incomparable, because as a true hub with state-of-the-art facilities for scientific research, Masdar Institute welcomes talented students from any region.”
Another intern Olla Hassan, a student from University of Sharjah, said: “My summer internship at Masdar Institute was useful. I understood new concepts in physics, learned how to work in chemistry labs safely and accurately, became more creative in solving problems, practiced how to conduct experiments with sensitive samples, and learned how to use new useful devices. I am grateful to with Dr. TJ Zhang for his support during this opportunity.”
Paris Sorbonne Abu Dhabi student and member of the Young Future Energy Leaders (YFEL) program Mariam El-Yahyaei interned with Dr. Molini in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. During her internship El-Yahyaei helped with the installation of an eddy covariance (EC) micro-meteorological station at the Mangrove National Park in Abu Dhabi.
The project aims to measure the instantaneous exchange of CO2 and water between vegetation and the atmosphere, and is conducted in collaboration with Environment Agency Abu Dhabi. The atmospheric measurements collected by the Eddy-Covariance station helps to explore possible strategies of carbon storage in natural vegetation across hyper-arid regions like the UAE. Other applications include bio-saline agriculture, as well as climate modeling.
El-Yahyaei said: “The internship at Masdar Institute was a unique experience as it combined field work with laboratory research. I am grateful to Dr. Annalisa Molini, who agreed to be my advisor and made me feel part of her team, always listening to my ideas and discussing them with me. I also thank Masdar Institute PhD student Saverio Perri, who helped me during the internship. Moreover, being a member of the Young Future Energy Leaders (YFEL) program, a Masdar Institute initiative, enabled me to become better in public-speaking, which gave me the confidence to present my work to my professors and Dr. Molini. I feel enriched by this valuable experience.”
Each summer, a number of research internships are offered at Masdar Institute for talented undergraduate students. Students interested in applying for a summer research internship must apply for a specific project. Each project has a list of tasks and a recommended academic major required for the intern.
By Clarence Michael