12th International Symposium on Fire Safety Science

Every three years IAFSS symposium takes place somewhere around the world. The biggest Fire Safety conference in the world, or the “Fire Safety Olympics”, as our professor Bart Merci likes to call it, was organized this year at Lund University, just after the exam period. My IMFSE fellows and I felt incredibly lucky because of this coincidence. The participation fee for such a big event was expectedly pretty high. However, the Fire Safety students from Lund University got a chance to volunteer and help organize the symposium – in exchange for a free entrance!

IMFSE students and alumni reunited in Lund (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

After a few days of organizing and arranging the last bits, the conference was ready to start on Sunday – June 11th , with a welcoming dinner organized at Kårhuset. Just seeing around 450 participants in one place, and after a quick walk around, we already got an impression that the conference would be a huge success!

Welcoming dinner (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The next morning, the time finally came for the lectures to start! The opening two lectures – “Wildland Fire Spotting by Sparks and Firebrands” and “Fire Safety Engineering in Timber Buildings” were both dealing with really interesting topics and made a great introduction to what was about to come.

Prof. Daniel Nilsson giving opening speech at Aula, Kårhuset (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

Monday was reserved for 3 simultaneous sessions with lectures on Material Behavior in Fires, Fire Suppression and general Fire Safety Engineering. Lecturers from various prestigious universities, such as University of Maryland, Imperial College, Lund University, Gent University etc. made sure to give us some nice insights into their works and fields of expertise.  At the end of each lecture, there was time made for Q&A, which complemented the talks by clarifying some possible uncertainties and proposing ideas for further development of the research presented. Lectures were perfectly “paused” by the coffee and lunch breaks, which were a good opportunity to meet the lecturers and other colleagues, and to further discuss on the lectures-related topics, as well as many other formal and non-formal matters!

(photo credit Michael Strömgren)

On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to hear the talks by the lecturers from University of California Berkeley, University of Edinburgh and other notable universities, as well as some of the renowned companies and institutes such as FM Global, RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) etc. Particularly interesting, at least for me, were the lectures on tunnel fires – held by our professor Haukur Ingason and his colleague Ying Zhen Li.

Prof. Haukur Ingason – RISE, giving lecture on Tunnel Fires (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The poster session held after the lunch break was a perfect opportunity to see all the researches in one place, to meet the authors, and to get the one-on-one explanation of their interesting work.

Atmosphere from the poster session

Lectures on “Fire Emission and Toxicity” and “Evacuation and Human Behavior” made Wednesday particularly interesting.

Renowned prof. Björn Karlsson (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The long-anticipated Thursday started great – with professor Luke Bisby’s lecture on “Structural Response of Cross-Laminated Timber Compression Elements Exposed to Fire”.

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Prof. Luke Bisby (photo credit prof. Bart Merci)

The day was full of other interesting structural topics, with another productive poster session. But the night was actually what we all waited for: firstly, the awards ceremony hosted by our professor and IAFSS chairman Patrick Van Hees was organized at the ceremonial hall in the main university building. All the participants in a gorgeous hall, a relaxed and friendly ceremony, awards for the most deserving IAFSS people, and a lot of positive energy as the conference was coming to an end.

The awards ceremony (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

After the ceremony was over, we moved on to the AF building for the banquet. The whole conference was organized just perfectly, and so was the banquet. Summarizing the impressions from conference with some old and some new friends, having a delightful dinner and being amused by University Choir and a skillful magician, made the evening a one to remember. But what I personally consider the most special thing about this banquet, was that I ended up on the stage with the magician as a volunteer, seeing him making some unbelievable illusions right in front of my eyes, and having no clue what was going on!

Enjoying some magic moments  🙂  (photo credit prof. Bart Merci)

On Friday, we listened to a few more interesting lectures, and unfortunately it was time to close the conference. Looking back to the previous days, we were all delighted and concluded that the whole conference was a huge success! Meeting numerous fire experts and people from all around the world, learning so much on different topics and getting an idea on what is being explored at the moment, made this conference remarkable and invaluable. I can only say I can’t wait for more conferences to come, especially the IAFSS 2020! 😊

All symposium participants in front of the main University building (photo credit Michael Strömgren)


Serbian IMFSE duo – Vladimir Parezanović and me

Interview- Davood Zeinali

Another blog with another interview and another IMFSE story, this time the interview was with an IMFSE alumnus who decided to take the academic track. Davood Zeinali (Dave), who is currently doing his Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. Bart Merci at Ghent University, gave us some of his time to share his IMFSE story and experience.


Me: Please introduce yourself and your work to those who don’t already know you.

Dave: I am Dave and I have been working at Ghent University now for like three years, working on my Ph.D. My topic is flame spread simulations and experiments, particularly I am experimenting the flame spread in corner configurations and investigating if the computational codes are able to predict or simulate the fire behavior in such configurations.

Me: Can you tell us where do you originally come from and what is your background?

Dave: I am from Iran, I heard about the IMFSE by just searching for fire engineering degrees on the internet because I already had a Bachelor’s degree in fire engineering. It was super nice to find this program, it was not easy to find it, applying to it and going through it but it was a super unique experience. It was something that I will never regret having done. After that, I was very inclined to apply for a Ph.D. because I wanted to stay in academia and even now I am planning to stay in academia. Hopefully, after the PhD, I will try to find another academic position.

Me: Why did you like the academia and why did you have the passion for doing a PhD?

Dave: Because I think I have the Ph.D. material, I am a kind of person who is curious and likes to try different things. Doing a Ph.D. is like doing new things, creating something from almost nothing and something that nobody else has done. So it is like discovery which I found interesting, in addition to that, dealing with students who always want to learn new things and so on, Generally, it is a good atmosphere.

Dave with the IMFSE alumni Hongbo in the UK


Me: How did you get the opportunity to do the Ph.D.? and do you think after the IMFSE program you were ready to do a Ph.D.? 

Dave: I definitely was confident, we had all the necessary materials like CFD modeling, experimental courses and all sources of basic materials and fundamentals sciences that we need to continue in academia. Of course, it depends on your thesis, your interest, where do you want to go? do you want to go to modeling? do you want to go to structural fire safety …etc?. You just have to build up on your knowledge in the topic you like and as an IMFSE student, you can easily do that.

Me: What was your route in the IMFSE program? 

Dave: I started in Ghent, Lund then Edinburgh for the third semester and also for the thesis. At that time, Maryland was not part of the program and Queensland also had just joined the program. We were the first cohort to have the opportunity to apply for the thesis outside Europe. In the beginning of the master I had a goal to study in all the three institutes, because after checking the courses, I decided it was good to study all the different topics in the three institutes and of course it was good to travel. Travelling was also important, you get to see the culture and meet new people, it was a really unique experience.

Me: Can you talk a bit about the SFPE IMFSE student chapter? 

Dave: It was an initiation from Bart and Jose Torero in addition of course to other IMFSE Colleagues. We thought it will be beneficial to the IMFSE, the SFPE and for promoting fire safety science and awareness. So the idea was to start a student chapter through collaboration of a number of IMFSE Ph.D. students, most likely staying in the IMFSE institutes and partners for longest, to link up with SFPE and organize relevant events for the students and provide a platform for the promotion of fire safety, while also keeping students connected. It was interesting and right after we initiated the student chapter, we had a couple of events, for example, we had Dr. Michael Spearpoint from University of Canterbury, New Zealand, who came to Ghent and gave a talk. We will also have the 2nd SFPE European Conference in Rotterdam upcoming in February and we are going to organize certain events there and we hope that people will attend and students will submit abstracts and posters. You don’t have to submit a full paper you can just submit an extended abstract or a poster, and that is a really good chance where you can go there attend the event and the workshops, meet people from the fire industry and develop your network by making new connections.

Dr. Michael Spearpoint at Ghent University (photo credit goes to prof. Bart Merci)

Me: If someone is planning to do a Ph.D. in Fire Safety in the future and is still thinking to apply to the IMFSE program, do you have any suggestions for him/her? 

Dave: First thing they should do is to read what the courses are. This is easily available on the IMFSE website. Read about the experience of the previous students with these courses, just like what you are writing on the IMFSE blog. That will help them get a feeling of what they can expect of each course and also have a good idea about the overall program experience. I also applied for different fire safety/protection engineering programs when I applied to the IMFSE and I was accepted to some of them, however, I joined the IMFSE because I really think it is a very unique program. In our time, Erasmus Mundus was not that known like now. Even so, and even before starting the program, I knew it was really unique. Once I read about the IMFSE, I immediately recognized this is a very valuable degree to have and it is going to be an outstanding experience. Generally, I found it was nothing like studying at one university and doing regular masters. In the end, it proved me right so I don’t regret having made this choice.

Me: Thank you for these interesting points, Do you have anything more to add? 

Dave: I think everybody from this program should try to promote fire safety awareness. We fire engineers should share what we are doing, because if we don’t, who else will? You see accidents everywhere happening because of the same old reasons. I think it is our responsibility to share this. Share not only the knowledge and research but even fire accidents that are noteworthy, share your experience and let people know about it.  The general public for example has to be informed better that all buildings and structures require fire safe designing based on scientific techniques and concepts. This is our responsibility. We need to communicate more and share what we are doing. Once we do this we increase awareness and we hopefully can also decrease the number of accidents.

Thanks for your nice suggestions, thanks for your time and hope you will achieve your goals in the academic route.


Dave with the golden IAFSS nail from the symposium last week


Copenhagen Marathon ’17

Apart from the school activities, all IMFSE students have their own hobbies and different ways of using their free time. Some do yoga, some play tennis, others lacrosse, some work in nations or get involved more in student life and some like going to gym. And me, as usual, I decided to dedicate my free time to one of my favourite hobbies – long distance running.

At the beginning of the semester I have set a goal for myself – to run the famous Copenhagen marathon. As Copenhagen became my favourite Scandinavian city throughout the semester, I’ve anticipated the race more and more as it was approaching. Luckily since Skane county (southernmost county of Sweden, where Lund is located) is mainly flat, and also the biking culture is quite huge, the authorities have taken care of building bike/running tracks that connect Lund to most of the surrounding towns. After running all across Lund, my paths started taking me to Lomma, Malmo or just around the beautiful fields of gold. After hundreds of kilometres and months of preparation, the weekend of Marathon has finally arrived.

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I’ve been part of Belgrade Urban Running Team (BURT), back in my home country, which is basically a crew of passionate runners and great people that share love for running, healthy life, positive vibes and good energy 😊. BURT is just one of numerous running crews across the world that are a part of the Bridge The Gap (BTG) movement sharing same ideas and spirit and making changes for the better world. Our BTG friends from Copenhagen, NBRO runners, made sure that marathon weekend goes smoothly!

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Saturday, the day before the race, was reserved for traditional carbo-loading dinner. It was also a great occasion for greeting some dear old friends and meeting some amazing and inspiring new people! Last advice about what is smart to have for dinner and what for breakfast, before we went homes for a long sleep before the race!


As announced by the forecast, Sunday welcomed us with beautiful weather. Sunny day with 20 °C, for Scandinavians maybe too warm, for me it was just perfect for a nice run 😊. Running 42 km around all neighbourhoods of the city, it was simply amazing seeing so many people that came out to cheer the runners, hearing different music coming from various stages and just feeling the festive atmosphere that could be felt in Copenhagen throughout the whole weekend.


And besides all those great things, running last couple of kilometres was a struggle as usually, but my friends Dino and Lena who have waited for me at the finish line made the after-race recovery much easier with their smiles, cheerful words and support!


Although most of the energy was spent on the race, all of us have however saved last bits of energy to celebrate another amazing marathon weekend at NBRO party 😊


Copenhagen marathon was definitely a lovely experience, and I am planning to do it again in 2018. But before that, a summer full of trainings and an autumn full of races around Scotland await!


Oresund Runt

After living in Belgium for a semester, it’s quite hard getting accustomed to Swedish prices. Being a travelling addict as I am, for me personally, it was the hardest to get used to the prices of train tickets. Luckily, as the semester was passing, along with meeting Swedes came tips and tricks about various things, including travelling. One of them was discovery of the ticket called Oresund Runt.

For 249 Swedish Kronas (around 26 Euros) you get a ticket that includes the following: train from Lund to Helsingborg, then a ferry ride across the 4km wide strait from Helsingborg in Sweden to Helsingor in Denmark. After that you move on to Copenhagen from where you continue back to Lund via Malmo. The ticket is valid for 48 hours, during which you can stop anywhere on the route for as long as you want, and another great thing about it is that public transportation tickets in all cities on the route are included, which is obviously the most useful in Copenhagen being by far the most expensive city on the route.

As I found out about this special deal, I was just waiting for a perfect moment to set off to another Scandinavian adventure. I didn’t wait for too long before my childhood best friends Darija and Marta came for a visit and I decided to surprise them with this cool trip!

First stop on our 48h trip was Helsingborg. The city is only 35 mins away from Lund and its really worth visiting. After a stroll next to the seaside and through beautiful downtown with lovely tiny streets, we went to visit the famous 600-year-old medieval fortress of Helsingborg situated on a small hill just above the city center.


Back in a day it was one of the most important fortified observatories in Danish-Swedish wars, and nowadays the biggest attraction of Helsingborg with amazing view of the whole town and Denmark on the other side of the sea! After that, as we got hungry, we headed on to another place that was suggested to us, the famous Ebbas Fik restaurant where we had some great meals including the various super tasty cakes!


As the clock was ticking, we knew it’s time to continue our trip, so we took a ferry to Helsingor in Denmark. First thing that was quite funny was that, although a ride takes only around 20 mins, there are Swedish people that are coming on board just to buy alcohol in duty-free shop. Reason is very well known, the notorious Swedish alcohol prices. 🙄

Arriving to Helsingor we discovered another interesting and beautiful city. Having one of the biggest and nicest castles in Denmark, a great Naval museum and lovely streets all around, this city provided us a lot of fun for a few hours, but soon we needed to continue our trip.


Just 3 train stations to the south, towards Copenhagen, the well-known Louisiana Museum is located and it was a must. With huge collection of modern art from various famous artists, and beautiful gardens right next to the sea, this museum definitely gave us an inspiring experience!

As we arrived to Copenhagen at night, we immediately met up with a group of Serbian students that study in Denmark, and it was such a nice gathering in my favorite bar of Copenhagen, ‘’The Taphouse’’.


Next day was of course reserved for exploring Copenhagen. We started from the highest viewpoint of the city, the tower of Vor Flersers Church, right next to Christiania. Continuing our way over Christiania, then discovering another great food place called The Paper Island which is situated quite near the Opera House. Over there, in a Hall, there are tens of various international food stands (Moroccan, South Korean, French, Thai and other exotic cuisines) and for a reasonable price you can try some amazing delicacies!


As I already wrote a blog about Copenhagen, I will only mention the other places we visited that day. The famous shopping street Strøget, the biggest attraction of Copenhagen, Nyhavn, with Hans Christian Andersen’s house.


We continued along the way to the royal palace all the way to Kastelet and the Little Mermaid.


You won’t find this photo of the Little Mermaid in travel magazines 😉

As the day was coming to an end, we decided to spend the last couple of hours discovering the Botanical garden, and relaxing in my favorite park in town, Rosenborg Castle Gardens.

Really tired but full of amazing memories we took off by a late train back to Lund.

As this was the most dynamic and by far the most interesting trip I have done since I came to Scandinavia, I highly recommend it both to future IMFSE students and to all the people that have a chance to do this great tour. You will not regret it, trust me!