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



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