Welcome Week. Edinburgh

Starting my IMFSE track in Edinburgh, I would say that the student life at the University of Edinburgh is all about successfully combining classes with social events that are scheduled for the whole semester. Better yet the best time to get a sense of social life is during Welcome Week which usually lasts 9 days. However, there is a catch of having such a long welcome week for which if you are prepared, you can have the best experience. Thus, for any incoming short-term students to have the most efficient and interesting experience during Welcome Week, I listed lessons learned from my experience during that time last year:

1. Any incoming international student must do an International Check-in. Usually, International Check-in lasts 6 days: Saturday – Monday, Wednesday – Friday. If you don’t like standing on the queue for a very long time or waking up very early, you should go to the international check-in on Saturday. To give you an idea about the comparison of the queue below photos were taken on Saturday and Monday.

UntitledPicture 1: Dan checked-in on Saturday (1st day of check-in). It took him less than 5 minutes to do so and with no queue.


Picture 2. The photo was taken on Monday (3rd day of check-in). The camera could not grasp the whole extent of the queue.


2. Registering with a General Practitioner is also an important step. There are 2 options to do so: either register with University GP or your local GP where you will be living during studies at the University. Although the queue for University GP registration could be very long, you can fill out the registration form before and bring it to the registration point which will shorten the time of the process.

3. The trickiest task to do for an incoming student (especially for a Scholarship student) is opening a bank account. In the past, short-term students could open a bank account in few banks provided that students show the required documents. However, starting last year, some UK banks have changed their requirements and do not accept Short-term Visa students anymore. Having been to all the banks in Edinburgh, I can say that international students (non-EU students) can only open a bank account in the Bank of Scotland (I asked students from EU and they do not seem to have this problem). So, here is what you need to provide to the Bank of Scotland to open a bank account (NOTE: this information purely comes from experience that me and my peers had and you will not be able to find this online, because most information given on websites of the banks applies only to holders of General Tier-4 visa):

a. Passport, Short-term student visa.

b. If you live in the university accommodation, you can get a Bank Letter where your address is stated. However, as it is stated in the Bank Letter that it is only for use in conjunction with Tier-4 Visa, Bank of Scotland do not accept it. In this situation, the bank asks for a Letter of Introduction from your General Practitioner, where information about you is stated. Unfortunately, university GP does not provide a Letter of Introduction for students, so you should first try registering with a local General practitioner.

c. So, if you live in the university accommodation and for some reason, you could not register with the local GP, go to the bank branch explain your situation and ask if they can do a “Waiver”. “Waiver” is a procedure that banks do if you cannot verify your permanent address of stay during your studies. As it was explained to us, they will call the university’s Accommodation, Catering, and Events office phone number given in the Bank Letter.

d. If you live in Private accommodation, you have multiple choices of documents you can provide to the bank. This can be a Letter of Introduction from your General Practitioner, the official contract between you and your landlord, bills for utilities with your full name and address.

Sandesh, Karim and I faced this situation of opening a bank account and it took us about a week to solve this problem because before us nobody had experienced it.


Other than facing these minor problems, Welcome Week was full of interesting events. Hopefully, when you are there, you will be able to avoid queues and enjoy the full spectrum of events offered by the student societies of the university. Be sure to take advantage of free trips, tours, and lunches, visit Societies and Sports fair, and remember all classes/activities at the university gym are FREE during the Welcome Week, so definitely try that out. You can download “UoE Events” app to keep track of event schedules.

Enjoy! 😉

Summer Break. 2019

Being in a two-year program in Europe certainly has many advantages. Especially Summer Break gives a big window of opportunity to recover from previous semesters and get ready for the next ones. Everyone tries to enjoy that time how they deem to be appropriate and the most beneficial. Some do internships, some work, some travel, some go back home, and some multitask. I asked some of my classmates to share about their summer break, to show how IMFSE students take full advantages of the time given outside of classes.

The summer between IMFSE semesters was always planned to be one of exploration and preparation. Given that I am an Australian student in the course, I relished the chance to travel the vast expanses of Europe over this summer period, while I was to be in the region. However, the method by which it was to be navigated was not set in stone until the summer had already begun. Further, with the qualification of the Australian Beach Handball Team (February 2019) into the World Beach Games to be held in October 2019 in Qatar, it was clear that the summer travels would revolve around tournaments throughout Europe in training for potential selection in the team for this event. As such upon requests, flexibility of schedule and last minute offered positions, I have played in 4 countries so far across 3 different teams spanning many weekends to continue the push for selection, whilst navigating the beauty of Europe in all manner of destinations in between.

I have become well accustomed to the overnight travel experience and the public park recovery (naps) and fitness sessions to keep myself tournament ready. I have loved the time so far and have come through with great progress and results, but look forward to more of what the summer has to offer, especially two weeks of planned vacation at a music festival and roaming Sicily on a yacht! Amidst all of this travel visits to fellow students met at partner universities, as well as other IMFSE students hometowns have been rife. The connections made throughout the IMFSE journey have been remarkable and are well and truly cherished. Thanks for the memories already IMFSE and catch you real soon in the coming academic year in Ghent and Lund.

My summer started with an internship in Basler and Hofmann in Zurich, Switzerland. I was working on the understanding capability to integrate fire-related software (Pyrosim, Pathfinder) with BIM software Revit. Meanwhile, I also started to play cricket in Switzerland. I had played cricket for over a decade, but I was lucky to play my first match in Switzerland at the most scenic ground in the world.

Last week of my stay in Zurich, my university colleague Miru who is doing his Ph.D. in Cambridge UK, visited me. We went to Lucerne and Mount Rigi which is breathtaking.(a tip for travelers to Switzerland: when you travel, always make good use of available student discounts 😀 )

After that my Chapter in Europe is over as a first-year IMFSE student. Long-awaited journey to home was next. On my way back, I took a small detour to see Burj Khalifa (No need to say the tallest building in the World) and to visit my old friend who is like an elder sister to me. Colorful night skyline in Dubai is just breathtaking and captivating. However, even being from a country near to equator Dubai temperature was very difficult to tolerate.

Finally, enjoying my holidays in beautiful home country Sri Lanka with greenery everywhere.

Over the summer I joined a new multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy as a principle fire engineer in Bristol, England. This gave me the opportunity to live in a new city and experience a whole different range of fire engineering projects. It’s interesting to see how project sizes, scope and communication changes depending on where you work. This proved to be particularly true where working with different approving authorities and fire services. Local political and cultural influences really do play such a critical influence on application of building standards even in the relatively homogeneous regulatory backdrop of the UK.

During this time I went to a number of interesting seminars and fire testing events at the UKs largest fire fighter training centre in Moreton-in Marsh. The facilities at this centre were particularly impressive with motorways, trains, plains, shopping centres and collapsed buildings all set up on site for the purpose of large incident training for fire fighters from all around the world. We were treated to some fire behaviour training, demonstrating backdraught in a small shipping container. The visit was all very reminiscent to the trip we had taken, as part of IMFSE, to MSB in Sweden, where the facilities serve a similar purpose.

Aside from the work-related events it was all in all a busy summer. Managing to make it to one of the world cup cricket games in Durham was made all the sweeter with England’s victory in the final against a challenging New Zealand team. Getting a chance to visit Italy for the first time was also a highlight with the architecture in Luca and Florence offering a stunning backdrop to the great weather we experienced there (much needed after the incremental bouts of rain England had yielded the weeks prior!).

During my summer holidays, I wanted to get some practical experience in Fire Safety Engineering. I received an opportunity to work as an intern at BRE Global for a duration of 2.5 months. To be in close proximity to work I decided to move to St Albans, that is approximately 20 min train ride away from London. As a BRE employee, I was able to experience different full-scale tests as well as intermediate-scale testing in their fire laboratory. I also got familiar with their current projects and get some experience using FDS and B-RISK.

Members of the fire team also spend some quality time together outside of work. In July a few colleagues visited amusement park for a day and in August we went together to Topgolf that is a simplified version of golf. Working in the field of study, getting some experience, networking, and team bonding activities seem to be a worthy spent time in summer break.   

Many thanks to Danny, Chamith, Bobby, and Tanja for taking their time to share about their summer! ❤ ⭐

Summer Conferences – Coupling Fire Science and Professionalism

If you’re like me, three months of summer holidays is a long time to be away from anything fire engineering related. Some of us scratched this itch by undertaking an internship (stay tuned for another blog post on the experiences of those students), whilst others decided to attend some conferences, with Laura going to Interflam 2019 and myself attending The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) International Conference 2019.

Interflam is one of the largest international conferences solely concerned with fire science & engineering and is held in the UK every three years. It’s an understatement to say that IMFSE was well represented at this year’s conference. The conference programme almost read as a who’s who of professors and those associated with the IMFSE program. Five different IMFSE student cohorts were represented in the conference delegates, with a number also presenting their research papers.

This one

With three days of three parallel streams addressing all manner of the latest fire safety engineering research, it would not have been easy to decide which talks to attend. It looked like a great program.

Without a doubt a highlight of the conference (for IMFSE anyway) would have to be Patrick van Hees being awarded the Interflam trophy, “The Spoon”, for key contributions and leadership in the field of fire science. Congratulations Patrick!

The IFE International Conference is a comparatively smaller and less academic affair, but no less important to the industry. The theme of this conference was “Professionalism and ethics in the Fire Sector”, which is something very rightly seeing increased focus around the world as a result of the Hackitt Inquiry (1), Shergold/Weir Report (2) and many others.

What tended previously to be considered as an ancillary topic is now being seen as “a much bigger issue to be considered that speaks to the core of fire safety engineering” (3). For those interested in further reading on this topic I’d suggest having a look at the reports being published by The Warren Centre (link here), with significant input from those associated with IMFSE in the form of the University of Queensland and Jose Torero. Whilst written with a view to the Australian context, there are many themes applicable internationally, which was only reinforced by my time at the IFE International Conference.


For me, the IFE International Conference reinforced the idea that a modern view to leadership and culture, on an individual level to the fire safety sector as a whole, is needed to facilitate the growth of fire safety engineering to a true profession.

Professionalism and ethics are something taken very seriously within the IMFSE program; and whilst it is not always explicitly discussed amongst the students on a daily basis, it is clear that there is a strong undercurrent of this approach in everything that we do. The emphasis on professionalism and ethics really is one of the strengths of this program and it’s a good feeling knowing that those associated with IMFSE are providing a strong, international voice on this topic.

Both of these conferences were incredibly valuable providing a great opportunity for students to both network with and gain knowledge from professionals from around the world.


(1) Hackitt, J. (2018) Building a safer future, Independent review of the building regulations and fire safety: final report.

(2) Shergold, P., Weir, B. (2018) Building Confidence.

(3) The Warren Centre (2019) Fire Safety Engineering.

Candle in the Dark, Life Saving or Life Threatening?


A massive blackout just hit Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, and some neighboring provinces on 4 August 2019 and rendered around 20 million people without electricity for 9 hours. During this electricity outage, some people who don’t have enough power on their emergency lamps will switch to candle as the source of lighting due to its convenient and low price. However, it also possesses threats if not used properly.

It is reported that at least 50 houses were burnt down in Jakarta because of candles and unfortunately, one person died and another was injured in that incident. [1] It seems that using a candle is very dangerous and life threatening. So, should we avoid using candles during blackouts?

house burnt down
Houses burnt down during the blackout

The answer is not necessarily so. If you have emergency lamps or other battery-powered lights, then it is suggested that you should avoid using candles and other open fire source of light. But, on the other hand, if you don’t have any other safer source of light during blackouts, it is okay to use them as long as you keep an eye on them.

There are 3 simple rules to follow from NCA (National Candle Association) that can prevent you from the 85% of candle fires. [2]

1. Never leave a burning candle unattended.

2. Never burn a candle on or near anything that might catch fire.

3. Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.

By doing those 3 rules, you have just greatly minimized the risk of fire in your house. For more detailed safety rules of using candles, you can check the link [2] below. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Those candle flames were like the lives of men. So fragile. So deadly. Left alone, they lit and warmed. Let run rampant, they would destroy the very things they were meant to illuminate.

Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings


[1] https://en.tempo.co/read/1232222/fire-rages-50-houses-in-menteng-during-major-outage

[2] https://candles.org/fire-safety-candles/