4th IMFSE Fire Safety Engineering Day

When something has IMFSE in its name, it’s clear that it has to be good, but when an event has IMFSE in its name and is happening only once a year, then it just has to be remarkable! 4th IMFSE Fire Safety Engineering Day this year took place in the city where IMFSE idea was born, and the city where I spent the first semester of my degree, in the city of Gent, Belgium.

Ever since we found out that it will be hosted in Gent, a few months ago, we were all more than happy for being given an opportunity of going back to the city full of amazing memories! Another nice thing about the trip to Gent was that it meant we would reunite with the other half of our class, but also it would be an opportunity to meet the first year IMFSE students from Gent. This especially made me happy, as my good friend from Serbia, Balša, started his IMFSE adventure this September in Belgium.

After a class on Tuesday morning, where everyone already probably had their minds in Gent, we headed straight to the airport, and after a couple of hours, we found ourselves surrounded by our dearest fellow friends!

The following morning, finally, the 4th IMFSE Fire Safety Engineering Day was about to start! This year’s venue was a beautiful ’’Huis van de Bouw’’, and the central theme of the day was: ’FSE: the road to resilience of critical infrastructure’.


Programme started with registration and a lunch, which was a nice way to informally meet each other and prepare ourselves for the upcoming presentations. Our Professor Bart Merci gave an introduction speech and the presentations were ready to start!

Serbian and Belgian IMFSE students meet again!

This time, the icebreaker was Hugh McNamara, from ARUP Edinburgh. He gave an interesting talk about “The role of fire safety engineering and protection of critical infrastructure”. Following him was a new, young lecturer at Ghent University, Ruben van Coile who presented his research on the topic of “Certain uncertainty – demonstrating safety in fire engineering design”. The last presentation for the first block was particularly interesting for all of us, as it was reserved for a talk given by two IMFSE alumnus Jan Vandekerckhove and Eduardo Sanchez from FPC Risk. It’s really a pleasure seeing how our older IMFSE fellows are having fruitful careers, and really interesting thinking that not long from now, some of us will also be giving lectures to future IMFSE students!

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Hugh McNamara, Ruben van Coile and the IMFSE duo – Jan Vandekerckhove and Eduardo Sanchez giving their lectures (Photo credits: Elise Meerburg)

Lectures were “interrupted” by a first coffee break, which was a great opportunity for some networking and meeting representatives from all the sponsoring companies, but also PhD students, IMFSE alumnus, lecturers and many other interesting people! Having a chance to meet engineers from some of the leading fire engineering companies is a rare and great opportunity for each one of us. On the event, representatives from the core financial partners of the IMFSE were present, namely: ARUP, IFIC Forensics, UL, BRE, FPC Risk, Fire Engineered Solutions Ghent (FESG), Promat, Kingspan and WSP. What a notable list!

Time for networking! (Photo credits: Elise Meerburg)

The second block started with a presentation on “How fire safety design can impact critical infrastructure” given by another IMFSE alumni, Arne Inghelbrecht, working in FESG. Following was the lecture our very well-known teacher from Lund University, Enrico Ronchi on “Large-scale fire evacuation modelling in critical wildland-urban interfaces”. The closing presentation for the day was given by Bart De Pauw from Tucrail, and he was giving a talk on “The need for a performance based design approach in smoke evacuation in Belgian railway tunnels”.

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Enrico Ronchi, Arne Inghelbrecht and Bart De Pauw delivering their talks. (Photo credits: Elise Meerburg)

Another coffee break after the second block was followed by a traditional panel discussion. Among the participants were: Hugh McNamara (ARUP), Ralf Bruyninckx (FPC Risk), Arne Inghelbrecht (FESG), Kees Both (Promat), Roy Weghorst (Kingspan) and Romain Hourqueig (WSP). Moderated by Bart Merci, the discussion was based on the topics brought up by the attendees, including the students, which made it especially interesting with topics such as: use of artificial intelligence in fire safety engineering, or future of fire modelling etc.

The panel discussion members (Photo credits: Elise Meerburg)

At the end of the day, a small celebration was organized. The reason was 10th birthday of Fire Safety Engineering at Ghent University. A big day for our profession, and I could not say I am not proud of being a part of this whole extraordinary fire world!

Professor Bart Merci, emeritus professor Paul Vandevelde and one of the first Gent University Fire Safety Engineering diploma holders – Bart Vanbever (Photo credits: Elise Meerburg)

All in all, 4th IMFSE Fire Safety Engineering Day fulfilled the expectations, taught us some new things, allowed us to meet some great people, and certainly strengthened the bond between IMFSE students even more!

The shining IMFSE (Photo credits: Elise Meerburg)

Fire Safety Engineering Industrial Engagement Evening

There are plenty of benefits from studying a program such as IMFSE, but one of them is certainly quite important for all the students – having regular and well-tailored contact with industry throughout the studies. It’s being done in various ways – organizing special fire safety events, conferences, talks, guest lectures, visits to companies and institutes etc.

It is known that one of the most common questions being asked to students around the world is: “How employable will you be after obtaining your degree?”. After seeing how IMFSE alumni are doing, and what chances are being brought to us, current students, I realized that all of us can happily answer to the employability question with just one word – Great!

One of the anticipated events during our 2-year program is certainly Fire Safety Engineering Industrial Engagement Evening organized at the University of Edinburgh each autumn.

It was a chance to get in touch with the real-world industry and academia, meet in person professionals from some of the most renowned companies and potentially find an internship, a full-time job or even a PhD.

The event started by professor Luke Bisby’s introduction speech presenting the timetable and explaining the details of the event.


Representatives from 6 companies were present in the room ready to meet all the interested students, tell them about what companies have been involved in and answer any possible questions. To name them, we had the honor with engineers from BRE, Arup, Olsson Fire and Risk, Trenton Fire, BB7 and Design Fire Consultants. Apart from those six, we also had the opportunity of talking to guys from Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and hearing their side of the fire story.  It was really nice meeting all those inspiring people, learning about how our knowledge can be implemented in solving real problems, and basically already envisioning ourselves in near (or far) future. Listening to experiences from the people working in big companies, or in very tiny ones, or from the people that switched from a big to a small company or vice versa, was really helpful and gave us a good idea of all the advantages/disadvantages of each option. It was quite exhilarating finding out about great variety of options and paths waiting for our careers, and again the good employability thesis was proved!

Khai – Arup Singapore representative meeting his Arup Glasgow colleague

Another really good thing about the whole event was that it was organized in an informal way, with food, wine and beer provided, which certainly allowed all of us to be more relaxed and enjoy it even more.

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Friendly vibes

After the first block of the evening was over, it was time for University of Edinburgh Fire department PhD students to present their works. As some of us are quite interested in continuing academic careers after masters and pursuing PhDs, this was an excellent opportunity to get deeper insight into our elder colleague’s fire researches. As the University of Edinburgh is highly ranked in both structural and fire engineering, there is a lot research done in Structural & Fire Safety Engineering, which is definitely an extremely important topic and a big field of interest for many IMFSE students.

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Timber is the future

After some time spent with the industry representatives, it was also nice chatting to the PhDs and hearing their stories and getting some wise advices.

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PhDs Simon Santamaria and Benjamin Ralph presenting their interesting researches

As expected, the event ended up being very beneficial for everyone involved. A day of valuable networking, brainstorming and many new ideas and plans created!


Welcome to Edinburgh

As it is always the case with summer vacation, it simply passed too quickly, but luckily what was about to follow was something even cooler than the vacation – the third quarter of my IMFSE. This chapter takes place in the capital of Scotland, at one of the most prestigious and best ranked universities in the World, the famous university of Edinburgh. (ranked 19th in the world according to 2016–17 QS Rankings)

Reading about the Uni, and even more hearing the stories from older students that used to study in Edinburgh, I only had high expectations from both the city and the school. I’m happy to state that so far this place went even beyond my expectations and hopes!sdr clone tag: 3987922764148943438

Moving to a new country is never an easy job. All over again you need to find your way around the city, meet new people, get used to new studying environment with new rules and methods in ways of teaching and organizing studies, get a Sim Card, find the cheapest grocery shop etc. But the most stressful part by far was searching for accommodation. As we are staying in town for only one semester (4 months), vast majority of landlords don’t want even to hear about signing a contract shorter than 6 months. It took me cca 10 days of going around the town and doing the so called “viewings” during which I already felt I got to know the city really well and literally thought that all the bus drivers already remembered me. The thing that basically saved me for those 10 days was my friend Christine who is living in Edinburgh and selflessly offered me to host me before I find a place to stay. It’s a great thing having such amazing friends.

On my 10th day in Edinburgh, just before the classes started, I finally got lucky and found a place for myself. To make things even better, I found a place to stay with my fellows Arjan and Khai.

Classmates reunited 🙂

Monday was the day to start the school and to finally move in! It smelled like a good start 😊!

First day was reserved for the “welcoming lecture” held by professor Grunde Jomaas. The purpose of it was giving a broad picture of what fire safety engineering is all about, some more details about IMFSE program – especially about the University of Edinburgh part with a short presentation of the lecturers and PhD students involved in the Fire department, and finally giving us some first insights into what we can strive for and expect from both our future careers and life and studying in Edinburgh.

After the lecture, we were given a short “Tour of John Muir and William Rankine buildings“ showing us where all the professors and PhD student’s offices were, and even more importantly where the famous fire lab was 🔥. In the end professor Jomaas took us to a great burger place at campus where we could finally meet the first year students and enjoy some delicious food!

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Meeting the young IMFSE freshers immediately reminded me of me after meeting the 2nd year students last year. It was really interesting with all their curiosity and questions about the program, life, our experiences and advice etc. Another group of brilliant, smart and bright people just started our program. What can I say, it turns out again that IMFSE selection committee really does a great job 😊.

Bridging the “lecturer – student” gap

While we were still digesting the lovely burgers from Monday and talking about the good welcoming day we had, fire group treated us with another yummy social event – already on Thursday at the Southern. This time we had the pleasure of meeting two more lecturers, Ricky Carvel and Rory Hadden, than a PhD Simon Santamaria, and of course meet again with prof Jomaas. We all agreed on how nice it was meeting the lecturers in an informal and friendly way.


And as the first week was coming to an end, and we couldn’t imagine it being better, professor Jomaas invited us for a potluck dinner at his flat. It was a great opportunity to meet each other even more, this time in a slightly different way – through the various (inter)national dishes. Pictures as usual tell more than words.


Freshmen getting some words of wisdom from Mr Dexters

By and large, the first week was truly remarkable and surely gave a good incentive to all of us to give our best during the semester – but also never to neglect the social side of life!

Luciernaga Project

As I’ve always liked spending my free time actively, and doing something meaningful, so it was the case this July. After a small research, I found out about Erasmus+ youth exchange called “Luciernaga Project” located just north of Madrid. The main topic of the exchange was Defense of the Human Rights, number of participants was 20, age limit 18-25, and participating countries were Italy, Spain, Ukraine and Serbia. The only requirement was a good motivational letter. Since I’ve always found this topic interesting, and I became quite experienced in writing such forms of letters, getting accepted, at least for me, wasn’t too hard.

Luciernaga Project

The project started on July 10th, in a beautiful camp located near Gargantilla del Lozoya in the national park Sierra de Guadarrama. From the moment I arrived to camp I immediately fell in love with it. Surrounded with beautiful nature, sleeping in cute tents with a view of the iconic Taboada bridge.



On top of that, meeting cool people from various countries, including surprisingly Philippines, Basque Country, Belgium, France and Turkey made me feel really excited about the whole exchange.


We spent the first few days preparing the workshops and making the plan for the upcoming days, discussing various topics related to the theme, and getting to know each other better. And after a few days the activities have officially started. One of the best things about this project was that each day we traveled to another village. In each village, we met local teenagers and did workshops with them. It was really interesting discussing about solidarity, tolerance, equality and different human rights related topics with young and proactive people.


A thought-provoking thing about this workshop was that two of the participants were actually people with special needs. It was my first time having a chance to live, talk to, and even become friends with autistic people, and it was really something moving. When people don’t know about social norms and act purely as their emotions tell them to, then you get to see and experience many beautiful and touching moments.


As usual, one of the best nights during the exchange was definitely the international night. All of us did some funny sketches and told stories about our countries, but more importantly we put some effort in preparing some nice national dishes. Although team Serbia had put a lot of effort in preparing Serbian meatballs, I have to admit that Ukrainian team did the best cooking job. Famous meal soup called “Borsch”, then Salo and many other delicious things.

Ukrainian food 🙂 

In the end, we spent our last day in Madrid exploring this wonderful city. From “The oldest restaurant in the world” and “Museum of ham” – in the pauses eating fresh Gazpacho and Paellas, to the never ending fiesta, in this crazy party town.

Gazpacho and Alhambra beer

All in all, exploring Spanish villages and nature, meeting great people, doing a useful project with great weather and super tasty food for the whole time was surely the best way of spending 11 days in July.

Interdisciplinary, Multicultural, Friendly, Significant, Entertaining – IMFSE

As the first half of my IMFSE journey has come to an end, I feel like it’s time to sum it up.

Before coming to Gent in September, I really had high expectations, and now when I look back, I can tell that they were more than fulfilled.

It all started mid-September, when I moved to Belgium, accompanied by my family for the first week. Having them around me during the first days of settling made my “moving from home” way easier. Already during the introduction week, I had the opportunity to meet my classmates, and seeing so many bright, proactive and interesting people from all around the world made me immediately happy for starting my Masters.

Among many other reasons, I loved attending classes at Gent University as the Engineering building where we had a lot of classes, irresistibly reminded me of Engineering Faculty building in my hometown of Belgrade.

Perović family in front of Faculty of Engineering and Architecture – Gent

Apart from having engaging lectures given by great teachers and even more importantly amazing people, there was one thing that really made this program flow smoothly. It’s our two very well-known coordinators, Elise Meerburg and Lies Decroos. Highly professional and devoted, prompt in communication and really efficient in solving all student’s issues. Two of them are one of the key factors of making and maintaining the genuine quality of this program.

Regarding the courses, they are in general very well organized, and made in a way to slowly introduce the Fire Safety Engineering to people from various backgrounds. The semester was a bit more time demanding, but it was kind of expected as it lasted around 3.5 months with 6 courses covered. Another really interesting fact was that not only IMFSE students were an internationalized crew, but the lecturers in Gent also. Listening to teachers from Spain, Greece, Belgium, Serbia and other countries was really intriguing and gave a special touch to this semester.

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IMFSE students reunited at Lund University for IMFSE day

Eating delicious Flemish Fries, tasting limitless extraordinary Belgian beers, making friends from each corner of the planet, living in a beautiful, fairytale city as Gent and being in the heart of Europe, and at the same time studying a great and renowned program such as IMFSE will always keep my Gent semester in a beautiful memory.

Continuing the second IMFSE quarter in Lund was also special in its own ways. Surely the best thing about it was that finally the whole class met, and our amazing Masters crew suddenly doubled!

1st and 2nd year IMFSE students having an “International dinner”

As Sweden welcomed us in January in its own special way, with snow storms and really cold temperatures, it was very interesting and sometimes even funny noticing how people from warmer parts of the world, e.g. Latin America or Eastern Asia react to this, for them unusual phenomenon. Many of them have experienced snow and subzero temperatures for the first time in their lives.

“Warm” Sweden

Lund itself is much smaller than Gent, thus has less activities, events etc., it was a bit hard getting used to this change, but as the time passed by, Lund kind of “grew” on us and we all started to enjoy our lives more and more in this cute ancient city.

Thirteen students Nations, organizing life of around 45’000 students, made sure we made a lot of new friends and had some proper fun 😊! Also, whenever we fell into the “missing a big city” crisis, we just hopped on to 12 mins train ride to Malmo, or just continued on an hour ride to Copenhagen.

Leaving IMFSE traces around Sweden 🙂

Another part of change was way of studying. Studies were way more relaxed, as we had 4 courses during almost 5 months long semester. Another thing was that we had majority of courses together with Swedish students, so it was really fun meeting them. On top of that, super friendly teachers and university staff made this semester a very pleasant experience!

Both in Gent and Lund, one of the most important parts of the program were visits to companies and fire institutes. Meeting people from industry, and getting a first-hand feeling of what awaits after we graduate is something many students around the world lack during their studies.

IMFSE football crew

Finally, the semester in Lund was finished in the best theoretical way. We were lucky to attend the famous IAFSS symposium, that was held in Lund right after the end of exams, where we could learn so much and meet fire experts from all the places.

By and large, IMFSE has so far been one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I am super excited for starting the second half in Edinburgh in September!

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

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!