Interview – Rory Hadden

Teaching two courses to IMFSE students, and being involved in different ways in IMFSE from the very beginning, Rory Hadden was a perfect person for a fire engineering related interview! Enjoy reading it:

Me: Can you tell me a bit about your career path, from enrolling the university to entering the world of fire?

Rory: I did my undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. As we were coming to the end of the program, my PhD advisor Guillermo Rein, who is now at Imperial College London, sent an email to all final year students in Edinburgh and said – if you’re interested in a PhD in fire safety than come along and have a chat. At that time, I had taken a course thought by Prof. Dougal Drysdale in Fire science and Fire Dynamics. It was a great course and a topic that seemed very interesting and a great match for the skills of a Chemical Engineer.

Then of course I met Guillermo, and he was very enthusiastic about the research topics. He was a great young academic full of enthusiasm. I struggled between deciding to take a job with an oil company that I was offered, or to do a PhD. So, I did some inner soul searching and decided that the PhD was a way forward. Looking back, it was kind of a career aim… When I left high school. I told my chemistry teacher that my dream job would be blowing things up in James Bond films. I’ve not yet done that (yet?), but I think that being able to set things on fire as a job is almost as good.

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Me: What is the hi(story) of you and IMFSE?

Rory: I can’t remember when I first got involved with the IMFSE. I knew it existed from my time in Edinburgh as a PhD student. I then spent some time doing a postdoc in Canada and London, so I was away for a while, but when I came to Edinburgh as a lecturer, Albert Simeone was the Chair at that time and I was very happy to support him in running the IMFSE and teaching the classes so that’s when I actually formally got involved. I helped supervise some thesis projects in the beginning. I supervised project of Simon Santamaria (now a PhD student at Edinburgh), and from there I just become more and more involved – from teaching the lab classes originally, to now also teaching the fire investigation class which hopefully brings new kind of interesting dimension to material. So, IMFSE has always been present for me and it has been the part of the identity of what Edinburgh does in terms of fire.

Me: How was the IMFSE experience so far from your perspective and where is IMFSE going in future?

Rory: So far, my impression of the IMFSE is that it is an extremely interesting program from so many levels. First of all, for me, the students are the best bit of it. Such varied backgrounds, personalities, approaches, understandings, and knowledge they come to the course with makes each cohort completely unique. I also think the interaction in the cohort, and who moves to which place, that kind of forms these different bonds in terms its always evolving through the whole two years. It’s also great from teaching point of view, from the academic side to be involved with Lund and Gent and the staff over there. Bart, Patrick and everyone who is working with those guys over there are fantastic people to work with. So, from my point of view that’s really good.

I actually really enjoy the teaching because it is challenging to teach but in a positive way. As a teacher you are challenged by the students. I think that’s how university level education should be. It shouldn’t just be a one-way system. The IMFSE is very good at promoting the discourse in two directions.

Where is it going in future?

It has got a great future ahead. I think the program itself and the structure of the program will continue to evolve – with new classes, each of the institutions increasing the breath and the depth of topics that are studied. Fire engineering is always evolving and there is always new risks, new complications and new things. New areas and different applications of fire engineering might be studied. Maybe moving out from fires in buildings more to the impact of fires on buildings. Wildfires would be a nice example of that.

Me: What are the main qualities of IMFSE? How competitive and ready IMFSE graduates are for fire engineering careers after obtaining their degrees?

Rory: There are a number of very unique things to the IMFSE, I think there is a massive value in mobility and understanding how fire safety engineering works in different parts of the world. I think that’s a very big positive thing. Because a regular graduate sees very much British (local) way of doing things and maybe a little bit of the European way, but the IMFSE kind of forces you to explore systems that are fundamentally quite similar, but the implementation of which can be quite different. But as a fire engineer in a real world, you’re never building just in your own backyard. Projects are global, so you need to be able to switch between regulatory systems efficiently but at the same time IMFSE gives you the fundamental science and knowledge to underpin those regulations. It doesn’t matter which jurisdiction you work in, the science is the same – the laws of physics don’t change.

One thing that makes IMFSE particularly strong is the cohort – these people who you are in classes with at the minute, you graduate with them. They are not only your friends, but probably your colleagues. You will see them in meetings or in different companies as you move around throughout your career. IMFSE is reaching the critical mass, as it has been running for long enough, having enough graduates working in all sorts of jobs, some related to fire, some not, but there is that one common bond.

It’s probably among the top fire programs in the world. It’s not only the technical knowledge you have, but the soft skills as well. Throwing bunch of people together who are from different cultures, backgrounds, nationalities and kind of stirring the pot. That forces people to engage on all levels with everyone and to learn how to communicate effectively. That’s pretty good and that’s a really important part of what employers are looking for.

Anyone getting a degree from Edinburgh, Lund or Gent would be assumed to have the appropriate technical skills and abilities, so it’s the other things that the IMFSE brings that I think are the differentiator.

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Me: What do you think is important for the future career of a fire engineer?

Rory: Being openminded is the biggest thing for a fire engineer. Fire risks are always changing and evolving. It is important that fire engineers keep their eyes open to some things that appear very simple in many respects but actually can be very complicated from the fire safety point of view. Especially with the arrival of new materials, new applications of materials. I think keeping a very open mind and being challenging to these things. Trying to make sure you’re not only applying the regulations but you are applying your knowledge of fire safety and fire science. I think that’s the most important skill – keep that at the forefront of what you do.

Me: What are the “hottest topics” in fire industry at the moment and what will they be in future?

Rory: Hot topics given the events in the UK this summer, we can see where the focus is moving right now, but I think it’s important that focus doesn’t detract from other things that are happening in built environment.

We have things like buildings being made out of timber as structural elements. What does that do in a fire strategy? How do you account for having your structure made of something that can burn? How does a fire engineer address that in a sensible, rational and complete way? That’s a really big question. Let’s be honest, the fire engineers’ job is not to prevent evolution in design and materials happening. It’s to enable things where it’s safe to do so. So, developing rational and scientific based reasons for these sorts of technologies is something that is pretty exciting. That’s a fundamental change.

Related to that we have things related to modular constructions which is a big thing right now. So, you build much of a structure in a factory, off site, that arrives to the building site and you peace it together like a giant Lego set. That also brings in a lot of advantages because you certainly have much more of control over the construction process. So, in theory some of the traditional issues of fire engineering like: detailing, ceiling or penetrations etc could potentially be better addressed. But it introduces new risks like how do you ensure that you have a good compartmentation between these sorts of elements. That’s another very interesting topic with many challenges for fire engineers.

And from my own little interests I guess there is applying things in fire investigation – getting better skills and education in that kind of disciplines that aren’t just the design. I think that’s very important as we move forward and need to understand better what are the risks in the built environment and how do we learn from disasters.

But also, wildfires I think is a big one too. Given the changes in weather across the globe, this will become a bigger and bigger challenge – perhaps soon we will see explicit consideration of this in design guides in the future? Different organisations and agencies are interested in wildfire risk, but the fire engineer certainly has a role there to protect communities and people from these effects and to work with other agencies land managers, forest service, whoever might be involved to try to solve this problem because it doesn’t belong to one person and fire engineer certainly has a role in doing that.
So, I think those are the four areas!

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Me: What do you think about the fact that IMFSE accepts students with various different engineering and scientific backgrounds?

Rory: I think that’s a real strength.  There is no template for a fire engineer. It’s questionable whether there should be one or not. Fire engineering as a discipline has got multiple specialisms and sub specialisms within it – so there is space for everyone from different backgrounds and different interests.
The key thing that IMFSE does is that it takes all those various backgrounds and builds on that knowledge to create people who are competent in fire engineering. I think that’s one of the strengths of the IMFSE – being able to accept so broad arrange of people in the front door, help them get the knowledge that you need in order to be a fire engineer, and then send them out to real world, again into a broad range of careers. So, I think it’s a huge strength. It’s a model that, perhaps could be more widely applied.

Me: How would you compare education/students at the time you were a student and nowadays? Are there any major differences?

Rory: There are some differences. You always look back. Maybe not in students, students are students and I don’t think they have changed very much, they have the same kind of aspirations and expectations and I think that’s great, that should stay how it is. I think what changes is the other side – it’s the universities, certainly here in Edinburgh. I think the learning environment is much better than it was compared to even just 10 or 15 years ago when I was a student – now the facilities are better, the access to resources is fantastic, the access to the staff is very good (it was also good in my day as well to be fair). The environment is very collegiate. Everyone is helping everyone else out – working together for common goals. And I think that’s one of the key things that I have noticed in the fire group at Edinburgh.  Everyone is pushing for the same thing. It is a community. And that for me is one of the things its very noticeable between the institutions of the IMFSE.

Me: How acknowledged is fire safety nowadays in World in general?

Rory: This is a complicated question. I think, who are the custodians (people in charge) of Fire Safety is a very tricky question to answer. I think as a discipline we are not very visible to be honest. Not many people know that fire engineering is a degree or discipline that has a career path and progression. I wish that more people did know that. I think it’s a very interesting career, very interesting challenges, awesome projects you can work on in the real world. Unfortunately, I think it’s not very visible. How do we fix that problem? Well I think things like the IMFSE where we produce many graduates that work globally – that’s certainly a huge help. Working globally across different industry sectors. That is also a huge help. Changing the perceptions of fire engineering as an enabling rather than prescriptive discipline is a bigger challenge. I think we need to put the science at the heart of the discipline again and train fire engineers to apply this knowledge to create truly innovative fire safety solutions.

Me: Is Fire Engineering it being developed and researched as much as it should be? What about the developing World where fire engineering is on quite a low level. How could we impact that?

Rory: Of course, I can say that there is not enough research going on, that is my job 😊. But, I think also, we see whether it’s the increase of the number of wildfires, or whether it’s a fact that when you’re looking at fire data that a number of fires is reducing, but the cost of these fires is increasing. There is a need to better understand this problem. I think there is a slight kind of perception bias here which you picked up nicely in the question. The people who live in the developed world, it’s very unlikely statistically that they will be affected by fire. They have probably good control of furnishings in their home, the offices where they work, fire regulations are applied and fire protection works quite well. We don’t see this as the problem. It’s not happening to the decision makers or the policy makers every day – it’s not on their radar.
But if you go to developing world. We have a project in Edinburgh that David Rush is leading, on fires in informal settlements. These are some enormous fires in some places where mostly by definition there is no regulations because they are informal settlements. How do you solve problems like that? Technological solutions that we normally rely on: sprinklers, smoke detectors etc just won’t work in that situation. So, how do we as fire engineers actually solve those problems, because that’s where fundamentally people are dying in fires. Very few deaths happen in the structures that are very heavily fire engineered. Because those buildings well, they are managed, the activities within them are quite safe, in general. But when you have an unregulated series of dwellings, how can we help those people who are losing their lives, losing all of their possessions very quickly? So, there is a good argument for more research in that area. And I come to wildfires as well, that’s a problem that is directly affecting the people who I just said don’t ever see fire. There are relatively wealthy people in the USA and Europe having problems with wildfires and that becomes very visible because of where it is. Of course, there are a whole load of political factors. So, these topics I think do need more research from the fire science point of view in close collaboration with other disciplines.

Me: Any message for the current and the future IMFSE students?

Rory: I think for the current students, you’ve being given a really good opportunity! I do genuinely believe It’s one of the best educational programs in fire engineering. You now have the responsibility to take that knowledge that you’ve gained and experiences that you have to improve the field of fire safety engineering in the real world. Don’t let the real world beat that out of you. Keep the motivation and enthusiasm and the thirst for learning.  Keep that very much at the forefront of what you do, and you will succeed.

For the potential applicants. IMFSE is something that students on the course enjoy. The experience is very unique, from the educational point of view and it’s a chance to really take a solid undergraduate degree and specialise in something that is very current. It’s quite an exciting time to be a fire engineer. A lot of innovation, lots of cool projects to work on, and I think it’s an interesting and very good career, so my advice would be APPLY to the IMFSE and give it a go.

Me: Tell me 3 first words that come to your mind when you think of IMFSE

Rory: Fun, Fiery, Challenging

 

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Ghent, Lund and Edinburgh – Student tips!

During the two years of my IMFSE masters, I had the chance of living in three different cities, and three different countries, namely Ghent (Belgium), Lund (Sweden) and Edinburgh (Scotland). After so much time spent in those wonderful student cities, I feel qualified enough to give a couple of good student friendly and fun extracurricular advice to future IMFSE students (or anyone else visiting them). So, without further ado, here they are:

Ghent:

  1. Make use of well-priced Belgian trains offering a go-pass ticket for 10 rides for 56 euros only, meaning that you can make a ride from point A to point B inside Belgium with as many stops as you like for only 5.6 euros.
  2. Do not miss the student kick-off, a massive concert and party at the biggest square in Ghent – Sint Pietersplein, celebrating the beginning of the school year.
  3. Do a pub-crawl tourist tour in Ghent. You will at the same time be able to taste the finest Belgian beers, while hearing interesting stories about this beautiful city.
  4. Take the advantage of super tasty and at the same time quite affordable student restaurants offering a variety of options – from vegan friendly to heavy meat eaters’ menus!
  5. Don’t bother buying a bike – just rent one from university. As the uni bikes are secured with gps tracker, no one bothers stealing them, so for very small amount of money per semester you can get a decent bike, and forget about the potential “stolen bike” stress.
  6. If you’re a fan of mustard, then Ghent is the right place for you. Right in the city center, a bit behind Korenmarkt, you can find the famous mustard factory “Tierenteyn-Verlent” selling delicious mustard and pickles that are a perfect addition to any dish!
  7. Make sure to check out Hot Club de Ghent, a very nice and cozy jazz place hosting live jazz shows several times a week
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The famous Bolognese pasta in Ghent’s student restaurant “De Brug” + Khai and his favorite Uni foldable bike exploring Liège

Lund:

  1. Although Swedish trains at the first sight might not seem particularly cheap, there is still a good tip for being able to afford them – immediately download the Skånetrafiken app. It will make planning your Skåne trips (Skåne is Swedish southernmost county, and Lund is situated in it) and buying your train/bus tickets way easier, and it will save you a lot of money!
  2. Join a student nation from the beginning as they organize most of the student events during the whole year. If you find time get involved in a nation, it’s a great opportunity to meet locals, and to get to know the real Swedish student life from the inside!

P.S. If you’re into Jazz, like I am, make sure not to miss famous Smålands Nation “Red Note” jazz evenings held once a month.

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Fire crew and a Swedish intruder 😉 enjoying Govindas + Red Note Jazz vibes
  1. If you’re brave and crazy enough, try the real Swedish experience – during winter months, go to one of the saunas at the docks – either in Malmö or in Bjärred, and enjoy the 90 ̊ C sauna followed by a dip in 1 ̊ C sea. Do it multiple times in a row, I dare you! It’s shockingly amazing.
  2. Student restaruants unfortunately are not as cheap as in Ghent. Nevertheless, student nations offer tasty and affordable lunch every day, and if you’re into cooking, go get your ingredients in one and only Willy’s – every student’s favorite supermarket in Lund!
  3. Have a delicious buffet vegetarian lunch for only 7 euros in the friendliest restaurant I visited – Govindas!
  4. If you’re into nature, do not miss Lomma beach, Skrylle national park and Dalby Stenbrott lake, all laying in the proximity of Lund and all accessible by local bus or by bike (or by running 😉)
  5. Go to Copenhagen, go there a lot! I will only tell you that whenever people ask me what is the coolest thing about Sweden, I always reply – Copenhagen!
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Also, as whole IMFSE cohort is together in Lund, make some yummy international dinners together!

Edinburgh:

  1. As Scottish Highlands are so massive and often hardly accessible by public transportation, make sure to find a friend in possession of a vehicle, and willing to explore that beauty with you!
  2. Join one of numerous sport clubs and/or student associations (from clay pigeon shooting, gliding or running over whisky, gin, chocolate or e.g. engineering society). It’s the best and the easiest way to meet likeminded people and do awesome stuff with them!
  3. Again, for jazz lovers – do not miss a place so simply called “The Jazz Bar”. They host great jazz shows every night, and they are open really late!
  4. Get yourself a Scottish castles pass for 45ish gbp per year, allowing you to enter all the Scottish castles. Single tickets are very pricey, and most of the Scottish castles are too good to miss them!
  5. Go to Glasgow for two reasons – to see the spectacular Harry Potter like university, but also for practicing your English listening and understanding skills. Glasgow people have such a funny and cute accent, which definitely takes some time to get used to. P.S. Use a bus to get there, it’s WAY cheaper than the train.
  6. If you’re into running, join the EU Running Club – Hare & Hounds – the most fun crew in Edinburgh. Your weeks will be filled with trainings, your Wednesdays with beer and nachos at Greenmantle pub, your weekends with races all across the UK, and your nights with famous “Hive till five” 😀
  7. If you do decide to get a bike in Edinburgh, make sure to get a very very good lock, as I had my bike stolen twice!
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Haries, discovering Highlands, whisky tasting and the unforgettable nachos!

Hope these tips will save you some bucks, and make your stays in these three cities more fun!

IMFSE Graduation Ceremony – 2018

As endless the IMFSE program seemed during some tough exam periods, as short it seemed when we realized that the graduation day has come. We’ve all been working hard for the previous four semesters, and building ourselves as humans and as professionals, towards this special day – the day when we officially became fire safety engineers.

Each one of us spent with other classmates at least one semester together, and some lucky ones even managed to cruise through the whole 2-year experience staying at same universities for the whole time. Still, there is one thing we haven’t been able to do so far, and this moment was just a perfect occasion for such a thing – gather IMFSE professors, IMFSE staff, sponsor representatives, IMFSE students with their friends and families, and a couple of IMFSE alumni, all at one place and at the same time.

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The ceremony can officially start

Meeting point was Ghent university’s culture and convention centre – Het Pand, one of the prettiest buildings in this already spectacular city. The day started with registration and coffee, and it was very nice seeing everyone so well dressed and looking so happy and beautiful. After a quick chit chat, the ceremony could officially start.

IMFSE program director, our professor Bart Merci, started the ceremony with a short introduction speech. The speech could not pass without professor mentioning his favourite football player, Lionel Messi, who at a time was underachieving at the World Cup, but a hope still existed that Argentinian superstar could eventually wake up and show everyone who is the best?! 🤔

Next was Ghent University rector, Professor Rik Van de Walle. After giving a very inspiring speech, Professor Van de Walle could not resist but emphasizing his disagreement with professor Merci, pointing out Ronaldo as the world’s player #1.

CLASH OF THE TITANS

Luckily the clash between the two professors ended up in a tie, as it seems that my neighbouring country, Croatia’s Luka Modrić, showed everyone that when talking about sports talents, there is no one comparable to people from Balkans 😉.

After a short and funny football mentions, which served well to relaxing the slightly tensed students, it was time for us, IMFSE grads to take over the stage with our short Master Thesis presentations. Although less than two years ago all of us faced fire safety engineering for the first time, being all confused and somewhat afraid of the whole new scientific branch, it was very impressive seeing all of my classmates now confidently presenting their great works on various interesting topics. From multiscale modelling of fire in CERN tunnels, over evacuation modelling in deep metro stations, to fire spread between photovoltaic arrays, you name it!

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When 13 students graduate, and collage can fit only 12, then one must be special enough to get an individual picture published! It was not hard selecting the best student of our cohort and my CERN fellow Melchior for this special treat 🙂

After the stage presentations, it was time for lunch break, but also for another very important aspect of academic presenting – the poster session. The whole process of writing the IMFSE Master thesis, defending it and publicly presenting, both on stage and on the poster discussion, were a great overview of how a process of writing a scientific paper looks like – from conducting the literature review, to finally presenting the work done. It was certainly a great way for us students to realize if we enjoy it sufficiently and would gladly opt for a PhD, or we would rather continue our careers in industry.

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Alumni and Perović family enjoying the poster session

Another solemn moment awaited right after the poster session – a short video interview with us, talking about our IMFSE experiences. We are all looking forward to seeing this piece of art full of wise words and fancy outfits.

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Movie stars, who still opted for fire safety engineering over Hollywood  🔥

The lunch break was over, and the most official moment of the day has arrived – the proclamation. And although on similar ceremonies official speeches can sometimes be too formal and tiring, I really felt that all the people giving speeches that day found a right measure keeping them long enough to deliver the point and short enough to keep the audience focused and amused 😊. Professor Gert de Cooman guided us through the proclamation explaining us how it should be done, and why is this traditional way of graduating still in place – emphasizing the responsibility we are taking after receiving our degrees. Professor Merci congratulated and handed us our transcripts of records – making our graduation official. Shortly after nominees for the best poster received their prizes – Ming Chen winning in jury decision, and Julia winning the hearts of the audience 😉.

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A very special moment!
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Poster winners!

Next up was the proclamation of best students where Melchior, Khai and Kunsulu deservedly received their prizes.

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ARUP director Rav Dhanjal handing in the best student prizes! Congrats

The nominations were followed up by very encouraging speeches by our professors Jose Torero, Grunde Jomaas and Enrico Ronchi. Thinking about all the professors involved in IMFSE made me realize that we, IMFSE students, were quite lucky for having been taught by such world-renowned experts and above all great people.

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Enrico Ronchi, Jose Torero and Grunde Jomaas giving very motivational speeches!

The official ceremony was wrapped up by short talks by IMFSE alumni, and in the end by our student representatives giving a nice overview of these two years, concluding with two funny videos 😊.

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Alumni Matthias Van de veire and Karel Lambert and our student representatives closing off the ceremony 🙂

As we still had our gowns and hats on, and we were at such a beautiful place as Het Pand, what else could we do but a nice photo session!

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The most special moment of the day 🎓
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Professors from Ghent, Lund, Edinburgh, Queensland and Maryland! Thanks for travelling the long way and for making this day even more special!
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Friends, family and smiles 🎓
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Brazilian and Serbian crews!

After a lot of nice pics, it was finally time for the less formal part of the day! The afternoon and evening were dedicated to a very interesting sightseeing tour of Ghent with several yummy culinary stops. A great way for our families to get to know a city where we used to live and study, and for us to freshen and build up our knowledge about this fairy tale city.

For thoughtfully organizing such a remarkable day till the smallest details, but also for helping us out whenever needed for the last two years, and for keeping IMFSE running and being as good as it is, we all owe a massive thanks to our two dearest girls – Elise and Lies!

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Our dear Lies and Elise in their formal and informal modes 🙂

As this long day was coming to an end deep in the night, it was time to say goodbye. Saying bye to your friends flying back to Malaysia, Colombia, El Salvador and other distant places was a very emotional moment. Still, the friendships that we made through our IMFSE studies, and international aspect of studying IMFSE made us true global citizens, and I am sure that our paths will cross many more times in future on numerous places!

P.S.

All the professional photos were taken by Nic Vermeulen, and we owe him big thanks for a great job!

Visit to CERN

Apart from having the honour to conduct our master theses for CERN, another great opportunity came along for my classmate Melchior and me – to pay a visit to the renowned facility! Our supervisor, professor Patrick Van Hees decided to join us for the visit, so the Lund University – CERN crew was complete.

After working hard on our projects for the first half of the semester, we knew that the upcoming visit was just what we needed – to get a better and clearer picture of the facility and its hazards, and to get some additional inspiration and motivation for the final stage of our thesis development.

Already landing in Geneva, we were amazed seeing the incredible Mont Blanc from the air, and realized how blessed people working and living in CERN and in the Alpes region were.

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Mont Blanc

The following morning, Lund University crew met up with IMFSE alumni Oriol Rios, currently working at CERN, and the visit could officially start. Our guide for the 1st day was Javier Cuadrado, working in CERN’s fire brigade, and volunteering as a tour guide in CERN. The visit started in the “museum” room where the first CERN’s accelerator Synchrocyclotron is exhibited. Synchrocyclotron provided beams for CERN’s first experiments in particle physics and nuclear physics, and it was used for remarkably long time – 33 years.

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The visit continued on to the ATLAS control room and subsequently to the CERN Control Centre. Already then, we started to get a real feel of the size and the complexity of the whole facility. Besides that it was interesting seeing the number of screens and people working in control centres – it reminded of sci-fi movies 😊.

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Art Arnalich explaining the “sci-fi” room

Next stop was the firefighter training centre having the real size model of the LHC tunnel. It was really positive and pleasant observing how seriously CERN takes both fire prevention and firefighting!

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The LHC real size model

We continued on to the SM18 cryogen test facility. We were immediately stunned by the amount of equipment and apparatus present in the room – from numerous electrical cabinets and racks, over endless cables and wires, to magnets and parts of accelerators. Once again, we became aware of the huge size and complexity of CERN and of its uniqueness.

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Next up was a presentation session by the people working with safety in CERN, where Oriol Rios presented what CERN fire engineering team is working on, how is the job organized, and who are the fire team members – namely:

Saverio La Mendola, Art Arnalich, Marco Andreini, Fabio Corsanego, Giordana Gai and Oriol Rios.

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Oriol Rios presenting the CERN fire team

The final part of the day was dedicated to visiting the core of the whole facility – CMS. The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) is a detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and as it is located 100m below ground connected to the experimental setup in tunnels, it can only be visited while experiments are not running. Luckily, we paid our visit during the winter technical stop, and we were welcomed for this exciting underground tour by CMS LEXGLIMOS (large experiments group leader in matters of safety) Niels Dupont.

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IMFSE crew at CERN
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Niels Dupont telling about CMS

As we were going below ground by the elevator, we were realizing only even more how extraordinary CERN was. After a tour through several chambers we arrived to probably the most impressive chamber all of us have witnessed where CMS was located. Seeing such a massive device with so many machines and detectors attached to it, and on top of that built 100m below ground chamber was staggering. Continuing with thinking of how many scientists and engineers from all fields had to provide their expert work in order to make something so complex actually operate smoothly. A truly inspiring moment that confirmed that there are no limits if knowledge and good organization are combined!

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The CMS
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Excitement is obvious!

On the second day of our visit, we first went to the fire brigade. Being an ex-firefighter officer, Art Arnalich, together with Javier Cuadrado, showed us the main rooms in the brigade, explained us how does the brigade in such a big facility operate, and eventually showed us the equipment used by the CERN firefighters.

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Art Arnalich and Javier Cuadrado sharing the secrets behind the CERN fire brigade! + Our fire engineer & firefighter Melchior getting the feel of the equipment!

The final stop for our visit was the Antimatter factory where scientists are “trapping” anti-protons and examining their properties, with e.g. the ACE experiment testing the use of antiprotons for cancer therapy. Another extraordinary laboratory.

Antimatter

At the end of the second day, we unfortunately had to say goodbye to our dear hosts from CERN, and to the facility itself. Nevertheless, the experience of visiting a facility where people from all over the world are using and developing high-end knowledge in solving the most complex problems was really motivating and definitely gave us a good inspiration for the start of our fire safety engineering careers.

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Bye CERN, bye dear fire team! Thanks for having us 🙂 

Interview – Oriol Rios Rubiras

It’s always pleasant and encouraging seeing how IMFSE alumni grow through their careers, and work in inspiring companies all around the World. One of great examples of that is my master thesis co-supervisor Oriol Rios Rubiras who was a part of the second ever cohort of IMFSE master program. I had a pleasure of interviewing him during my recent visit to CERN. We discussed Oriol’s IMFSE experiences, working in CERN, current fire safety engineering world trends and many other interesting topics!

Me: Can you tell me a bit about your background, and about the steps that lead you to enrolling IMFSE?

Oriol: My background is in physics (bachelor + master). When I was done with that, I wanted to go more into application of that, because I wanted to move away from theoretical physics. At that time, I was a volunteer firefighter, and I thought it would be sexy to study fire from a scientific point of view. 😊 Actually, the thing was that I looked for any Masters related to fire and I saw IMFSE. When I realized that it was a part of Erasmus Mundus I applied, got selected, and started it! I was only the second cohort of IMFSE students. At the time I applied, the first semester ever of the program was going on.

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Surrounded by the mighty Alps, CERN is certainly a magnificent place for mountain lovers!

Me: How was your IMFSE experience overall, and what were the best things about it?

Oriol: Really good memories from the IMFSE. That was an amazing entry point to fire safety engineering. For me, I take a lot of friends, fire safety engineers that are spread around the world. And it’s really a great network when you start working, or doing your scientific career, because you have contacts for any kind of issues you may have. That is really powerful. And as well getting to know many teachers, professor, and key players in fire safety engineering world. I realized after the two years that I knew almost half of the people from the fire safety engineering active world just because I was in the master.

Me: How were your experiences from each of the universities you attended? What is the best single thing about each of the universities (Gent, Lund, Edinburgh)?

Oriol: I went to all three of them. I would say depends on what you look for, each university has its strong points. From Edinburgh I remember high fire safety science lectures, really inspiring ones given by Guillermo Rein. He started teaching after Jose Torero left. He is really enthusiastic and it was great motivation into the field. From Edinburgh I remember as well, the activities around the university – social and outdoor activities in Scotland were impressive.

From Lund, it was a really well-organized semester. All the facilities that university offers and all the lab work were really good and smooth. On top of that we did really interesting visits to research institutes and FSE companies (SP, DBI, WSP etc.). It was really pleasant to study there.

And from Gent, I remember also some demanding and really enriching subjects, specially the explosions subject, with some interesting visits on site and external labs.

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On site visits are always fun

Me: Are you still in touch with the people from your cohort, or with other IMFSE related people – teachers, staff etc.?

Oriol: Yes, we are still keeping up the connection (mainly email and messaging groups). We are trying to keep up with all the cohort. Both for social activities, whenever we visit each other, or professional activities whenever we have any doubt. You just send a mail to the list, and in few minutes, you get really interesting replies from all over the world. So, for me that’s a priceless resource.

Me: Did you ever consider pursing an engineering career in industry, or you always knew that PhD was “the only right way” for you? 😉

Oriol: I was definitely hesitating. But I thought that with my physics background, I could benefit a little bit on research so I really wanted to give it a try in the fire safety research field, and that’s why I went for a PhD to try to apply some physics concepts into a fire science, which from my regard was like a young science, so still a lot of room for development and improvement. That’s why I got hooked into the research field. Afterwards, I wanted to move in a balance between research and industry (and I think I found it!).

Moving on to PhD was really smooth, because I pursued a PhD on the same topic as my master thesis in IMFSE, because I really wanted to explore a topic that is not covered in the master – wildfires.

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IMFSE crew in CERN – Oriol, Melchior, Patrick and me

Me: How was your experience with conducting a PhD in fire engineering, and would you recommend it to future IMFSE graduates and students?

Oriol: The experience is great, because the good thing is that it’s not a super big family, so if you move enough, you get to know all of the key players, and that’s great because you have the feeling of really following all the field, and you know all the faces. The experience was enriching, being able to contribute on expanding the fire safety science field is an honour. Although I would say that a PhD is not always “sweet happy flowers” time, I definitely had hard times doing a PhD, and I would only recommend it to those people who believe in research and have some endurance. It can sometimes be difficult to keep up with research itself, if you are not really convinced of your willingness to contribute to science.

Me: What are the essential research fields that fire science community needs to focus on in near future in your opinion?

Oriol: First, what I am working on now, modelling. That’s actually the state of art and it is being applied more and more. We need to get sounder applications of modelling because otherwise it becomes kind of a wild jungle if everyone just uses models without a sound knowledge and properly defendable outputs of your model. So, modelling, validating and testing is one of the fields – especially in compartment and industrial fires.

Then the field without doubt is wildland – urban interface (WUI), which is hot topic, and will become even more hot. Big wildfires go over extinguishing capacities and over planning capacities, so they impact to human areas and then we have devastating consequences. We have seen this in Canada, Chile and US (among many others) last summer. Science, in my opinion, has a lot to say about this in terms better tools for preventing, understanding and fighting it.

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At least we are certainly “fire-safe” up in the deep snow of Mont Blanc 🙂

Me: How did the CERN opportunity occur, and how challenging is it working in the most renowned scientific institution in the world?

Oriol: I was finishing my PhD, and thanks to the friends I made in IMFSE, I got the information that CERN was looking for a FSE. Since Lund University was already collaborating with CERN, I decided to apply. As a physicist, I never thought they would look for a fire safety engineer. I only knew CERN because of physics, and not because of fire. So, I applied, and I got selected, so that’s how I started.

When you work in CERN, you hallucinate a little bit because of the magnitude of everything. I have never seen so many tunnels, cables, cable trays, cabinets and other hazards put together in the same place and underground. So, it is really challenging at the beginning. For example, first task I was given was a circular tunnel, which you never thought of how to simulate the ring tunnel. We do have unique problems, but also, we have unique resources – computational resources, opportunities to train ourselves, learn, network and collaborate. I think those two aspects are really engaging and motivating.

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The mind-blowing antimatter factory

Me: What is your main field of work now in CERN?

Oriol: On one hand, working on FCC study – that’s Future Circular Collider. The project on the continuation of CERN. This project foresees a tunnel of around 100km length 400 meters below ground. I am contributing to the fire study of the conceptual phase that is being done at the moment. As you can imagine, 100km long tunnel, located 400m below ground can pose some headaches in terms of safety and evacuation.

And then I contribute generally on safety aspects mainly dealing with simulation around the CERN areas. And for the future, I am quite excited, because we are launching a project called FIRIA – Fire Induced Radiological Integrated Assessment. That’s a project that aims to do the risk assessment coupling fire and radioactivity. So, what would happen if radioactive material would burn, and how could we simulate that and how could we simulate radioactive smoke. That’s a really singular problem which I am interested to start tackling.

Me: What makes a good fire engineer? Which skills and abilities?

Oriol: First, knowledge. You need knowledge on multiple fields, from the theoretical fluid dynamics to computers to scripting to generally industrial and general engineering. Then, you need really critical mind in terms of being able to properly understand the problem. For me what is crucial, you will need to simplify a problem being still in the correct safe side. Our main task should be to limit as much as possible the safety factors we put whenever we don’t have knowledge and we have uncertainty. For me those are the key points, being able to strike a problem, in a simplified manner, still being accurate and correct.

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CERN fire engineering team with the guests from DESY (Germany) and Lund University

Me: Any message for the current and future IMFSE students?

Oriol: Profit well from these two years, because they are really enriching and you can take a lot from them. Not only on knowledge but try to take as much as possible in all domains. Then, keep up all the contacts you make during those two years, because they will be a great tool for your future career.

IMFSE Master Thesis – what, why, how etc? part II

Can you tell me what is your master thesis topic and why did you choose it?

Darko: The title of my thesis is “Identification and characterization of design fires to be used in performance-based fire design of CERN facilities”.

After enjoying two fire dynamics courses during my first two IMFSE semesters – Fire Dynamics in Gent and consequently Advanced Fire Dynamics in Lund, I was quite interested in conducting a thesis related to that field. When I found out that Lund University collaborates with CERN, and that they proposed a topic related to fire dynamics, I decided to look no further.

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Not too many places on earth are as mind-blowing as CERN 🌟

Kunsulu: My topic is “Numerical simulations of pressure effects in passive houses during fire”.  So, I will perform validation study of experimental data from a passive house facility built in Mons. Before choosing the topic, I decided that I will consider those related to FDS, as I wanted to develop my skills in using FDS. I chose this particular topic because currently there is a tendency towards energy efficient buildings and near-zero energy houses, and for me it was interesting to discover that there can be an evacuation problem and even a structural damage due to pressure rise during fire in well-insulated dwellings. Therefore, the topic seemed fascinating to me.

Melchior: I’m currently working on multiscale modelling of the accelerator tunnel located at CERN in Geneva. The accelerator ring is 27km long and impossible to model completely using 3D CFD. The mutliscale refers to the fact that I only model ± 500m using a 3D domain, while the other 26.5km is modelled using a much faster 1D approach.

I chose this topic as I’ve always been interested in fluid dynamics, and of course the opportunity to work with a world-renowned organization was a nice plus.

Julia: “Ignition of polymers under transient heating.”

I have always had a great passion for experiments and laboratory. Moreover, from the beginning I knew I preferred the focus of FSE at the University of Edinburgh. After a thorough view on the topics offered there, I decided that this would be the very exciting one!

Habib: The title of my thesis is “Validation and testing of full probabilistic quantitative risk assessment methodology for life safety in complex buildings”.

This thesis is more about testing an interpolation and response surface model to estimate FED simulation result, so the objective is developing a model that could estimate the simulation result in a certain case. In the end, we can reduce the computational time.

Arjan: My Topic is to make a cost benefit analysis of compartmentalization in logistic buildings, i.e. large floor areas. The analysis is made in essence for the private investor but also looks at the bigger picture of societal welfare and risk mitigation measures.

As I got the Rockwool sponsorship – half of my tuition fee was waivered and in return the thesis topic was based upon the company’s needs.

 

How has your thesis experience been so far?

Darko: Very interesting and unpredictable. Gathering and reading all the existing scientific papers on a certain matter and thereupon figuring what has not been done, and what should be done is a great challenge! Also, organizing custom experiments that include ordering and shipping a number of different gadgets and equipment from abroad can be quite tricky. I learned to always expect the unexpected.

Many thanks to Patrick and Dan from Lund University, but also to Oriol and Saverio from CERN for their selfless help whenever needed.

Kunsulu: It has been good so far. I am in the learning process: by trial and error (in writing codes especially); by asking questions and trying to find answers/explanation; with help and guidance of my supervisors. I just finished doing the study of leakage modelling methods in FDS where I considered how pressure and leakage flows can be affected by changing some parameters of leakage modelling in FDS. Now, I am starting the actual validation part.

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Kunsulu getting all the love and support needed for thesis from her dearest classmates 🙂 

Melchior: Not without the usual moments of wanting to throw my laptop out of the window, but overall more than positive. Also, thanks to the guidance both at CERN and LTH.

Julia: Some days are very productive and I manage to perform lots of experiments, whereas in other days several problems pop up and you cannot have a good progress. My experience has shown that activities usually take longer than we expect, mainly when working with experiments. Small problems will always come up, and most of them are unpredictable. However, finding solution for them is a very interesting part of the work.

Habib: It’s been very dynamic and demanding, but certainly enjoyable. Most of the time I run many fire and evacuation simulations, analyze the results, and then modify the prediction model.

Arjan: It took me a long time before I finally got started but once I got going the urge for more knowledge only grew. I can finally start writing the analysis tool now and I’m curious about the results it will give me.

 

What is your desired outcome from the thesis?

Darko: To produce a good paper that will be useful for CERN, but also that will comply with my expectations. To get satisfying results from my experiments and to have the test results obtained with different methodologies match!

Kunsulu: I want to deliver quality work and to be more confident user of FDS.

Melchior: To get a fully functional multiscale model, which will be able to resist experimental validation.

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Melchior not sure whether he should laugh or cry after realizing what he needs to simulate in FDS 😅

Julia: The aim of the thesis is to find a trend that can lead to a new criterion – ignition criterion for transient heating conditions. Nevertheless, an important point is the knowledge that is acquired through the whole progression of the work, i.e. what I am learning with literature review, solving problems, understanding the uncertainties and limitations, and so on.

Habib: A prediction model, so that in the future if someone wants to obtain the result of similar case characteristic, they can use my model instead of running many simulations, so that they can save computational time.

Arjan: Finishing with a thesis that is up to standards, i.e. something of which I can be proud.

 

Do you see any interesting future research related to your thesis?

Darko: Yes! As CERN is such an enormous facility, this thesis produced design fires only for the major combustibles present in CERN (electrical cabinets, racks, magnets, klystrons, transportation vehicles). Further development of design fires for e.g. cables and cable trays, transformers etc. would allow more precise input for future FDS modeling.

Kunsulu: Yes, I do actually. I think there is a potential of future research both experimentally and numerically. For example, I think more tests could be conducted with solid fuels and realistic fire scenarios. Also, more work can be done in characterization of building air-tightness and ventilation configuration. To illustrate, sensitivity analysis of some default values in leakage modelling and quantification of uncertainties of ventilation flows can be useful.

Melchior: Yes, there is a lot to be improved upon, as the level of detail I’m currently using is relatively low. Also the implementation of current 1D modelling in FDS is not optimized yet.

Julia: Yes. The current ignition criteria are based on constant incident heat flux, which is not realistic in a real fire. If new criteria can be established based on transient heat flux, simulations will be more accurate and fire spread prediction will consequently be more precise and realistic.

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Multitasking Brazilian 🔥

Habib: If we use the prediction model to predict other cases, it might result in high errors. So, the challenge is building a generic prediction model, so that we can apply it to many cases. It might be done by modifying the result model in this research.

Arjan: If the thesis is a success it should provide Rockwool with a tool they can use to advice/convince their future clients on installing compartmentalization.

 

Do you have any advice for future students on how to choose and conduct a good master thesis?

Darko: Make sure to choose a topic that seems interesting and useful. If you can’t decide between several topics, do not hesitate to contact the thesis promoters and further discuss the thesis possibilities. Contact with your potential future supervisor will probably solve all your doubts, and choice of a perfect topic will not be a problem anymore.

Start reading the literature related to your topic well on time and contact your supervisor occasionally with any questions. Ideally by the time when thesis semester starts (January), you will more or less have a clear picture of what you should do, and how will you make it happen!

Kunsulu: To choose the topic, I would recommend first to select areas you are most interested in or the ones you want to develop your knowledge in. Also, try to talk to the supervisors before selecting the topics and ask for more information. Regarding how to conduct a good master thesis, ask me in May-June after I will finish mine😊

Melchior:  Choose a topic that interests you, without looking at the location too much. You’ll have to work on the topic for several months and if it doesn’t interest you, those can become a really long four months.

Julia: It is important to firstly have an overview of the focus of each university. You also have to bear in mind what area you prefer (simulations, material burning, structures under fire, etc.).

Once your topic has been accepted, contact your supervisor. You can start reading papers and works related to what you will study and gather some ideas. When your last semester starts, try to get in touch with people involved in the same area, e.g. PhD students. And don’t forget, organize your activities! Before starting, set your objectives and keep in mind what you want to do and how much time you have for each step.

Habib: The most important thing that we need to take into account when we choose master thesis is our interest. By choosing the one that accords with out interest, it makes us more excited in doing the research, even though we face many difficulties during the research.

After that, we have to also understand the details concept of the research. We could discuss with the supervisor regarding the research topic if it is needed. So that we could prepare ourselves before doing the research and we are sure that we are able to complete the research.

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Habib and his appealing model 👨🏻‍💻

Arjan:

  • Start as soon as possible
  • Don’t forget: it is/are your last year/months as a student. Enjoy it while it lasts, upgrade your social life and explore all the ins and outs of the city you’re in.
  • Don’t be afraid of your supervisor
  • Don’t think you don’t have enough material to set up a meeting with your supervisor, there’s always something to discuss
  • Study/work outside of your apartment. Go to the library or find some cool pub where there is an all-you-can-drink policy for tea or coffee, e.g. Caley Picture House Edinburgh.
  • Learn how to work efficiently with MS word a.s.a.p.
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Our Belgian adrenaline junkie is getting inspired high above the ground 🛩️

IMFSE Master Thesis – what, why, how, etc?

One of the toughest, but at the same time sweetest choices during the IMFSE program is the choice of the master thesis topic. Six partner universities offer a huge variety of really interesting and current topics from many fire engineering related fields.  In this first out of two blogs in the series of thesis related posts I asked a couple of questions to six of my classmates – Alejandra, Juan, Khai, Mathieu, Mingcian and Monica. The variety of their choices, and their enthusiasm for their work is really impressive! Enjoy reading about it:

Can you tell me what is your master thesis topic and why did you choose it?

Alejandra: “The implications of fatigue during deep metro evacuations”. I found it interesting because it shows that fire safety can be linked to other research fields; In this case, ergonomics and human kinetics. I was also interested in learning how to conduct experiments as it requires a lot of planning and I like doing so. Additionally, my thesis requires to use the experiment results in evacuation modelling, this is particularly exciting for me as it means that I’m collecting data that could help to increase our knowledge on the effects of fatigue on people, and this data can even be used to modify certain characteristics of the software to improve them.

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Alejandra exhausting other people for her experiments – no wonder why she enjoys her thesis so much 🙂

Juan: The master thesis topic I selected is “An experimental study of effective width through openings using Kinect”. I chose this topic due to the lack of experimental data regarding the dimensions of the boundary layer that defines the effective width through openings, therefore it becomes of interest to study these dimensions which are commonly used for flow calculations in prescriptive codes.

Khai: “Interaction between Tunnel ventilation system and water mist system”. I chose it as it is my favorite topic, and relevant to my future job. The topic focuses more on fire dynamics and the practical side of system design therefore it’s quite relevant to engineers.

Mathieu: My topic is “Comparison of flow field measurements in tunnels with CFD simulations”. Originally the thesis was meant to be about measuring the flow field in hot conditions, which, of course, was going to be amazing. And also, I wanted to do my thesis with the company FESG. But, as everything in construction, there is huge delay so we instead chose to do cold tests in a tunnel.

Ming: “Fire Safety of PV panels”. It looks really interesting to me.

Monica: My topic is “Acceptable fire safety level in prescriptive and performance based designs, case study of a shopping mall”. One of the reasons I chose this thesis topic is because of the opportunity of having a summer internship in Fire Engineered Solutions Gent (FESG) which is an IMFSE sponsor, employer of several IMFSE alumni and known for its relevant work in the fire safety field.  Definitely a great experience.

How has your thesis experience been so far?

Alejandra:  Great, I honestly could not have chosen a better topic considering my personal interests, it doesn’t feel like work at all. My supervisors are really supporting in all the steps and their feedback is right on time and useful.

Juan: So far, the thesis has involved a lot of programming and learning about the device. The Microsoft Kinect is a camera-like sensor composed by infrared (IR) emitters, depth sensor, RGB camera, and a 4-element microphone array. This sensor can be used for pedestrian tracking using the depth sensor to retrieve the body index and skeleton data of specific body joints, generating a coordinate system using the sensor as the reference point. The objective is not only to assess experimental data but also determine the possibility to use the device in larger scale experiments. Thus, the magnitude of memory required, capacity to collect data on real time and accuracy must be considered. At this stage, simple experiments with a single pedestrian walking through three different opening configurations have been performed successfully and data processing is being performed. Next stage will involve group experiments with the same configurations, this will allow to assess the capacity of the device to measure multiple pedestrians at the same time as well as providing more realistic data regarding effective width of openings during evacuations.

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Juan and his Kinect – it was love at a first sight 🙂

Khai: Long learning process, even when I’m already fluent in the software. Lots of trial and error and problems often won’t come up until you made some progress.

Mathieu: By now, the original thesis concept has changed 10 times, but it’s fun to research about a specific topic. The combination of tests and theory is in a nice equilibrium so I can’t complain. For faster data processing I started writing a small GUI with TKinter, which is something I had never done before.

Ming: There is a lot to learn. Including how to write a thesis and the knowledge of the topic as well. Writing a thesis is more like a self-learning process, but with the help of the supervisor and a PhD student. It is interesting to learn new things but also stressful sometimes.

What is your desired outcome from the thesis?

Alejandra: I’m highly motivated by the learning process. This past 2 months have been a challenge and I know that this is helping me to gather more knowledge in the field and to grow in my career which is my everlasting goal.

Juan: Using the Kinect, I attempt to assess the effective width through openings for individual and group settings, this will hopefully provide some insight on the dimensions of the boundary layer in openings and possibly validate experimentally the numbers provided by the codes (i.e. the 15cm suggested by the SFPE handbook). Additionally, after the thesis is completed it will be possible to assess how useful the device can be for larger scale experiments.

Khai: To produce a good quality report with significant breakthrough. To be more knowledgeable in terms of tunnel fire safety design.

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Khai getting energized for the thesis work at the top of the Arthur’s seat

Mathieu: The desired outcome would be that I can make the CFD measurements more accurate in cold conditions so in hot conditions there is also a better accuracy.

Ming: I hope I can write a good thesis and obtain some nice research findings. I also want to be familiar with the skills of academic writing.

Monica: The main goal is to develop fire safety designs for the minimum acceptable risk of a shopping mall according to different legislations. To achieve this, prescriptive and performance-based solutions are proposed.

This master thesis is part of a PhD Research project that has the objective of developing of a quantitative risk assessment methodology for fire safety of people in complex buildings. The shopping mall case will be part of the testing of the mentioned methodology.

Do you see any interesting future research related to your thesis?

Alejandra: Yes, absolutely. While doing the literature review, I could see that a lot of research has been made regarding descending evacuation, however this is not the case for ascending evacuation and there’s even less information on ascending evacuation while carrying weight. This is a relevant research field as now metro stations are being built and expanded even deeper than before.

Juan: As I previously mentioned, effective width through openings has hardly ever been studied experimentally. Therefore, it is possible to continue studying this subject.

Khai: Yes, tunnel fire safety is still an area waiting to be studied further. More and more research will emerge in the near future, CFD is definitely an efficient and accurate way to study more about tunnel since the fire tests are often too expensive to conduct.

Mathieu: Future research can be the more detailed research on how a fan can be modelled in FDS.

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Our only Ghentian, Mathieu, looking content working on his thesis in his hometown

Ming: Of course. In fact, my thesis topic is part of a research project, so there are more things to dig in.

Monica: Recognizing the differences in the criteria used by 3 different countries to determine acceptable risk in fire situations is very interesting. This project will show the main differences but also their influence in the acceptable safety level.  Deeper analysis can be done in the future including more countries.  As a result, it will be clear which countries have more demanding criteria and its differences in the fire safety level. In the future, research could even have an impact on the safety regulations and improvements in the designs.

Do you have any advice for future students on how to choose and conduct a good master thesis?

Alejandra: Choose a topic that you love from the beginning and start early. Use your summer to read a few papers or even start a project plan if it’s required. Contact your supervisors on time! They have a lot of experience in the field and they will guide you, but you need to keep in touch with them.

Juan: Choosing a dissertation topic for which you are truly interested is fundamental. One whole semester of work in something you are not fully captivated can be a struggle. Additionally, I recommend contacting the professor that would become your supervisor and briefly discuss the topic.

Khai: Choose the topic that interests you, have early meeting with your supervisor to know the expectation, be diligent on literature review and pay attention on the details.

Mathieu: Start early with reading literature, try to write stuff early in the thesis so you can rewrite it a month later and you don’t have the stress of doing this last-minute. Also, choose a topic that really is to your likings, otherwise it will be a tough few months.

Ming: Read the introduction of thesis topics carefully and choose what interests you. Do not hesitate to contact the thesis promoter if you want to know more about the topic.

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Ming and the Edinburgh crew with IMFSE scholar Richard Emberley and Prof Grunde Jomaas

Monica: Ask details about your topic. If it is part of a bigger research, topic changes and objectives are a possibility, considering they are given a year before. Is important to know those details in advance and always maintain good communication with your supervisor(s).

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Monica, Kunsulu and Habib at a recent SFPE conference in Rotterdam