Finite Element Analysis for solids course (U of Edinburgh)

As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, which you can read it here, the University of Edinburgh offered us four courses during our third semester.  In this blog, I will write about the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) course. As I did not have any experience with the FEA before during my undergraduate degree, I was always wondering what the FEA is and what`s the fire application for it. In this blog, I will briefly present my experience with the FEA course at the University of Edinburgh last semester.

Finite Element Analysis is basically a numerical method for solving engineering problems; the main engineering areas that use FEA are the structural analysis, heat transfer and fluids. The main concept of the FEA is to divide the domain of your geometry of study into simpler parts which are called subdomains, then to write a global system of equations with each subdomain represented by a set of equations. This global system of equations has some techniques to be solved based on some initial values of the original problem to end up with a numerical solution.

FEA can be a useful and critical tool in fire safety applications, for instance, using the correct FEA software to conduct heat transfer analysis, is an effective way to determine the temperature development of a specific structural element during a fire. Usually, the heat transfer analysis is done with stress analysis to understand the mechanical response of the element in the case of fire. After doing the heat-stress analysis, the fire engineer will have most of the information needed to find the best protection for this structural element. Doing such analysis will highly support the design and the risk analysis decisions.

During our course, we were taught how the FEA software works theoretically and then we had hands-on tutorials on Abaqus software which is one of the main FEA software packages. At the end of the course, we have to make a small individual project to analyze a simple structural element using Abaqus, which effectively enhanced our understanding to the software and will definitely help us later to independently investigate any FEA software needed in our professional career. In this photo, you can see Pasquale happy after getting some good results using Abaqus during our trials at the university of Edinburgh`s computer labs.


Many thanks are given to the course’s teachers prof. Pankaj and prof. Karamanos, who spare no effort with us last semester.

**To read about the fire lab course (which was also one of the courses offered at the university of Edinburgh during the third semester) please press here


IMFSE Thesis 3

This is the last blog in the three blogs series about the IMFSE thesis topics, to read blog one press here and to read blog two press here. In this blog, I am going to present the thesis topics that are usually available at Lund University, University of Queensland, University of Maryland and ETH Zurich.

  1. Lund University:


The fire safety department at Lund university is well known with its long history of fire science. The research at the fire safety engineering department focus on three axes of fire safety, namely;

-Fire dynamics.

– Risk analysis and requirements criteria to achieve personal safety and property protection.

– Human Behaviour in fire and evacuation.

Lund university also hosts the fire laboratory, where the all the IMFSE students do their experimental work in the 2nd semester for the pool fire in an enclosure to measure the flame height, smoke layer …etc. The fire lab also has the ability to build specific experimental setups at the workshop if needed.

The fire group at Lund university is led by prof. Patrick van hees and has good co-operations with some big research institutes e.g. SP Sweden. Based on tha, Lund university can offer a wide variety of topics for the IMFSE students each year, for example:

  • In Fire dynamics, ventilation and burning behavior:

– Burning behavior in underventilated cavities (Hosted by SP).

– CFD simulation of enclosure fire with (Semi-)detailed chemistry (Under the supervision of Marcus Runefors)

– Ventilation strategies for tunnels in different countries and consequences (hosted by SP Sweden and supervised by Dr. Haukur Ingason):

With his great experience in tunnel fire, dr. Haukur is supervising one of the IMFSE students to make an overview of the different ventilation strategies in case of fire in a tunnel and to compare the different solution from a theoretical and practical view angle using the appropriate FSE tools.

– Determination of design fires for cables (Under the supervision of prof. Patrick)

This research is experimental, particularly to collect more data about the burning behavior of different types of cables for better understanding and expectation for its burning hazards. The types of cables are too variable and could be found at power plants, chemical plants or tunnels.

– Fire safety of facades (Under the supervision of prof. Patrick)

Due to the recent fires that happened in the high rising buildings especially in Dubi, it is essential for the fire safety researchers to start investigating the flame spread along the exteriors of the buildings, instead of neglecting this hazard. The main objective of such research is to obtain the requirements needed for a screening test for the risk of facades in full-scale tests.

  • In Risk analysis:

– Fire risk index method for cable tunnels (Under the supervision of Dr. Nils Johansson)

The main objective of such topic is to develop a risk index methods for cable tunnels and compare it to other risk analysis methods.

  • In Human Behaviour in fire and evacuation:

– Flashing lights at road tunnel emergency exit portals: A VR study with head mounted displays (Under the supervision of Enrico and Jonathan):

The objective of this research will be to use the interesting Virtual Reality system to investigate the flashing lights at emergency exits and to validate the VR  with headsets results of this study using previous experimental results done using the VR in a CAVE.(Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) setting.

– Particle models for high densities crowd flows (Under the supervision of Daniel Nilson):

The main objective of this thesis will be to study the use of particle models to study the high densities crowd flows(e.g. bigger than 4 people/m^2).These densities are very common in large scale events like festivals, carnivals and metro stations.

* * Lund universities also offers topics for CFD studies and firefighting research (many firefighters who did the IMFSE program did their experimental thesis in the Fire Lab at Lund university).

2. University of Queensland:


The university of Queensland hosts one of the biggest fire labs in Austraila with facilities available to do tests from small- scales to full-scale structures. Available facilities, for example: iCone Calorimeter, Fire propagation apparatus, Mass loss calorimeter, Lage scale heat release analyzer, Radiant burner array and Muffle furnace.

With all these facilities available in the same lab, the student can have many opened horizons to perform fire research and testing. The fire group at the university of Queensland is well known with its research in structures in fire and materials ignition testing, due to the fact that this fire group falls under the umbrella of the civil engineering department a the UQ.

An example of the available topics at the University of Queensland:

– The effectiveness of intumescent coatings under a range of heating conditions (Under the Supervision of Dr.Cristian Maluk):

This experimental study will look at the performance and effectiveness in the charring activation for a variety of existent intumescent coatings under a range of heating conditions. Practical (and explicit) models for calculating the heat transfer to steel during a fire will be developed within the scope of the project.

3. The University of Maryland:


The Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) group at the University of Maryland was established in 1956 and prof. Quintiere who is one of the most widely known fire safety researchers and the past chair of the International Association for Fire Safety Science is one of the corner-stones of the FPE group`s history. Now, the FPE group hosts eight faculty members and prof. Jose Torero joined recently this year coming from the University of Queensland which will be a great and valuable addition to the FPE group.

The FPE team has expertise in all the aspects of fire safety research e.g. CFD, flammability, flame spread, wild-fires, combustion, suppression, structure, detection, egress …etc.

Examples of the offered topics at the University of Maryland:

– CFD Simulations of Fire Suppression by Water Sprays (Under the supervision of Dr. Arnaud Trouve):

The objective of this project is to help develop/evaluate the FireFOAM capability for simulations of fire suppression by water-based suppression systems (including the simulation of turbulent flow, mixing, combustion, spray transport and evaporation, radiative heat transfer). The project considers both sprinkler and mist suppression systems.

– Ignition of Wildland Fuels (Under the supervision of Dr. Micheal Gollner):

The main objective of this project is to do experimental and theoretical research to investigate the intermittent convective heating on fine fuels using a new intermittent gas burner which was developed to intermittently ignite the fine fuels. The results of this research will help inform ongoing work between UMD and the US Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory to develop a new theory of wildland flame spread.

4. ETH Zurich:


The fire research at ETH Zurich is done also in the department of civil engineering. The civil engineering department at ETH Zurich is ranked the 11th in the world according to the QS world university ranking. Based on that, the quality of the research done at prof. Mario Fontana`s group is uncomparable and is a non-missed experience for the IMFSE students with interests in the structure elements behavior in fire, concrete spalling or timber structures. Prof. Fontana is a former member of the Eurocode drafting team on structural fire design of steel and timber structures so he will be an ideal supervisor of topics related to steel and timber structures in fire.

An example of the topics offered at ETH Zurich:

The effects from Polyethylene (PE) fibers on the explosive spalling of concrete.

By the end of this blog, the reader should have a general overview of the different thesis topics offered for the IMFSE students. One can confidently say that there is absolutely no fire safety program around the globe that can offer this variety of the available universities, topics, and experiences to its students. Generally speaking ” IMFSE rocks”.

ps: All the thesis topics examples are based on the topics offered last year and it is just to give an overall sense about the IMFSE thesis topics.




A day by the Alpes

Last weekend, Andres, Philip and myself went to visit the land of watches, chocolate (after Belgium) and cheese; the four languages speaking country, Switzerland!

Saying going to Switzerland usually means spending so much money, not only because of the flight ticket but also because of the fact that transportation and accommodation are expensive over there. As students, we usually have a smart way to do our trips. We booked a one day trip with one of a student trips group they usually organize budget trips from Belgium to all over Europe. Our trip to Switzerland was organized in the following way:

  • First, we took the bus on Friday night from Brussels airport around 10 pm.
  • Spending the whole night on the bus and then arriving at our first destination on Saturday morning around 7:00 am.
  • Enjoying the day in Switzerland and taking the bus again Saturday night at 11 pm to go back to Brussels.
  • Arrived on Sunday morning at 9:00 am at Brussels airport.

Based on this plan we skipped two nights of accommodation just by sleeping on the bus (it is not like a five stars hotel but it will be extremely comfortable after a long one-day trip). Also, we skipped the flight ticket price by taking the long bus drive and the transportation budget was also vanished because we have our bus with a great program.

Our first destination was the majestic water falls Rhin-falls, Rhin falls is located next to the small town of Schaffhausen in North Switzerland. These water falls were created more than 14000 years ago during the last ice age and are considered as the largest plain waterfalls in Europe.

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The next destination was the beautiful city of Lucerne; Lucerne is located in the central part of Switzerland in the German speaking portion. Lucerne got its beauty and tourism attraction from being located on the sparkle lake of Lucerne with a beautiful view of the Alpes.

We were lucky enough to have our trip in a sunny and warm day, the view of the Alpes with the sun and the lake was an unforgettable experience. We were also extremely lucky to be able to attend the famous carnival “Fasnacht”, Fasnacht comes originally from Basel city and it usually takes place between February and March. Fasnacht in Lucerne starts with the dirty Thursday and ends on the Ash day.  To celebrate the Fasnacht the local people of Lucene will be wearing a variety of costumes and masks, participants should be fully concealed during the celebration, it is kind of against the protocol to remove anyone’s mask to know his identity.  The masks usually are representing some well-known characters e.g. politicians, musicians, animals or comic characters.

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Our third destination was Zurich; from the first moment when we arrived to Zurich we noticed the Swiss public taste and standards which can clearly appear in all the small details around the city of Zurich. First of all we decided to take a boat trip in the lake Zurich, which is located in the southeast of Zurich. With the sunny weather and the fresh cold wind that comes from the Alpes nothing could be better to relax than just sitting with a drink and enjoy the view.

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After that, we had a walking tour around the city, enjoying the old town and some Swiss chocolates.

Later we had dinner, bought some magnets as souvenirs and get back to our bus around 11 pm. We spent the night in the bus on our way back to Belgium; after enjoying the sunrise in the countryside during the return trip we arrived to Brussels airport at 9 am and took the train back to Ghent with our unforgettable Swiss memories.

The Fourth semester started around the globe

Few weeks ago, all the 2nd year students settled down around the world to start their last semester and conduct their thesis research. From Australia all the way to North America, the IMFSE students were distributed on five different universities, based on their research interests.

Andres, Philipe, Nikhil, Christian and myself chose Ghent university for the fourth semester. I arrived back from my vacation in Egypt on the 21st of January and met Nikhil at gent Sint Pieters station, who kindly offered to help me with my language [btw it is always nice that wherever or whenever you go, you will find an IMFSE class mate offering to help you to settle down :)]. We waited for Andres for a couple of days to come back from Colombia and on the same day of his arrival, we all met for dinner at the university restaurant and then we had coffee with so many stories about our last semester and the last vacation.

On the 8th of February, It was my birthday and we decided to celebrate it by having burgers at Paul’s Boutique Burgers which consider one of the best in the city, Then we all went for coffee and desserts. It is always great to have close friends to celebrate these moments when you are far away from your family.


David, Rohan,Martha, Jan and Francisco also started their semester at the beautiful snowy Lund!. It was so funny and interesting to see their pictures with snow and compare it with the pictures of Pascale and Nemer who are spending their semester at the sunny and hot Australia!

In this picture,Nemer is feeding his first Australian friend. Kangaroos are usually friendly but if you pester them, they can get really violent and act as an angry wrestler. Take care Nemer!


Pasquale and Ain are still in Edinburgh and Veronica joined them by the end of last year. Now, the three of them actively started their semester and are having good-time there.

Max launched his thesis work and joined the university of Maryland`s fire group last month. Additionally, he celebrated the new Chinese year (The Rooster year) in Maryland and he was lucky enough to attend the best game in the season of the NBA between Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers (135-140). Max shared the pictures of this match with us as well.  Enjoy the following slide show !!

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All in all, we are all busy with our thesis work right now…yet, in almost daily contact, sharing pictures, stories and jokes. This week we’ll gather together again, at the Fire Safety day in LUND, that should be extremely interesting. However, Nemer, Pascale and Max will be missed; as it will be too far for them to attend this day. On the other hand, there is a plan to have a group skype one day soon after the Fire Safety day, the only challenge will be to find the timing that suit everyone, whether in America, Australia or Europe!

IMFSE Thesis 2

Last blog I mentioned the main topics available usually for the IMFSE thesis, this time I will keep writing in the same series of blogs related to the thesis topics, choices and proposals.

To make it as simple as possible, I will talk a bit about every university, its specializations, labs, supervisors and co-operations with industry.

  1. Ghent University:


Being the coordinator of the IMFSE and also due to its unique history in fire safety, Ghent University can offer a wide variety of topics both experimental and computational. However, Ghent is widely known with the computational topics; why not, when it hosts one of the most significant research groups doing fire modeling in Europe. Prof. Bart Merci `s group has many experts in the FDS and also the open foam- which is a bit challenging to learn compared to the FDS- . So, if the student has interest in doing computational fluid dynamics study in fire applications, he/she has to check the available topics at Ghent University.

Ghent also has excellent industrial ties, there is usually topics that are supervised by industrial promoters e.g ISIB fire, FPC and promat.

Example of the purely research based topics:

-CFD modeling of the interaction of smoke and water sprays

In this project, the student is expected to be confident about using the FDS. Typically, the IMFSE students will have a strong background about the FDS from the FDS course at Lund University. There should not be much basic problems to face the student while working on such topic. However, he/she should be able to widen his/her knowledge about some specific parts in the FDS; that will be definitely done under direct supervision from the promoter.

Back to the topic, the student should try to model the fire using hot air (smoke), which will highly affect the computational time. Then to study the penetration of a water spray through a smoke plume, spray cooling effect and influence on buoyancy.

Example of the industrial based topics:

-Modeling and scaled testing of large vehicles

The student shall characterize large vehicle fires and analysis their behavior in a confined space, such as tunnels. Small scale tests will be done at the virtual laboratory of promat and CFD validation at Ghent University. This is a typical validation project where the student can satisfy both his interest in experiments and modeling.

Ghent University offers other projects for example but not limited to:

  • Analysis of experimental data and FDS simulations elderly houses, with co-supervision from ISIB fire.
  • Fire risk analysis for petrochemical industry with co-supervision from FPC Belgium.
  • Structure-based projects like: the reinforced concrete resistance against chloride-induced corrosion with supervision from the civil engineering department at Ghent University.
  • Fundamental study of smoke extraction duct concepts in buildings.

To summarize, Ghent University can offer a wide variety of topics including; structures in fire, risk assessments, large and big scales experiments and of course CFD based projects.

  1. University of Edinburgh


The university of Edinburgh has one of the best civil engineering departments in the UK, U of Edinburgh also is ranked the 24th in the world according to the times higher education world university ranking. Arup group, which is one of the main industrial sponsors of the IMFSE program, has its main office in the UK. Based on that, there is a variety of actively running projects between Arup and the fire/civil group at the University of Edinburgh.

The University of Edinburgh, hosts a big number of fire safety and structures in fire experts; there is also two multifunctional labs:

  1. The fire lab where the students can do unlimited number of fire-based experiments for example:
  • The cone calorimeter: used to study the fire and ignition behavior of various materials. It is an easy tool to measure the mass loss rate, the heat release rate and the time to ignition.
  • The large fume hood: used to conduct pool fire experiments, the fume hood is also attached to a fan to change the smoke layer and an analyzer for the combustion products analysis.
  • The furnace: It can be used to study the spontaneous ignition for different materials, which is also an interesting fire safety topic.

In the fire lab there are also all the needed welding tools, thermocouples, safety tools, a small crane that can be used for the small structure research work and cameras to film the ongoing experiments and can be used for analysis e.g flame height and the smoke layers. It also take some interesting pictures that could be used for nice lab memories 😉 !

  1. The structural lab, this lab is fully equipped with all the needed facilities to perform experiments on heavy structure elements like full scale column. At the structural lab there is a variety of heating panels that can help to conduct experiments on the concrete creep; Live and dead loads can be simulated by the hydraulic presses.

The University of Edinburgh has experts also in the computational fluid dynamics and can easily host students with interest in the FDS. Prof. Stephen welch who has many active projects on the development and validation of computer modeling methods for fire, will be the best one to discuss a FDS based thesis topic at the U of Edinburgh.

All in all, at the University of Edinburgh the students can have a huge number of experimental options in addition to computational ones. Some of these projects are presented as the following:

  • Fire Investigations: this is a very interesting topic, Dr. Rory Hadden has so much experience in this topic from the previous cases done at the BRE center which could be found here here
  • Ignition in wild-fires and the environmental effects: this topic is also done by Dr. Hadden who has done his PhD at the university of Edinburgh and has great experience in pyrolysis, ignition and flammability.
  • Smoke and heat detection on a moving train: Dr. Ricky Carvel who is specialized in the interaction between fires and ventilation specially in tunnel fires, will be the ideal supervisor for such a topic, where the student will have to do literature review about fires in tunnels, quantify the fire on the train that needs to trigger the detection system and do a CFD study of air/smoke mixing.
  • Thermal and Mechanical Response of Structural Cables Subject to Fire: This is an industrial topic proposed and funded by Arup. Prof. Luke Bisby who is Arup professor of fire and structures will be the main supervisor with a co-promoter from Arup. The project aims to study the performance of high strength steel cables in fires and will involve both experimental and computational studies. It is also a non-missed chance for someone with interest in structural designs in fire to work closely with prof. Bisby and benefit from all his unique practical experience.
  • What are appropriate fire intensity measures for structural materials?, What are the mechanical and fuel loads that we are putting in our buildings?: two interesting questions that need a scientific answer. If you are interested you need to talk to Dr. David Rush, who is a lecturer in structural engineering at the University of Edinburgh and was graduated with his PhD in 2013 from the same university. Dr. Rush has experience in engineering consultancy and working on some running projects related to the infrastructure materials in fire loads.

Next blog, I will discuss the topics available at the third full partner Lund university and the other three associated partners the university of Queensland, ETH Zurich and the university of Maryland.

ps: All the thesis topics examples are based on the topics offered last year and it  is just to give an overall sense about the IMFSE thesis topics.

IMFSE Thesis


There is no doubt that, the master thesis is considered the key for new horizons after graduation. It can easily open unexpected doors in front of our graduates. As usual, the IMFSE offer a unique educational process for its students to do their master thesis, in the fourth semester the students can do their thesis work at any of the following universities:

  • Ghent University, Belgium.
  • Lund University, Sweden.
  • University of Edinburgh, UK.
  • University of Maryland, USA.
  • University of Queensland, AU.
  • ETH Zürich, Switzerland.

They can also propose any topic with one of our industrial partners, based on their interest and also the approval from the IMFSE board.

Usually, the students will be asked to propose their choices for the master thesis around March during their 2nd semester at Lund. The thesis topics will be very diverse and definitely will cover everyone’s interest. Whether you are a firefighting, seeking a PhD afterward or looking for a job in a specific fire topic ex. fires in tunnels; you will easily find a topic that suit your aspirations. The following table shows some of the main topics that will be available to the students in March:

Experimental Computational Other
Human Behavior in Fires Human Behavior in Fires Fire Risk Assessment projects
Fire investigations Computational Fluid Dynamics using FDS code Fire Safety and Society
Wild fires Computation Fluid Dynamics using Open Foam Petrochemical fires studies
Fires in Tunnels Fires in Tunnels Fire statistics
Materials and coatings in fire Materials and coatings in fire Virtual Reality studies for evacuation
Structures in fire Structures in fire Thermal imagining analysis for firefighters
Flame spread and enclosure fires Wild fires Energy efficient housing and its influence on fires
Firefighting tactics Flames/smoke interaction with water sprays and ventilation networks
Emissions and climate impact from fires Fire in enclosure modeling using Argos
Fire safety of facades

Each university is considered a world leader in one of these topics; some topics are common in two or more universities. In the next blog, the following points will be discussed:

  • What are the specializations of each university?
  • How to choose your topic?
  • When is the best time to start thinking about/discussing the thesis topic?
  • What are the main points that you need to discuss with your prospective supervisor?

Hogmanay, New Year and Goodbyes

After a year and half we spent together, it is time to say goodbye to my best friends in this program. Me, Nemer, Pasquale, Max and Ain started from Ghent and stayed all the way together till our third semester in Edinburgh.

We finished our exams on the 21 st of December, we decided to extend our stay in Eduibrugh to hang out together and attend the great events of Hogmanay. Also, Pasquale`s mother decided to come to visit us during the holidays and enjoy the celebrations in Edinburgh. We started our holidays with an amazing dinner on the 25th of December, Pasquale`s mother cooked the famous Italian Pasta with meat and cheese, it looks amazing in the picture but it is beyond amazing when you eat it !!! She even brought all the ingredients from the ancient city of Napoli where Pasquale comes from.


On the 30th of December, we joined the spectacular Torch Light procession which is one of the main events in the Hogmanay celebrations.


During the celebration, the four of us carried a torch for charity and help to create a river of fire through Edinburgh’s city center, witness the lighting of the bonfire and fire elements followed by a stunning sound and light show and fire works finale which is visible from multiple points across the city.Here are some pictures from the event yesterday:

After that, we all went to say goodbye to Pasquale’s mother and Pasquale himself as they are going to travel back to Italy for vacation. This is only sad part of the IMFSE, at some point we need to say goodbye to the people that became our best friends in a short period, people who supported us, laughed with us and even built our dreams together for a stunning future for everyone. It was a sad moment to say goodbye to Pasquale after this year and half, however, we knew we are going to see each other soon in Lund for the fire safety day in February. Here is our last picture together: