Interview- Davood Zeinali

Another blog with another interview and another IMFSE story, this time the interview was with an IMFSE alumni who decided to take the academic track. Davood Zeinali (Dave), who is currently doing his Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. Bart Merci at Ghent University, gave us some of his time to share his IMFSE story and experience.

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Me: Please introduce yourself and your work to those who don’t already know you.

Dave: I am Dave and I have been working at Ghent University now for like three years, working on my Ph.D. My topic is flame spread simulations and experiments, particularly I am experimenting the flame spread in corner configurations and investigating if the computational codes are able to predict or simulate the fire behavior in such configurations.

Me: Can you tell us where do you originally come from and what is your background?

Dave: I am from Iran, I heard about the IMFSE by just searching for fire engineering degrees on the internet because I already had a Bachelor’s degree in fire engineering. It was super nice to find this program, it was not easy to find it, applying to it and going through it but it was a super unique experience. It was something that I will never regret having done. After that, I was very inclined to apply for a Ph.D. because I wanted to stay in academia and even now I am planning to stay in academia. Hopefully, after the PhD, I will try to find another academic position.

Me: Why did you like the academia and why did you have the passion for doing a PhD?

Dave: Because I think I have the Ph.D. material, I am a kind of person who is curious and likes to try different things. Doing a Ph.D. is like doing new things, creating something from almost nothing and something that nobody else has done. So it is like discovery which I found interesting, in addition to that, dealing with students who always want to learn new things and so on, Generally, it is a good atmosphere.

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Dave with the IMFSE alumni Hongbo in the UK

 

Me: How did you get the opportunity to do the Ph.D.? and do you think after the IMFSE program you were ready to do a Ph.D.? 

Dave: I definitely was confident, we had all the necessary materials like CFD modeling, experimental courses and all sources of basic materials and fundamentals sciences that we need to continue in academia. Of course, it depends on your thesis, your interest, where do you want to go? do you want to go to modeling? do you want to go to structural fire safety …etc?. You just have to build up on your knowledge in the topic you like and as an IMFSE student, you can easily do that.

Me: What was your route in the IMFSE program? 

Dave: I started in Ghent, Lund then Edinburgh for the third semester and also for the thesis. At that time, Maryland was not part of the program and Queensland also had just joined the program. We were the first cohort to have the opportunity to apply for the thesis outside Europe. In the beginning of the master I had a goal to study in all the three institutes, because after checking the courses, I decided it was good to study all the different topics in the three institutes and of course it was good to travel. Travelling was also important, you get to see the culture and meet new people, it was a really unique experience.

Me: Can you talk a bit about the SFPE IMFSE student chapter? 

Dave: It was an initiation from Bart and Jose Torero in addition of course to other IMFSE Colleagues. We thought it will be beneficial to the IMFSE, the SFPE and for promoting fire safety science and awareness. So the idea was to start a student chapter through collaboration of a number of IMFSE Ph.D. students, most likely staying in the IMFSE institutes and partners for longest, to link up with SFPE and organize relevant events for the students and provide a platform for the promotion of fire safety, while also keeping students connected. It was interesting and right after we initiated the student chapter, we had a couple of events, for example, we had Dr. Michael Spearpoint from University of Canterbury, New Zealand, who came to Ghent and gave a talk. We will also have the 2nd SFPE European Conference in Rotterdam upcoming in February and we are going to organize certain events there and we hope that people will attend and students will submit abstracts and posters. You don’t have to submit a full paper you can just submit an extended abstract or a poster, and that is a really good chance where you can go there attend the event and the workshops, meet people from the fire industry and develop your network by making new connections.

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Dr. Michael Spearpoint at Ghent University (photo credit goes to prof. Bart Merci)

Me: If someone is planning to do a Ph.D. in Fire Safety in the future and is still thinking to apply to the IMFSE program, do you have any suggestions for him/her? 

Dave: First thing they should do is to read what the courses are. This is easily available on the IMFSE website. Read about the experience of the previous students with these courses, just like what you are writing on the IMFSE blog. That will help them get a feeling of what they can expect of each course and also have a good idea about the overall program experience. I also applied for different fire safety/protection engineering programs when I applied to the IMFSE and I was accepted to some of them, however, I joined the IMFSE because I really think it is a very unique program. In our time, Erasmus Mundus was not that known like now. Even so, and even before starting the program, I knew it was really unique. Once I read about the IMFSE, I immediately recognized this is a very valuable degree to have and it is going to be an outstanding experience. Generally, I found it was nothing like studying at one university and doing regular masters. In the end, it proved me right so I don’t regret having made this choice.

Me: Thank you for these interesting points, Do you have anything more to add? 

Dave: I think everybody from this program should try to promote fire safety awareness. We fire engineers should share what we are doing, because if we don’t, who else will? You see accidents everywhere happening because of the same old reasons. I think it is our responsibility to share this. Share not only the knowledge and research but even fire accidents that are noteworthy, share your experience and let people know about it.  The general public for example has to be informed better that all buildings and structures require fire safe designing based on scientific techniques and concepts. This is our responsibility. We need to communicate more and share what we are doing. Once we do this we increase awareness and we hopefully can also decrease the number of accidents.

Thanks for your nice suggestions, thanks for your time and hope you will achieve your goals in the academic route.

 

Dave
Dave with the golden IAFSS nail from the symposium last week

 

Interview – Bart Merci

Continuing the chain of interviews we are doing with the IMFSE lecturers and alumni. A couple of days ago, I met with Bart Merci for a quick interview. As Bart is the coordinator of the IMFSE program, I decided to make the core of the interview about the IMFSE program history and the main challenges he (as the coordinator) faced in the last few years.

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Me: Could you please introduce yourself and give an overview of your academic background?

Bart: I am Bart Merci the coordinator of the IMFSE program. My background is in mechanical engineering, I took my degree here at Ghent university in 1997. I did my Ph.D. also here at Ghent university in the topic of modeling of Turbulent flames. So mainly my background is in CFD simulations and from there I grew into the fire safety science and the link here will be flames, where you can find flames also in flaming fires. My background in CFD modeling is still now my field of expertise in the field of fire safety science.

Me: So, how did the IMFSE started and who had the idea of the IMFSE program? Could you give a brief introduction to the history of the program?

Bart: Actually, the seeds of the IMFSE were sown a little bit earlier when the post graduate program started here at Ghent university and that was triggered by industry. So Industry here in Belgium and in Flanders were feeling the need for more freedom. They were looking to have more innovative solutions for complex buildings. Then I picked up the idea and talked to my colleagues in Edinburgh and Lund, to see if they were interested in joining forces and applying to support the idea. They were interested in doing so, and the rest is history, so the first time we applied we immediately were accepted. That was quite a bit achievement because the success rate for getting approved as a program was below 10 %. That means Europe really believed in the quality we were going to offer. But you could say it is industry driven and then we elaborated on this from an academic point of view.

Me: What were the main challenges to getting things starting?

Bart: The challenges have been enormous I would say. The academics were easy to convince, we all feel that fire safety engineering is important in society, also when you look at things in terms of sustainability that is not something that most people will link to fire safety. However, there is a clear link, so as academics we were the ones that were easy to convince. But, also we have our institutes and so it has been quite a challenge to make sure that the institutes completely trust the other institutes in issuing a joint degree. As you already know, it is possible that someone doesn’t spend a semester at Ghent university but still, the rector of Ghent university will sign the degree of IMFSE and vice versa for the other universities. So it was quite a challenge to do that, and also, every institute has its own style of teaching and of doing exams and it is a bit of give and take to find some common grounds to proceed. So yes, there has been quite a number of practical challenges and things that needed to be sorted out before we even started applying to the European commission for funding. So once we got that approved, it was not too challenging to get starting because we had our structure of teaching, I also managed to hire an administration officer using the European funding so that made life a bit easier but still you do not want to see how many day to day issues we still face in working together in an international environment.

Me: What would be the situation after Brexit as for example Edinburgh is part of the UK and it is one of the main partners, would that have any effect?

Bart: That’s a very good question and also kind of a political question, again, in terms of the academics there are no issues. We are still the same colleagues as we were before and we are still teaching the same material as we did before but of course at the level of the European funding, this at the moment not very well known. In the sense as I understand it, so far everything stays as it is, because the actual Brexit still ongoing. So for the time being nothing changes and at some point we will also have to continue without the support of Europe.

In that sense, it is very important to also now get funding from industry so that we have many companies who see the value and the benefits of supporting the IMFSE. At that point, we have some basis to continue and I think it is important to be able to offer scholarships as it is attractive to the top students. For example when you are looking for a program or scanning the internet and you found an interesting program where you will have the chance to be granted a scholarship, it looks good on your CV. So the scholarship is something that is quite attractive for talented people. We are also fortunate that we have many students that are joining us on the self-sponsor basis and that gives us the income to manage the program and means that we are sufficiently interesting for people to come to Europe to study.

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Me: What are you doing to spread the word about the IMFSE program?

Bart: It is a difficult one to answer, it is clear in the begin that we have to get started so it was on the Erasmus Mundus website and we have our own website. So some people found it by searching on google. Then we tried to improve visibility by making a short movie that you should have seen by now on YouTube, we also now have a google advert campaign and the most important one we are now on the website of the IAFSS and SFPE so people find us on that way. But never the less, it proves to be a continues challenge to remain visible, as you know on the internet there are so many interesting things so that we could also use some help from our alumni and students to give us some idea on how to improve visibly and how to spread the word.

Me: So, who are you looking for to join the program? Are you looking for more fresh graduate students or those with some industrial experience? 

Bart: The answer is obvious we are looking for the top people, that is the key thing. We have had a number of extremely talented young students who had the advantage of being relatively blank page that needs to be written and they are into the rhythm of studying and dealing with complex mathematics and physics but they do not have yet any experience in the field of fire safety engineering. Then we also have had people that are more experienced and some even in the second half of their professional career, with the advantage of having an over view of what could be done in practice and also having some experience of what they will have as a framework for fire safety engineering approach but then such person could struggle with mathematics and the physics.

Also, sometimes experience can be misleading, as what we are trying to teach in the IMFSE is something new and is having basis of broad prospective, we also are trying to train you to be critical towards yourselves but also towards others and think outside the box, not just applying standards or questioning it. So that is what we are trying to stimulate. Also interaction among the students is some times perhaps more valuable than just the knowledge transfer. So that’s what we are trying to do and that is also why we are not limited to young students or professional ones. So everybody is welcome to join.

Me: What do you think will be the main changes in the program in the coming few years? like a new university joining or something?

Bart: what we see, I think we can say that we have a very solid consort, also in terms of academic research activities in the filed of fire safety science we have really top institutes at the level of the institutes themselves but also at the level of fire safety in particular. What i am expecting is, in the first few years this consort could solidate even further, also what i mean probably we could have more involvement from associated partners which is now limited to the master thesis, I would not be surprised if that could be opened up to also doing some courses, this is something that is not in place today but could happen in the future.

Me: Even if these partner universities are not in Europe, they can still offer course work?

Bart: It is important to distinguish between lets say the European funding that we have and the management of the program. Because we are allowed to have courses from institutes out side of Europe so that’s not a standing block.

Me: I would ask the question in another way, because as I know being an Erasmus Mundus program you are only allowed to put the name of European universities on the diploma and other universities outside Europe are not being granting the diploma. So having some course work in such institutes is opposing the fact of being an Erasmus Mundus program.

Bart: Exactly, that is not a thing we can do today, but it is something we can do in the future as you were asking me about the future. So that is something that I would definitely be willing to explore and see how that could be strengthened even more. I dont want to strive at the moment to expand the consortium, I think that the partners that we have are all very motivated to having the program. I am sure other institutes could be qualified and also motivated to join the program but also it needs to be manageable so that is something to take into account.

Me: Can you talk a bit about the fire safety days that you organize? what is the main idea behind these events? 

Bart: These fire safety days serve multiple goals, one direct trigger is the establishment of the sponsorship consortium that we have and which brings the industrial commitment much close to the program than before. So these fire safety days serves the purpose of the chance to have a meet and greet day between the IMFSE students and the companies. Companies are interested because you are top of the world in the field of fire safety engineering, you are supposed also to be interested as after finishing the studies you are supposed to be looking for a job, so that is one thing. But it also goes beyond that, it is a great networking event even for us academics with our colleagues in the industry. We always try to define a theme around which many stakeholders are working, we as researchers, our industry  colleagues and then people from society. Because may be they want to build some infrastructure that needs to be designed in a resilient way or because sustainability is becoming more and more important in the built environment. So what we are trying to do there is having this from networking and to have like a direct contact between the companies and the students. So far, the feedbacks that we got about these days are extremely positive from all stakeholders and that is something that we definitely want to keep doing on annual basis. I can already say that the next one will be in Belgium.

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Me: Would you expect an increase in the number of scholarships in the coming few years?

Bart: It is hard to say, we will apply again for the European funding to get extension for the program. It is impossible to predict whether or not we will be granted this renew. One thing that I am proud of and that’s again a joint effort of everyone is that we have received a very high score when we were visited by someone from the European commission to monitor our program. We were visited in Lund during the latest fire safety engineering day and the person was really impressed by the quality and also by the feedback that he received from the students who were there. So that’s looking good but you never know what is going to happen in the future.

Me: That brings us to the end of the interview, if you want to add anything more please go ahead.

Bart: Well, may be one thing I would like to add because you asked about the challenges to get the program starting, there has been many but it is really important that all these challenges are worth it because we as academics are working with top people and here I refer to the students. So you are really very talented young persons that are hopefully going to design the future of our society and our planet. I think that looking now you are building a network of alumni and the vast majority of alumni remains in the field of the fire safety science, which is a good thing by itself, but also they are growing very rapidly into successful and important positions. So already now, even-though we are less than ten years in business, we are seeing the impact. I mean that in practice but very specific example is also going to be in the academic route, in the research route, where we have the IAFSS symposium coming up and there will be tens of IMFSE students and alumni present there so this shows that we are doing something that actually worth it. So it worth all the headaches and the challenges. I also want to add that in the end the starting up of the IMFSE program was a huge effort and it could never have been done if not all the institutes were as motivated to do that. It would have been mission impossible if either of us had simply tried to go with the flow, everybody really pushed and pulled at the beginning and now that the train is running, it is a bit easier you could say than to get things started.

So that’s all, hope you enjoyed the interview and if you are interested in reading more interviews please go to the following links:

  1. Interview – Patrick van Hees
  2. Interview – Vladimir Parezanović
  3. Interview – Ivana Paunović & Bojan Coti

Thesis Submitted!

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Last weekend was the deadline for the thesis submission for the IMFSE program and by that; our class is finishing the last chapter of the IMFSE adventure. There is no doubt that the last couple of weeks have been quite stressful for most of us and everyone was rushing to finish his/her thesis before the deadline. Yet, it feels so good the moment you press the submission button and even feels better when wake up the next day knowing you are done with your thesis work and you should just care about how you are going to chill today.

Hold on! It is not finished yet, this month we still have to do our dissertation (our master thesis’s defense) those who did their thesis under the umbrella of the university of Edinburgh will start first; Pasquale, Pascale, Veronica and Ain will probably present their thesis during the first half of May.  For those who are doing their thesis for Ghent University, they will have their dissertation on the same day on the 22nd of May at Ghent University; Andres, Philippe, Nikhil and I will be presenting our thesis in person at the Plateau building while Max and Nemer will join us virtually via Skype from the US. and Australia respectively to present their thesis work and do their defense.  Also, the students at Lund University (David, Francisco, Jan, and Rohan) will present their thesis later this month in Sweden.

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Comic from:(www.PHDCOMICS.Com)

After the thesis defense, most of us are going to participate in organizing the Fire safety Olympics (as Bart call it 🙂 ) which will take place in Lund between the 12th to 16th June. The International Symposium on Fire Safety Science which is organized by the International Association for Fire Safety Science (IAFSS) is (at least in my opinion) the most important fire safety event, where almost all the fire safety scientists around the globe gather together to discuss the latest scientific and industrial issues related to fire safety. Our class was lucky enough to have the symposium this year not only in Europe but also at Lund University so we had a unique opportunity to attend the event easily.

In later blogs, I will talk about the history of the International Symposium on Fire Safety Science and will discuss what will be our role as IMFSE students to organize the event in Lund. Till then, I highly recommend checking the official website for the symposium to get more information here

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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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!