12th International Symposium on Fire Safety Science

Every three years IAFSS symposium takes place somewhere around the world. The biggest Fire Safety conference in the world, or the “Fire Safety Olympics”, as our professor Bart Merci likes to call it, was organized this year at Lund University, just after the exam period. My IMFSE fellows and I felt incredibly lucky because of this coincidence. The participation fee for such a big event was expectedly pretty high. However, the Fire Safety students from Lund University got a chance to volunteer and help organize the symposium – in exchange for a free entrance!

IMFSE students and alumni reunited in Lund (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

After a few days of organizing and arranging the last bits, the conference was ready to start on Sunday – June 11th , with a welcoming dinner organized at Kårhuset. Just seeing around 450 participants in one place, and after a quick walk around, we already got an impression that the conference would be a huge success!

Welcoming dinner (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The next morning, the time finally came for the lectures to start! The opening two lectures – “Wildland Fire Spotting by Sparks and Firebrands” and “Fire Safety Engineering in Timber Buildings” were both dealing with really interesting topics and made a great introduction to what was about to come.

Prof. Daniel Nilsson giving opening speech at Aula, Kårhuset (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

Monday was reserved for 3 simultaneous sessions with lectures on Material Behavior in Fires, Fire Suppression and general Fire Safety Engineering. Lecturers from various prestigious universities, such as University of Maryland, Imperial College, Lund University, Gent University etc. made sure to give us some nice insights into their works and fields of expertise.  At the end of each lecture, there was time made for Q&A, which complemented the talks by clarifying some possible uncertainties and proposing ideas for further development of the research presented. Lectures were perfectly “paused” by the coffee and lunch breaks, which were a good opportunity to meet the lecturers and other colleagues, and to further discuss on the lectures-related topics, as well as many other formal and non-formal matters!

(photo credit Michael Strömgren)

On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to hear the talks by the lecturers from University of California Berkeley, University of Edinburgh and other notable universities, as well as some of the renowned companies and institutes such as FM Global, RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) etc. Particularly interesting, at least for me, were the lectures on tunnel fires – held by our professor Haukur Ingason and his colleague Ying Zhen Li.

Prof. Haukur Ingason – RISE, giving lecture on Tunnel Fires (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The poster session held after the lunch break was a perfect opportunity to see all the researches in one place, to meet the authors, and to get the one-on-one explanation of their interesting work.

Atmosphere from the poster session

Lectures on “Fire Emission and Toxicity” and “Evacuation and Human Behavior” made Wednesday particularly interesting.

Renowned prof. Björn Karlsson (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The long-anticipated Thursday started great – with professor Luke Bisby’s lecture on “Structural Response of Cross-Laminated Timber Compression Elements Exposed to Fire”.

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Prof. Luke Bisby (photo credit prof. Bart Merci)

The day was full of other interesting structural topics, with another productive poster session. But the night was actually what we all waited for: firstly, the awards ceremony hosted by our professor and IAFSS chairman Patrick Van Hees was organized at the ceremonial hall in the main university building. All the participants in a gorgeous hall, a relaxed and friendly ceremony, awards for the most deserving IAFSS people, and a lot of positive energy as the conference was coming to an end.

The awards ceremony (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

After the ceremony was over, we moved on to the AF building for the banquet. The whole conference was organized just perfectly, and so was the banquet. Summarizing the impressions from conference with some old and some new friends, having a delightful dinner and being amused by University Choir and a skillful magician, made the evening a one to remember. But what I personally consider the most special thing about this banquet, was that I ended up on the stage with the magician as a volunteer, seeing him making some unbelievable illusions right in front of my eyes, and having no clue what was going on!

Enjoying some magic moments  🙂  (photo credit prof. Bart Merci)

On Friday, we listened to a few more interesting lectures, and unfortunately it was time to close the conference. Looking back to the previous days, we were all delighted and concluded that the whole conference was a huge success! Meeting numerous fire experts and people from all around the world, learning so much on different topics and getting an idea on what is being explored at the moment, made this conference remarkable and invaluable. I can only say I can’t wait for more conferences to come, especially the IAFSS 2020! 😊

All symposium participants in front of the main University building (photo credit Michael Strömgren)


Serbian IMFSE duo – Vladimir Parezanović and me

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.


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.

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.

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 with the golden IAFSS nail from the symposium last week


Copenhagen Marathon ’17

Apart from the school activities, all IMFSE students have their own hobbies and different ways of using their free time. Some do yoga, some play tennis, others lacrosse, some work in nations or get involved more in student life and some like going to gym. And me, as usual, I decided to dedicate my free time to one of my favourite hobbies – long distance running.

At the beginning of the semester I have set a goal for myself – to run the famous Copenhagen marathon. As Copenhagen became my favourite Scandinavian city throughout the semester, I’ve anticipated the race more and more as it was approaching. Luckily since Skane county (southernmost county of Sweden, where Lund is located) is mainly flat, and also the biking culture is quite huge, the authorities have taken care of building bike/running tracks that connect Lund to most of the surrounding towns. After running all across Lund, my paths started taking me to Lomma, Malmo or just around the beautiful fields of gold. After hundreds of kilometres and months of preparation, the weekend of Marathon has finally arrived.

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I’ve been part of Belgrade Urban Running Team (BURT), back in my home country, which is basically a crew of passionate runners and great people that share love for running, healthy life, positive vibes and good energy 😊. BURT is just one of numerous running crews across the world that are a part of the Bridge The Gap (BTG) movement sharing same ideas and spirit and making changes for the better world. Our BTG friends from Copenhagen, NBRO runners, made sure that marathon weekend goes smoothly!

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Saturday, the day before the race, was reserved for traditional carbo-loading dinner. It was also a great occasion for greeting some dear old friends and meeting some amazing and inspiring new people! Last advice about what is smart to have for dinner and what for breakfast, before we went homes for a long sleep before the race!


As announced by the forecast, Sunday welcomed us with beautiful weather. Sunny day with 20 °C, for Scandinavians maybe too warm, for me it was just perfect for a nice run 😊. Running 42 km around all neighbourhoods of the city, it was simply amazing seeing so many people that came out to cheer the runners, hearing different music coming from various stages and just feeling the festive atmosphere that could be felt in Copenhagen throughout the whole weekend.


And besides all those great things, running last couple of kilometres was a struggle as usually, but my friends Dino and Lena who have waited for me at the finish line made the after-race recovery much easier with their smiles, cheerful words and support!


Although most of the energy was spent on the race, all of us have however saved last bits of energy to celebrate another amazing marathon weekend at NBRO party 😊


Copenhagen marathon was definitely a lovely experience, and I am planning to do it again in 2018. But before that, a summer full of trainings and an autumn full of races around Scotland await!


Oresund Runt

After living in Belgium for a semester, it’s quite hard getting accustomed to Swedish prices. Being a travelling addict as I am, for me personally, it was the hardest to get used to the prices of train tickets. Luckily, as the semester was passing, along with meeting Swedes came tips and tricks about various things, including travelling. One of them was discovery of the ticket called Oresund Runt.

For 249 Swedish Kronas (around 26 Euros) you get a ticket that includes the following: train from Lund to Helsingborg, then a ferry ride across the 4km wide strait from Helsingborg in Sweden to Helsingor in Denmark. After that you move on to Copenhagen from where you continue back to Lund via Malmo. The ticket is valid for 48 hours, during which you can stop anywhere on the route for as long as you want, and another great thing about it is that public transportation tickets in all cities on the route are included, which is obviously the most useful in Copenhagen being by far the most expensive city on the route.

As I found out about this special deal, I was just waiting for a perfect moment to set off to another Scandinavian adventure. I didn’t wait for too long before my childhood best friends Darija and Marta came for a visit and I decided to surprise them with this cool trip!

First stop on our 48h trip was Helsingborg. The city is only 35 mins away from Lund and its really worth visiting. After a stroll next to the seaside and through beautiful downtown with lovely tiny streets, we went to visit the famous 600-year-old medieval fortress of Helsingborg situated on a small hill just above the city center.


Back in a day it was one of the most important fortified observatories in Danish-Swedish wars, and nowadays the biggest attraction of Helsingborg with amazing view of the whole town and Denmark on the other side of the sea! After that, as we got hungry, we headed on to another place that was suggested to us, the famous Ebbas Fik restaurant where we had some great meals including the various super tasty cakes!


As the clock was ticking, we knew it’s time to continue our trip, so we took a ferry to Helsingor in Denmark. First thing that was quite funny was that, although a ride takes only around 20 mins, there are Swedish people that are coming on board just to buy alcohol in duty-free shop. Reason is very well known, the notorious Swedish alcohol prices. 🙄

Arriving to Helsingor we discovered another interesting and beautiful city. Having one of the biggest and nicest castles in Denmark, a great Naval museum and lovely streets all around, this city provided us a lot of fun for a few hours, but soon we needed to continue our trip.


Just 3 train stations to the south, towards Copenhagen, the well-known Louisiana Museum is located and it was a must. With huge collection of modern art from various famous artists, and beautiful gardens right next to the sea, this museum definitely gave us an inspiring experience!

As we arrived to Copenhagen at night, we immediately met up with a group of Serbian students that study in Denmark, and it was such a nice gathering in my favorite bar of Copenhagen, ‘’The Taphouse’’.


Next day was of course reserved for exploring Copenhagen. We started from the highest viewpoint of the city, the tower of Vor Flersers Church, right next to Christiania. Continuing our way over Christiania, then discovering another great food place called The Paper Island which is situated quite near the Opera House. Over there, in a Hall, there are tens of various international food stands (Moroccan, South Korean, French, Thai and other exotic cuisines) and for a reasonable price you can try some amazing delicacies!


As I already wrote a blog about Copenhagen, I will only mention the other places we visited that day. The famous shopping street Strøget, the biggest attraction of Copenhagen, Nyhavn, with Hans Christian Andersen’s house.


We continued along the way to the royal palace all the way to Kastelet and the Little Mermaid.


You won’t find this photo of the Little Mermaid in travel magazines 😉

As the day was coming to an end, we decided to spend the last couple of hours discovering the Botanical garden, and relaxing in my favorite park in town, Rosenborg Castle Gardens.

Really tired but full of amazing memories we took off by a late train back to Lund.

As this was the most dynamic and by far the most interesting trip I have done since I came to Scandinavia, I highly recommend it both to future IMFSE students and to all the people that have a chance to do this great tour. You will not regret it, trust me!

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.


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.


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.


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

School trip to RISE and Guttasjön fire academy

Last Friday was reserved for another school trip. This time we were going a few hours north to visit the fire Academy of Södra Älvsborg county, and RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) fire research institute.

When you study IMFSE at Lund university, doing a school trip is quite easy. Professors announce your visit to a certain company, school covers car rental and other travel expenses, and you just have to show up at the right place on the agreed time. Although it sounds super simple, this time it turned out not to be like that. Relying 100% on Google Maps lead us to an hour-long tour of dirt roads, hitting a ‘’military zone’’ barrier and ending up on an unfinished road. Finally, after an unplanned exploration of Swedish countryside, we managed to get to Guttasjön fire station, where our hosts were patiently waiting for us.


First, Mr Krister Palmkvist, fire officer with decades of experience gave us a lecture on firefighting. Full of good examples and videos, but what made it special is that we were able to see live famous and one of the most powerful firefighting tools – Cobra! The forceful rifle-like water extinguisher is used for penetrating through walls (brick, concrete, steel etc.) and therefore making a way for water to get to the burning compartment, in situations when opening a door/window is not possible or is not a good idea due to the potential risky ventilation conditions and a possible flashover or any other reasons.


After the lecture, we were lucky to witness a real fire training, where firefighters were learning how to use Cobra, aka ‘’firefighters Kalashnikov’’, and it was impressive. Unfortunately, Cobra is a really expensive tool, and thus not yet available in most of the countries around the world, but hopefully it will become affordable in the near future since it gives an incredible advantage to firefighters.

Our next stop was RISE, where we were welcomed by our professor from Lund University, Mr Haukur Ingason. Formerly called SP, after merging with Innventia and Swedish ICT, named RISE has one of the biggest Fire research institutes in Europe. First part was reserved for short lectures by professor Haukur Ingason and his colleague Ying Zhen Li where we heard a bit about what RISE is involved in and about their areas of expertise. Next thing was the actual tour of all the labs. We started at the lab for small scale testing, being equipped with the famous ‘’cone calorimeter’’, that is used for collecting data for most of the FDS (fire dynamics simulator) input, and with many other experimental instruments.


Already the middle-sized room was impressive enough since enclosure fire tests are performed in it. But the largest room definitely left us speechless. It is so huge and so well equipped that they can do bus or truck fire tests in it without a problem. Another astonishing thing was the massive filter chimney connected to the main room, that no matter how huge and sooty the fire is, lets through only water vapors.


As the trip was almost over we decided to spend the rest of the day in the nearby city of Gothenburg. Unlike the first time when we visited it, when we could barely see anything because of the dense fog, this time the weather was just perfect! Strolling down the city, seeing thousands of people sunbathing next to the channels and along the parks, and feeling a really positive vibe of Gothenburg made me realize why some Swedes actually consider it as the coolest city of Sweden!


Another great school trip was given a final touch by a beautiful 9:30 pm sunset above the city!


Interview – Ivana Paunović & Bojan Coti

Me: Can you tell me a bit about your background and where did you hear about IMFSE for the first time?

Ivana: I have finished structural engineering in my home town Belgrade, Serbia. I have heard about the programme from Erasmus Mundus web site.

Bojan: I am 26, finished architecture in Serbia in 2013, and started to work in Germany in 2015 as a fire safety engineer. In my last year of Bachelor studies, I discovered IMFSE by browsing the Internet.

Me: How did you feel about the programme before enrolling, and how do you feel now being an alumnus? Did it meet your expectations?

Ivana: I was interested in doing my master’s abroad. Even though I was admitted to a few programmes, I found fire engineering the most interesting topic and I was quite sure that it was something I would like to do in the future. This programme did meet my expectations. Many topics are covered and it helps us to become well-rounded engineers.

Bojan: Of course, I was excited once I got admitted to the programme, and had big expectations as well. I would say that the programme brought more than I expected.


Me: When you remember IMFSE, what thoughts come to your mind the first? Some course, professor, university, lab, fellow friend, trip or maybe a party?

Ivana: First thing I remember would be good moments I have spent with my colleagues (and friends :))

Bojan: The high level of knowledge I got, and the amazing people I met from all around the world.

Me: How important is it that IMFSE is such an internationalized programme? Are you still in touch with your fellow friends?

Ivana: I am still in touch with people, with some more, with others less. We also have a Whatsapp group with all the people from my year where we share news. Internationality is really important for both personal and professional growth. We are meeting new cultures, new ways of thinking, living and working.

Bojan: It is quite important because IMFSE is not just about studying fire safety engineering, but much more. It is an opportunity to see how other people think, work and what kind of ideas they have. I am still in touch with some of my fellow friends, and it is a great feeling to have them in different parts of the globe.

boki coti

Me: What do you do now, and how useful was having IMFSE degree for finding a job and consequently working? Did it provide enough relevant education?

Ivana: I just started a job, I am working in Beca, New Zealand. It was very useful to have this diploma, people who are working in fire engineering are quite familiar with IMFSE. I believe that all relevant topics are covered in the programme.

Bojan: I produce fire safety concepts, approve concepts of others and do on-site visits, as well as fire simulations.  It certainly helped me in finding a job, because the IMFSE is recognized, and it is up-to-date. The programme prepared me for the job that I do, but also for the things that are new in fire safety engineering, and things that are yet to come.

Me: Can you make a small comparison between studies at universities of Gent, Lund, and Edinburgh (and Zurich – Bojan)? What about living in those cities, what are main advantages of each?

Ivana: All 3 universities have different a tempo of studies. I would say that the tempo of studies was the fastest in Gent. Regarding the life, I enjoyed Gent the best. The city is mainly populated with students, it is quite international and has a variety of good pubs.

Bojan: University in Gent gives strong foundation required to move further in the programme.

University in Lund has the most organized way of learning, with a lot of practical work included.

ETH Zurich has great possibilities to conduct experiments with materials in a fire.

Gent is probably the most beautiful city I studied in and has a great position which allows traveling around Europe. Lund offers a lot of student activities and is basically a student town. Zurich has a great position for traveling in this part of Europe as well, and it has a rich cultural life.

Me: How did you find moving to a different country each semester? Was it too dynamic and maybe even a bit hard, or you just enjoyed it?

Ivana: I personally liked changing the environment. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and travel around that specific area. It wasn’t easy, but I would say there are more benefits than drawbacks.

Bojan: I learned to be highly mobile and to pack all my life in a suitcase. Of course, it was not always easy to move every semester, but it brought a lot of excitement as well. Sometimes, I miss that.


Me: Where is IMFSE in comparison to professional fire safety globally? Does it keep up with industry?

Ivana: I think that people in fire safety community have heard about IMFSE, and that it is positioned quite high on the international rank.

Bojan: I would say that the IMFSE prepares you well for the different approaches in fire safety engineering. For example, fire safety in Germany is still more prescribed, but it is moving towards performance based design approach. With the education I obtained, I was able to jump-start in the field since it prepared me for the both approaches.

Me: If you had to choose one thing you learned during your IMFSE master studies, that you are the proudest of, what would it be?

Ivana: I am happy I learned Dutch since I thought at the beginning od course that it will be mission impossible 😀

Bojan: If somebody would ask me to go to live and work at another place on the earth tomorrow, I would only ask – where to?

Me: What is your message for the future IMFSE students?

Ivana: Travel as much as possible, stay in contact even after the end of the programme, have fun while getting a good degree 🙂

Bojan: Use the chance to get a proper education in fire safety engineering, have fun and learn from other students as much as possible, about them and their culture.