“Will you stand up in the court and defence your fire model?”

“Will you stand up in the court and defence your fire model?”,- was the question asked by Professor Rubini at the lectures on Simulation of Fires in Enclosures back in January. I did not know much about modelling of fires before taking this course, but now I know that it can be a very powerful tool if used with caution. Fire modelling can be used analyze a range of concepts including ignition, flames, plume, smoke and etc. for the purposes of life safety, structural behaviour, investigations, risk and many more. But complex nature of the fire phenomenon and inadequacy of computer power set limitations to the fire modelling, that is why it is important to know both capabilities and shortcomings of the modelling tools.

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Fire scenario (credits to the Lecture slides by Dr.Philip Rubini)

Currently, there are a number of CFD software (not Confusion For Dummies), and we were introduced to the Fire Dynamics Simulator or simply FDS, which is commonly used for fire applications. It is free, so everyone can access it, and potentially become an expert in using it. But, to ensure that results are credible it is important to verify and validate computational simulations, as well as check the sensitivity of the model to the parameters. Also, we were introduced to the famous Philip’s Rules which state “No grid, no solution”, “If you haven’t filled your computer you are not trying hard enough”, “Garbage in-garbage out”, and “A report of a CFD simulation without discussion of error is of little value”. I think these rules can be very useful and should be kept in mind before building the model.

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CFD user (credits to the Lecture slides by Dr.Philip Rubini)

To conclude, by taking this course, we got an insight into the fire modelling world. In the future, we might be able to improve the simulations by using more powerful computers, but as for now, we need to be fully aware of the current limitations.

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FDS simulation of the Steckler room fire experiment.

One day under the sun

Coming from a tropical country to live 6 months in Sweden, can be difficult to handle, especially if you have never had a previous contact with low temperatures and snow. The second semester of the IMFSE program In Lund, Sweden started like this for me and a few more of my classmates.

This year, we were lucky enough to experience one wonder of nature just the second day after arriving: a snowstorm. If you have read my blog about it, you know how excited we were and what is my position regarding snow (yes, I still believe is amazing). Many people say this winter wasn’t “so bad” and that we didn’t got a lot of snow (agreed, I would have loved to be surrounded by it more often) however, coming from a tropical country and disregarding I love snow, I can tell you… I miss the sun.

Last Sunday, all of us went to Valborg, that is basically how Swedish people celebrate the arrival of spring, if you are curious about it you can read a little bit more here. This is an event that starts early morning (around 9 A.M) and it ends approximately around 8 P.M with an impressive bonfire. What you basically do is hang out with your friends lying on the grass while having a good time under the sun. This was the first time in 5 months that we had been able to walk around the park without sweaters and coats and it was only 14 degrees.

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After Valborg, the days have been perfect. We get temperatures varying from 10 to 18 degrees and we couldn’t be more grateful about it. My funny theory is that this good weather started because in Valborg they lit a huge bonfire and they scared away the winter.

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The weather is starting to get nicer and nicer, in such a way that this Sunday we went to the closest soccer field and had a little tournament. Almost all the guys were there and we all had fun even though we did not win the tournament. We also had a fika (that is basically dessert and coffee time) and lots of sun.

The end of the semester is approaching, and once again the group will be separated into “the Gent guys” and the “Endinburgh guys” but first we need to pass our courses and think about being with our families for summer. Definitely, the semester in Lund is out of this world and we will always remember this moment of our lives.

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The road to IMFSE Masters

Having an older brother and a lot of friends is a great thing for many reasons. You can learn from their experiences and mistakes, you can ask them for advice and help in any situation, but also you can somehow put yourself in their skin and envision your future if you took their steps. That’s how, as soon as I have enrolled in my bachelor studies, I knew I will conduct my master studies abroad. I had no idea where it would be, or even in which field, but I knew it would eventually happen.

As soon as I recognized that I want to undertake that move one day, I decided to start working on various skills necessary for enrolling in international universities, but also for living abroad and becoming a successful global citizen.

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Different volunteering activities, practicing sports, mastering my English and French, attending diverse seminars, conferences and extracurricular courses were just some of the things on this path.

I remember that, one summer day after my first year of bachelor studies, my family friend Vladimir Parezanović was visiting my family and he had some great news. He was telling us how he was accepted to an amazing master programme called IMFSE. At that point, I had no idea what fire safety actually was, but from the first moment I was impressed while listening about the structure of the program. Changing 4 countries during 4 semesters, and studying at 4 great universities, but at the same time meeting cultures and people from around the globe seemed like a programme tailored just for me 😊. Also, since physics has always been my favorite subject, finding out how related fire safety engineering and physics actually are made me attracted by the programme so much more.

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So, the autumn has come, and Vladimir’s adventure had started, and through time, listening to his experiences, I was becoming more and more sure that I would like to enroll in that programme.  By the time Vladimir has graduated, I was already certain that I would apply for IMFSE. The fact that he had a lot of job opportunities in several countries immediately after graduation made me my decision even easier.

So, the time for my masters applications has finally come. There I was with a list of universities and programmes I was interested in, and among the top of the list was also IMFSE. Since being accepted to IMFSE and other top programmes is quite tough, and obtaining a scholarship even harder, I knew I had to put in effort. Writing motivation letters, putting my CV in order, getting recommendation letters, translating the curriculum and other documentation to English and sorting out other bureaucratic things was time consuming, but my resolve to keep improving myself in a global setting was strong, so there was never a lack of motivation.

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Positive replies from other universities started arriving in February, but still no news from IMFSE. And then, on the 10th of March last year, I was informed that I was among the 48 best applicants for the programme and that we are entering the second round – interview with one of the board directors. I was so happy, but also I knew that the hardest part was yet to come. I immediately started analyzing the whole IMFSE website, reading through the description of all the courses, also talking to Vladimir about his interview experiences, and searching interview examples on the web. As the D-day was approaching, I felt more and more confident. I knew that I didn’t prepare myself for so long for nothing. Although I was a bit nervous, the interview went smoothly, and as soon as it was finished I had a really good feeling about it. After a couple of weeks, when all the other candidates had been interviewed, I got an email informing me that I was nominated for the full scholarship. It was one of the happiest moments in my life. After spending years hearing about the programme, and daydreaming about studying it one day, there I was, finally, preparing for embarking on a new adventure in my life.

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And here I am, somewhere at the half of it, and I can only say that I am more than loving it so far. Without a doubt this is by far the most interesting and most dynamic period of my life, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Neither was I the student with the highest GPA, neither was I the most talented engineer in my generation. I was only a good student, but a good student with a clear plan and an enormous motivation for pursuing a dream. And it seems that passion and focus can make the dreams come true!

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

Let´s talk about ¨failure¨

failureBy reading the IMFSE blogs, you might think we write about optimistic and cheerful topics because we are optimistic and cheerful people. Indeed! IMFSE students are! however it´s not always rainbows and butterflies (yes, I´m quoting Maroon 5 here) so this time, I will share with you one of my ¨failure¨ during the program.

During the 1st semester, we all struggle with different things. In some cases, home sickness is a strong issue. In other cases, managing the cultural changes and adjusting the learning method can be complicated. In my case, I struggled with one specific course: Basics of structural engineering.

For you to understand better, I must let you know a bit about myself. My background is industrial engineering (focused on processes optimization) with a master in occupational health and safety, this means that basically I have almost cero knowledge in structural engineering. I chose Gent as my 1st university knowing that I would have a challenge with this specific course, however I really liked the rest of the courses so I decided to accept the challenge and go for it.

I won´t lie to you, it was really a challenge. A challenge that in the first semester I didn’t conquered so I ended up failing by a few points even though I tried. In all my academic life, I had never ¨failed¨ that bad and I was feeling that I wasn’t good enough to be in the program, I was questioning all my life decisions out of one ¨fail¨ in my academic records. It took me weeks of mental preparation and a lot of ¨TED talks¨ from my friends and family pointing out that I did very good in the other courses to finally overcome it, and start doing something about it instead of being negative about it.

So, I decided to ¨study like a Granger¨ and improving my weakness.

Spring break came by, and I saw how most of my classmates went for the trip of their lives and I was studying for my exam. Again, I won´t lie. This hit me very hard, however I decided to stop being negative and focus on learning and not only ¨passing¨ the exam. I still don’t know the results of my exam, but I can tell you that I feel satisfied that now I know by heart how to identify lateral torsional buckling out of a description among other things, so yes, I can say that this time I learned.

For what I experienced, ¨failure¨ is an opportunity to learn what your weaknesses are, to know your limits and to push them as far as you can, and the most important, to know when you need to ask for help and to appreciate those in your life that are there to support you in your hardest times.

My message here is: ¨Failure¨ is in your mind.

Learn from the difficulties, surround yourself with people that has a good vibe and never give up!! you can do it and then you can go for a 72 hours trip to Berlin (that´s what I did anyways)

Interview – Vladimir Parezanović

This time, I am interviewing my Serbian friend, and a fellow IMFSE alumnus, Vladimir Parezanović, who was a part of cohort 2012-2014. With several years of experience in fire safety engineering already behind him, he was a perfect person for discussing his thoughts on IMFSE, career, industry etc.

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

Vladimir: My background is in Civil / Structural Engineering and I practiced it for several years before opting to make a career change. I stumbled upon the IMFSE programme while browsing through the Erasmus Mundus master programmes from pure curiosity.

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

Vladimir: It is very hard to say whether it met expectations as I cannot claim that I had an extensive understanding of what Fire Safety Engineering is in its entirety and how it can be widely applied in industry.  I would rather say I had an idea, a limited idea, about few fields of application. But the spark that Prof Jose Torero initiated during the application interview was a tipping point for me to go ahead.

Only now when I became an alumnus I realised how great foundation for further development the programme offers.  I would not exaggerate saying I am really honoured to hold an IMFSE degree in Fire Safety, and moreover to be thought by the exceptional lecturers.

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?

Vladimir: Hard choice… It is rather few.

Riding a bike on snow and -15°C, barbecues on 10°C, falling off the bike after the first encounter with Belgian beers, Edinburgh skies (i.e. rare blue ones), Karla’s confessions on childhood experiences with fire, showing IMFSE colleagues my city, fantastic lectures by Daniel and Rita, the messy all-nighter in Copenhagen, cruising deserted Ghent old city on a bike in the night, and the email Patrick should have never seen 🙂

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

Vladimir: I believe that IMFSE alumni (while probably not being entirely aware) are collecting one exceptional bank of knowledge. They are researchers or practice FSE in consultancies, they reside in 20+ counties where they can apply state of art Fire Safety Engineering, and they have an opportunity to further learn from leading lecturers/engineers in the field.

And they are still fairly well connected through the alumni Google group where they can discuss any issues or seek for an advice. That is absolutely fantastic! Personally, I am in contact with few of my colleagues on a more frequent basis, while with others through a passive contact such as Facebook, etc.

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?

Vladimir: I practice Fire Safety Engineering in Australia at the moment. I was told during my application interview something like “Finding a job can be problematic only from a geographical perspective – in some regions FSE is less and in some more developed; but finding a job in regions where FSE is practiced on a very high level is a piece of cake” and that is absolutely true. As I worked only on the Australian market I can confirm that technically we are exceptionally well prepared for the industry.

The last part of the question I answered under 2. I would also add that besides the technical foundation that programme offers, it also highly nurtures critical thinking – a very important aspect in this relatively new area of engineering.

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

Vladimir: Ghent – demanding with assignments schedule through the semester and rather short period for exam preparation; on the other hand, a lot can be learnt and the exams weren’t too difficult though.

Lund – all perfectly organised and scheduled. Proper exams with very fair marking (with relatively unfair conversion to the programme marking system 🙂 ).

Edinburgh – a bit too DIY teaching approach which can be somewhat distressing when one kicks off as a newbie in the Fire Safety world, but in contrast it stimulates research skills. Exams of a reasonable complexity, however time-wise very stressful.

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

Vladimir: Absolutely enjoyed it! But it becomes a bit too much after 2 years and it is perfect time to settle down a bit J I did not find it particularly difficult.

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

Vladimir: I dare to say it is much ahead of the industry.

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

Vladimir: How candle works.

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

Vladimir: You are about to embark on a beautiful journey!

Interview – Patrick van Hees

IMFSE exists for almost 10 years now, and one of the key factors in making it happen is definitely professor Patrick Van Hees from Lund University. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for my blog post about IMFSE.

Me: Can you tell me a bit about your background? And also, how do you see the fact that IMFSE enrols people with various backgrounds, e.g. engineers, architects, physicists, etc.?

Patrick: I have a degree from Gent University. It is under the department of Civil Engineering, but I studied electromechanical engineering. Afterwards I did my PhD in Fire.

The programme is made in such a way to lead people with diverse backgrounds all the way to the finish. Having people with different backgrounds is also really good because than they can see other approaches to solving problems, and they can learn a lot from each other. Some may face minor difficulties with one subject, some others maybe with another course, but in the end with some group work it all ends up being mutually beneficial both for the students and for the programme!

It’s good for students to have diversification in backgrounds, but of course it shouldn’t be too wide. And so far, it worked like this just well! Also, it’s important that we do all those various courses since fire safety engineering is rather multidisciplinary so the basics should be there.

Me: Where is IMFSE in comparison to the rest of the World? How developed is fire safety in general, and is it taught at many of universities?

Patrick: I am biased of course, but I think that our education is one of the Top in the world, because it has this synergy with three major universities and also three more associated partner universities that are all extremely good ranked and are respectful institutions. I am sure the program is in the top 5 in the world.

On the other hand, there are not too many education programs in this field. In fact, in Europe it is quite limited, that’s why it is important to join forces because you need to build the critical mass.

Fire safety engineering is an area which grows a lot, while we think that we have everything under control, but we still have to learn much more. I could call it a young engineering science. In general, in the world there are not too many places where it is taught. The power of good education is having good research. Our universities surely have it.

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

Patrick: Apart from a good technical and theoretical background, he or she has to work in multidisciplinary environment, with architects, building engineers, fire engineers, etc.  The challenge is to be able to have enough knowledge. I think our program covers all of the important topics in fire engineering (From fire dynamics and turbulence over risk assessment to human behaviour in fire)

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

Patrick: Buildings get more complex, technologies get more complex etc. So, the complexity of threats. How to deal with them and be able to keep up with all those complexities.

Me: What are the differences between the education nowadays and back in the day when you were a student?

Patrick: There is one thing, I think today that student these have more insight and influence on the studies. They have input channels. It was almost impossible back in a day. You could not question anything. It is really a good thing. You could not access the professors. This interview would not be possible 😊

Now students have a huge influence and that is really important!

Another thing is of course technologies and the resources that students have nowadays are way better. That’s great. We had to have books, and we had old calculators that could hardly calculate sin or cos.

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Me: Are there any major differences between us and the students from previous generations?

Patrick: Now it is much more international. This programme brought a lot of internationalization. We barely had any students from abroad both in Ghent or here. It enriches people a lot, so they can try to grow together and pick the best from each other.

Me: Can you tell me some interesting anecdote or interesting story from previous IMFSE students?

Patrick: There was a student who went to fire training to “Revinge” and burnt his foot. It was funny that us as fire safety engineers couldn’t even take care of all the precautions and protect ourselves. There were amusing reactions from the administration 😊

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

Patrick: Spread the word about the program!

Also, it is important to keep the good work and develop yourselves either on PHDs or in industry but to keep doing fire safety on the highest possible level and push the boundaries of our field constantly.

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