PhD candidate at TU Delft
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STUDY MSC ENVIRONMENTAL AND ENERGY MANAGEMENT (MEEM) AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE?
The first reason for deciding to study MEEM in the Netherlands had to do with the socio-technical part and its multidisciplinary approach. I obtained a (bachelor’s) degree in mechanical engineering in my home country Iran and I became interested in sustainable energy technologies. During that time, I came across a study which discussed that the development and deployment of energy technologies not only has technical challenges, but more importantly it requires addressing the social challenges as well: how do people adopt and work with the technologies, what impact does technology have on them. This insight opened a totally new door for me, and I decided that I don’t want to just be an engineer but I would like to focus on socio-technical factors as well. MEEM offers a multidisciplinary approach that is really nice, there are students from all different backgrounds: chemical, pharmaceutical, economy, engineering, management etc. You learn to work together and share these different perspectives. The MEEM courses involve different disciplines as well, like in the courses Environmental Law, and Environment & Technologies, and therefore you develop a broad view on environmental and energy management.
Another reason for me to choose MEEM was that I’m really curious about sustainable energy technologies, even though in Iran the focus is more on oil and gas industry and also my whole family is involved in this sector. I think sustainable energy resources are the future and I’m really motivated to contribute to that. I looked around in Iran and there were some similar studies but they didn’t take the multidisciplinary approach that I was looking for, therefore I decided to go and study abroad. The added advantage here was the opportunity to get to know other cultures, especially the Dutch culture. I came across three programmes in the Netherland and I eventually decided to go with MEEM.
WHAT DID YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE MEEM PROGRAMME?
I’m really happy with my choice! It’s one of the best masters in the multidisciplinary field. The staff is really supportive. When I first came to the Netherlands, they guided me through the whole process of coming to Leeuwarden, ensuring me I had a place to stay, and asking me if I needed help with anything. They were so interested and considerate, I’m really thankful for the MEEM staff (especially the MEEM coordinators) and professors for their help and care! They also provided academic support for my career, looking out for opportunities outside of the programme. I received recommendations for my PhD applications from them. When I heard the news that I got the job I immediately told them, like my own family. I owe them a lot, and it really made my master study experience as great as it was!
WHAT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN IRAN AND THE NETHERLANDS DID YOU EXPERIENCE?
I’ve lived in Iran my whole life. I absolutely love my country, the culture and the people and I’m really proud of it. I felt that coming to the Netherlands was a whole new chapter in my life. There are definitely some cultural difference, like Dutch people being more direct and saying what they want. I’m used to being really polite and less direct about things. The economic and political situation is also different, of course. But the main difference that was important to me in the context of my lifestyle and studies is that I noticed that people in the Netherlands care for the environment and sustainability. I followed some Dutch news, and here people care about recycling, environmental issues, new energy resources and technologies, trying to make the world a better place in their own way. Eventually, even though I could’ve studied and lived in other places such as California and Paris (with my brother) due to the nice positions that I got offered, I’m really glad that I choose and stayed in the Netherlands to pursue my ambitions.
DID YOU DO ANYTHING BESIDES STUDYING DURING YOUR MASTER’S?
Back home in Iran, I was working with the Persian Gazelle Solar Car team at University of Tehran for the World Solar Challenge in Australia. The race took place in October 2015 during my master’s time in Leeuwarden, so I discussed with the MEEM administration if it was possible for me to join my team in Australia. They agreed to let me go because it’s such a great learning experience, and it related to my master’s degree. It was a really great experience! Also, I was doing other research activities related to my field such as the project with my master classmates for the municipality of Leeuwarden and my projects for energy consultancy companies. Next to my studies, I really enjoy photography and I had several exhibitions. I’m thinking about presenting on an exhibition with my photo album about a Persian guy living in the Netherlands.
WHAT IS YOUR PHD RESEARCH ABOUT AND WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION?
I’m doing a PhD at the faculty of Technology, Policy and Management at Delft University of Technology, and my research is topic is: Secure Renewable Thermal Community Energy Systems. In my research I focus on formation and survival of energy communities and their energy security. My colleagues at TU Delft are amazing and so helpful. I love academic life and doing research, even though it can be really challenging. My goal is to become a knowledgeable academician and be the link between the academics and the industry. In Iran, there’s a lot of room for improvement in this field, there’s no strong connection between research and industry but they could learn from each other. I used to have the ambition to work in the industry and apply the knowledge I gained from my studies, but in the academic world I see that full-time professors also have opportunities to contribute to the industry. That might appeal to me as well, so after my PhD I’ll probably look for postdocs positions and develop myself even further in the academic world but with the goal to link it to the practical industry in mind.
WHAT CHARACTERIZES MEEM STUDENTS?
The MEEM study programme is a quite intensive one year master’s programme; you have classes from 9:00 to 17:00 most of days and it involves a lot of courses and deadlines. Therefore, MEEM students are usually very hard-working and ambitious students, trying to make most of it and working hard to pass everything. MEEM students are very passionate as well about their studies and their research subject and about the environment and sustainability. Also, MEEM is the most international study programme I can think of, there are people from all over the world attending the classes. You learn a lot about different cultures in this way. And also, like I said, MEEM is a really multidisciplinary study so there’s people from all these different backgrounds. To be successful as a MEEM student, you have to learn to cooperate and learn from each other, see where you can help each other and how to overcome the differences. I think studies like MEEM, that have a multidisciplinary way of looking at communities and how people support each other, really change the way that society is working and how we solve problems together.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR FUTURE MEEM STUDENTS AT THE UT?
As a Persian guy who loves his family and his home, I really encourage other students to think about their choices and make their decisions wisely. It can be very hard to decide to leave home, to leave your comfort zone but you can learn so much outside it and develop yourself. I recommend everyone to follow their passions and have fun. Be a 3D person: Dream, Dare, Do. And take a good care of your community and society. Life is good, it’s hard but it’s good, so you better enjoy it and make the most of it!