Excellent Learning Experience for UAEU PhD Researcher
Students have long found the education experience at the United Arab Emirates University
(UAEU) extremely beneficial for their own development. And Javed Muhammad Asad is
one of them, as a PhD researcher at the University’s Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, who spoke of his educational journey as a worthwhile experience.
After applying to a number of different universities around the world, he selected,
and was accepted by UAEU. “Looking back, when there was just a struggle to get selected
among thousands to students striving for a PhD, it was a time that not only taught
me to push myself beyond, but also to discover my limitations and boundaries,” he
said. Following his application and interview process, he met the criteria to embark
on his new journey to study microalgae, a green micro-organism which can perform photosynthesis.
“The good thing about the project was that it was very unique because I was working
on a similar project in my previous education,” he explained. “It is about the biohydrogen
production from microalgae, which is a clean and sustainable source for energy.”
Such micro-organisms are able to grow like plants – they capture carbon dioxide and
release the hydrogen and oxygen as a by-product of splitting of water. As a result,
Javed and his team were able to use a simple phenomenon to split water to produce
hydrogen. In the University’s laboratory, which was developed when he first joined
the UAEU, he and his team of graduate students use different types of microalgae in
live cultures. The laboratory, called the Water Lab Group, focuses on microalgae and
water treatment, by working on different kinds of treatments to utilise the algae
in order to produce energy and treat water.
For the UAE, such work is paramount, as water treatment is a critical part of daily
life and producing clean renewable green energy is a global demand. “The water here
is very saline and salty so, in our lab, we collectively work on water treatment and
microalgae,” he said.
Within his specific project, Javed works on biohydrogen – an emerging field around
the world that avoids using microalgae to produce biomethane, an extremely flammable
greenhouse gas. Such a unique and green process could lead to building the concept
of a green economy and a hazard-free environment.
The project has been ongoing for the past year and a half, including a shift to online
learning for students due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. For Javed, who will
enter his fourth semester in Fall 2021, the excitement of working at the UAEU was
unparalleled. “Getting a PhD position with funding that relates to your previous research
work is really limited due to the increasing competition,” he explained. “Moreover,
I had checked the ranking of the University in the Times Higher Education and QS World
University Rankings and it was so good.”
Even though he received an offer to study at an Australian university, he selected
the UAEU after comparing their teaching styles and the quality of the research work
being produced. He spoke of the University as investing valuable time in its students
and their course work, along with a unique teaching method. Online learning was one
of those experiences, as he described it as one of the best he had had in his educational
journey so far. “It is a difficult thing to engage students in different activities,
and analyse and evaluate them,” he said. “But here, we are doing online presentations,
group activities and our mid-term and final exams online, and the teachers are really
investing a lot.”
With three semesters spent in the University’s online teaching system, Javed expressed
great satisfaction with his experience, thanks to engagements in social and extra-curricular
His initial three months spent on campus in Spring 2020 were also rewarding, as he
was able to experience live classes and was impressed by the UAEU’s environment and
infrastructure. He described mixing with local students as a helpful and eye-opening
interaction, while faculty members were constantly open to their students in any help
that was needed. “You can just contact them or go to their offices and they will always
help in the best way they can,” he concluded, as he looks forward to another two and
a half years left in his studies at the University.
His research experience has been the best to date, when comparing with previous positions
as a research project assistant in China. He felt immense gratitude to his professor
for his help throughout his research journey and their work together in the laboratory.