The recent graduation of the pioneering batch of Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Masdar) brought the UAE closer to its 2030 goal of shifting to a knowledge-based economy.
The graduation of Masdar's 72 sustainability and clean technology engineers, presents the market with locally trained talent ready to tackle national energy needs through applied research.
"It feels great to know my research undertaken to solve local issues will be applied in Abu Dhabi," said Wafa Al Yamani, 24. "As one of the Emirati graduates from Masdar's first batch I feel very proud to know I have and will contribute to the development of my country."
Wafa's two-year master's research focused on the production of aircraft bio-fuel from a specific species of halophyte plants; a plant that grows by the effect of salt water at its root or by salt spray, like in mangrove swamps or seashores.
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She worked on ways in which to adapt the seeds of the Salicornia bigelovii species of halophyte, native to the US and Mexico, to the UAE's harsh environment.
"This is a 10-year project that hasn't begun in the field yet," said Wafa. "However Abu Dhabi Municipality is kindly donating 200 hectares of land for us to start field research."
Wafa has now been employed at the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi. She serves to truly fulfil the initial societal role envisioned for Masdar graduates.
"Our graduates are locally educated and trained in cutting-edge technical disciplines shaped in direct response to the UAE's strategic and economic needs," said Dr Lamya Fawwaz, Executive Director of Public Affairs.
"Our inaugural cohort provides a ready supply of graduates ...[that] have good command of the unique needs and complexities of the UAE's business industry."
She added of Masdar's 72 graduates, 10 per cent of whom are Emirati, 12 have been placed in employment, 26 are in the interview stage and 13 have enrolled in doctoral programmes.
Vijo Varkey, 26, came to Masdar already with a US master's degree in hand. He pursued his second fully sponsored postgraduate degree at Masdar. His master's research focused on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) techniques specific to Abu Dhabi. CCS is based on the process of capturing carbon dioxide from large point sources, such as an oil refinery, for storage by methods that do not enter the atmosphere.
Varkey has now landed a placement on a two-year graduate training programme with global corporation, Siemens.
"Siemens is looking for the future leaders and managers of its Middle Eastern operations for which I have been shortlisted," he said. "This, I think, is one of the most exciting jobs a Masdar graduate could hope to get."