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Professor calls for more Emirati faculty members

Dr Amal Al Gaffari says more national researchers are required to contribute to nation's development, particularly in the field of renewable energy

Image Credit: AHMED KUTTY/Gulf News
Amal Al Gaffari, assistant professor of material science and engineering, isMasdar Institute of Science and Technology’s first Emirati faculty member.

Dubai: Dr Amal Al Gaffari is the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology's (Mist) first UAE national faculty member who stresses that more Emirati researchers should join higher education institutions and contribute to their country's development, especially renewable energy.

Amal, an assistant professor of material science and engineering at Mist, said research projects are integral to the growth of any country and nationals should play a key part in it.

"It is important [that] UAE nationals join, because people have to understand that engaging in research in renewable energy and sustainability is important, not just for Masdar City, but for Abu Dhabi too," Amal said. "I am proud to be the first Emirati faculty member and look forward to inspiring other Emiratis to join Masdar as faculty members and students."

She said that literally half of students' and faculty members' time at Mist is spent doing pure research, which makes it "a great opportunity for researchers to develop their research skills".

Secret to good research

A graduate and former physics professor at UAE University (UAEU), Amal joined Mist in January, upon finishing her PhD at the University of Pittsburg in the United States.

Her field of research was in material science and engineering, investigating the distress anomalies (reactions to heat) of inter-metallic and metallic compounds.

"Being a researcher requires hard work and perseverance," Amal said. "The secret to being a successful researcher is to bring ideas to life. If you trap an idea in your mind it will stay there forever but if you bring it to life as an experiment, even if it fails, you can investigate the reasons why," Amal said.

Amal recently engaged in discussions with her colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Mit) in Boston, US, to begin research in developing quality-efficient and cost-effective solar cells for public use. "It's not hard to start research but the challenge is being able to continue it and send our students there during summers and holidays," she said.

Hot area

When employed at UAEU, Amal was awarded a British government research grant from a Dh1.1 million fund. She has now engaged Mist in collaboration with Durham University on research into the use of carbon-nanotechnology for use in computer memory devices.

"This is a hot area in science right now but in order for anything to get approved, it needs six to seven years of testing," Amal said. "So right now our project is to investigate the use of carbon nano tubes as an element to store information in memory devices." The carbon nano tubes and accompanying devices will be made at Durham University and brought to Mist for testing.