x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Interns learn life and science skills at Masdar

Masdar internships offer Emirati students a taste of science research.

Hazza Malek, one of the 16 students on an internship at the Masdar Institute, says his motivation is high.
Hazza Malek, one of the 16 students on an internship at the Masdar Institute, says his motivation is high.

ABU DHABI // Zayed Al Mansouri is spending his first summer home from university by participating in a six-week internship at the Masdar Institute.

The physics major at the University of Alberta is one of 16 students in the programme, who hope to gain invaluable research experience otherwise unavailable for undergraduates.

This is the second year of the summer programme and the intake has more than trebled from its five students last year. All are Emiratis from universities across the country and abroad.

Mr Al Mansouri, 18, is working on a desalination technology research project with one of the institute's academics.

"Seeing how projects run and getting to know the system is great," he said. "In a college you have three-hour lab sessions but [on Monday], I was in the lab from 9am to 6.30 in the evening. It's up to you when you work here. You just have to get things done and take the responsibility."

Hazza Bani Malek, a fourth-year student of mechatronics, a multidisciplinary field of engineering, said motivation was high.

"This is a place people talk about," said Mr Bani Malek, who studies at RAK Higher Colleges of Technology. "There are many role models here. This is a great opportunity for us to get hands-on experience, doing real-world projects, not like the ones we do in college."

He said having the responsibility to think for himself, as opposed to lecturers giving direction at each stage, was refreshing.

But these expectations have come as a bit of a shock to some.

Mariam Al Kaabi, 22, has just graduated from the University of Sharjah with a degree in biotechnology.

"This is more like a job," she said. "At university everything is prepared for us by our instructors, but not here. It's challenging to get used to being independent."

For some students, it is their first time away from home. They live in campus accommodations.

Aisha Al Souqi, 21, a biotechnology student at the University of Sharjah, said this had been a big adjustment. "It's challenging being alone and taking responsibility for yourself," she said. "At university we work more in groups but here it's just me and my mentor.

"This is more intense but we get access to equipment we don't have at university."

Like many interns, Ms Al Souqi is considering postgraduate studies at Masdar.

Dr Ken Volk, who heads the summer project, said that he was trying to reach out to students and raise awareness of the Masdar Institute early on.

"We'd love the students to come here and be students," he said. "Hopefully they'll fall in love with the research we're doing here."