x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Masdar graduates with first-class honours

Having begun their studies in 2009, 72 students from five master's programmes graduated in a packed auditorium yesterday at the Emirates Palace hotel in the capital.

Shaika al Mazrooei, an Emirati student, after the graduation ceremony at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.
Shaika al Mazrooei, an Emirati student, after the graduation ceremony at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // With whoops, cheers and standing ovations, it could have been a graduation ceremony anywhere in the world.

But these were the trailblazers - the first class to graduate from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. It was, said Dr Sultan al Jaber, Masdar's chief executive, "a very emotional moment".

Having begun their studies in 2009, 72 students from five master's programmes graduated in a packed auditorium yesterday at the Emirates Palace hotel in the capital.

Building a university from scratch to such high standards had been far from easy, said Dr al Jaber, "but you can see the energy and the pride among the leadership". "I can't stress how pleased we are with this class," he said.

The students shared his enthusiasm. Irene Rubalcaba Montserrat, a mechanical engineering graduate, was there with her mother, Marisa. "Of course, I'm very proud of my daughter," said Mrs Montserrat. "I came from Mexico just for the graduation and to be with her.

"It's a very new, beautiful experience for us. We came from a totally different country very far from here." She said the ceremony had been "very impressive - and very different".

Mehmet Ergun, from Turkey, obtained a masters in computing and information science. "Academically and in terms of the exposure that Masdar Institute gives you, it's incredible and unmatched," he said.

"You can have conversations with experts at Masdar and learn about the problems the world is facing in terms of energy. I advise everyone, not just Turkish people, to come and study here."

Mr Ergun's teachers were equally encouraging. "It's not about today," said Jacob Crandall, assistant professor of computing and information science at the institute.

"It feels good but it's about the last two years of work that they put in. It's been tough for them. They're establishing a whole culture of a new university."

While some, such as Vimitha Manohar from India, who graduated with a master's in computing and information science, will stay on for a doctorate, others intend to find work in Abu Dhabi or return to their countries.

"I'd like to stay here - but who knows?" said Mr Ergun.

Ms Montserrat also intends to remain in the capital. "I've some ideas as to work related to renewables. I had the option for the PhD but I prefer to work now," she said.

Arnar Snaer Valmundsson, from Iceland, graduated with a masters in mechanical engineering. He had been impressed by the oversight from MIT and "how they backed up the courses - the education level was good". He too hopes to stay in Abu Dhabi.

The challenge now is to help the graduates to take that next step. "Of course we're going to connect the graduates with the workplace in Abu Dhabi or globally," said Dr al Jaber. "Our objective was to attract the best talent, retain some and have others act as our ambassadors of a global initiative.

"Through these graduates we want to get this message across and raise the Abu Dhabi flag very high."

Not all the students' families were present to wish them well - so that task fell to their friends and fellow graduates and friends. One of the loudest cheers of the day went to Karim GadElrab, from Egypt, as he graduated in materials science and engineering.

"I didn't have my family here as they weren't able to come," he said. "That's why I asked people to cheer for me. We somehow became each other's families."

He is staying on for a doctorate. "The UAE's ambitious 2030 plan means that there's potential after I finish my PhD to work here."

hhamid@thenational.ae