ABU DHABI, 5th June, 2016 (WAM) – The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy, and sustainable technologies, has announced that the first group of graduates from its Sustainable Critical Infrastructure (SCI) program are set to join the urban development and infrastructure sector following their recent graduation.

The SCI program graduates received their Master of Science degrees along with more than 100 fellow Masdar Institute graduates at the Class of 2016 commencement ceremony. These graduates are expected to contribute their expertise to the rapidly developing sustainable development and green construction sector, regionally and globally.

Dr. Steve Griffiths, Vice President for Research, Masdar Institute, said: “The inaugural group of graduates in Sustainable Critical Infrastructure reflects the strength of our academic expertise in developing skillsets required for meeting key challenges in resource efficiency for Abu Dhabi and the region. With their newly acquired knowledge, we believe these graduates will make a difference in resource efficient urban planning and infrastructure design, locally and globally, advancing Masdar Institute’s mission to support sustainability.”

“As Master’s students, this inaugural batch was provided with the training and guidance needed to tackle the challenges to realizing a fully sustainable infrastructure sector; mainly, in the efficiently-built environment, smart and connected transport network, and sustainable urban planning, which are the main themes of the SCI program. As professionals, their abilities will be further tested in urban planning, green construction and infrastructure development, but I am confident that they will rise to the occasion and help enhance the UAE’s position as an innovative sustainable developer,” said Dr Mohamed Atif Omar, Professor of Engineering Systems and Management, Masdar Institute.

“Our SCI program pioneers have dedicated their thesis research to addressing some of the unique challenges that regional developers face in achieving effective, affordable and sustainable urban projects. We are proud that our SCI graduates have advanced the cutting-edge of sustainable infrastructure research, from energy-efficient buildings to smart transportation planning in the Gulf, and believe their work as professionals after graduation will continue to help the UAE and its neighbors achieve their shared sustainable development goals,” Dr. Omar added.

UAE National SCI program graduate Anfal Al-Ali focused her thesis research on the topic of enhancing the social capital of open space in Abu Dhabi.

She explained: “As a researcher in urban planning, I realized that some neighborhoods may look as if they are ideally designed when we examine them from a distance, but when you examine them closely, you can see that for some reason, these neighborhoods act like boundaries between residents. My research investigated the problems that prevent sociability at the neighborhood scale.”

Al-Ali is now looking forward to contributing his knowledge to sectors including architecture, design, urban planning, and project management.

Fellow SCI graduate Victoria Hernandez Streiedinger’s thesis, titled “Assessing and planning for walkability using mix methods approach: Abu Dhabi – a case study”, won Masdar Institute’s Class of 2016 Best Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Program Thesis Award. Her project was part of a larger study led by Assistant Professor of Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Dr. Khaled Al Awadi.

Revealing her motivation, the young Mexican said: “As the world’s population continues to increase, the migration of people from suburbs to cities progresses, and climate change becomes an ever-present issue. In this situation, sustainable critical infrastructure elements such as walkability will become the foundation of all future cities, out of necessity to provide future generations with livable cities.”

Streiedinger believes the planning of healthier walkable environments could be one of the top priorities for Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council. The government’s involvement for sustainable transportation has the potential to encourage a broader audience, and to show that improvements are attainable, she added.

Jiin Baek from South Korea also focused her thesis research on a related topic, with her thesis titled “How the Built Environment and Individuals Perceptions Affect Walking Patterns: The Case of Abu Dhabi Downtown”.

Explaining the impact of her research Baek said: “As a designer and researcher, I believe it is important to emphasize the role of active design and movement in social community. Going forward, I would love to work for the government sector in the UAE, such as the Urban Planning Council or Abu Dhabi Municipality, to implement my knowledge and experience, or as an urban designer with critical thinking of sustainable development for a consultancy firm.”

Aleksandar Abu Samra from Serbia, whose thesis is titled “Public Data for Energy and Environment Research in UAE,” spent his time at Masdar Institute exploring the current state of information-sharing about infrastructure in the UAE and proposed solutions for its improvement. He believes information-sharing can help the UAE and countries of the region to adapt relevant international trends to their local needs.

Winner of the ‘Best Embodiment of Values and Ethics’ prize at Al Jazeera’s ‘Canvas’ hackathon in 2014, Abu Samra said: “I look forward to innovative and inclusive solutions for helping societies develop the sustainable critical infrastructure sector. I hope to be able to avoid issues of the currently underdeveloped infrastructure market in my country and seek solutions for improvement.”

The SCI program is delivered through a faculty cohort that includes Dr. Al-Awadi and Associate Professor Dr. Praveen Maghelal, both experts in urban planning, Professor of Practice Dr. Afshin Afshari and Assistant Professor Dr. Elie Azar, both experts in building energy efficiency, and Assistant Professors Dr. Pengyu Zhu and Dr. Abdullah Galadari, both experts in transportation systems.

Masdar Institute’s Sustainable Critical Infrastructure program aims to develop future leaders with the ability to design integrated urban infrastructure systems for new or existing developments after careful examination of environmental, social and financial requirements. The program was established in 2014 in response to important role the built environment plays in managing sustainable consumption of resources.