During this decade, Texas A&M at Qatar’s research program has grown to a cumulative funding level of more than $236 million for 289 projects that cover basic and applied research to solve critical problems. This research has yielded extraordinary productivity in terms of refereed papers, conference proceedings and patent applications. Texas A&M at Qatar has 182 active and awarded research projects and more than $147 million in active and awarded project funding.
A summary of the research, our collaboration with industry, and our partnerships with dozens of universities and research centers around the world, are presented in the web pages of the various programs; to give, however, a flavor of our efforts, we outline some of the recent non-confidential funded projects.
Optimizing Qatar's Natural Resources, Energy and Environment
Energy, water and the environment are among Qatar’s top research challenges and are of great interest to Dr. Patrick Linke, professor and program chair in the Chemical Engineering Program and inaugural holder of the Qatar Shell Professorship at Texas A&M at Qatar. The Qatar Shell Professorship is an effort to bring about closer collaboration between industry and academia and promote research in energy and the environment.
Since coming to Texas A&M at Qatar in 2007, Linke has carried out research on a wide variety of energy and environment problems, focusing on using systems engineering to find optimal designs for a variety of areas in natural resource management and the environment with a focus on the process industries. While other researchers work on specific technologies, Linke’s research group (including eight graduate students in Qatar) works on the development of methods to help integrating and designing efficient process systems. “We develop optimization approaches in my group to support decision making at multiple levels, from the molecular selection through process design to systems integration across processing facilities,” Linke said. This means that Linke and his research group are involved with a wide variety of projects related to natural resources, energy and the environment.
Water is a major subject of interest in Qatar, with getting fresh water from desalination of particular interest. Linke and his group are focusing on ways to integrate different resources across the water-energy nexus to generate low-cost water from excess energy and renewables. Linke has also been working on developing an optimization approach to design desalination systems that integrate salt production. Typical desalination systems produce fresh water by removing salts and putting them back into the ocean. The proposed system would allow operators to produce and sell salts, adding an extra source of revenue. “There’s a lot of value in the ions in sea water,” Linke said.
Another area of interest is managing carbon dioxide, of which Qatar is one of the highest per capita producers in the world. The key challenge in managing carbon dioxide is how to develop efficient strategies to reduce climate footprints. Climate scientists set carbon dioxide emission goals that target some time in the future. The question is how to go about achieving this without spending too much money. Although breakthroughs in individual technologies in renewable energy, carbon dioxide utilization and carbon capture and storage will likely play a role, Linke is more interested in developing tools to assess strategies to deploy different options in efficient portfolio solutions. “For instance, when do you select renewable options and how much versus converting carbon dioxide into value-added products?” Linke said.
The solutions to environmental and resource management problems vary from country to country. “Qatar’s local solution might be very different from those in Spain or the U.S.,” Linke said. One of the main goals for Linke’s group is to produce tools for evaluating different options using a systematic approach to overcome the current practice of trial and error and intuition, which likely overlooks many promising choices.
On top of his research and teaching, Linke serves as Texas A&M at Qatar’s executive director of graduate studies. He is also the codirector of the Qatar Sustainable Water and Energy Utilization Initiative at Texas A&M at Qatar. From 2009 to 2014, he served the Qatar government as chief engineer in the Qatar National Food Security Programme. With the support of Qatar Shell Professorship, which was awarded in 2016, Linke is working to apply his research to the energy and environmental issues in Qatar industry.
Triple Success in Teaching, Research and Mentoring
Since coming to Doha in 2007, Dr. Beena Ahmed has built herself up as an accomplished researcher, teacher and mentor. An assistant professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Program, her current research focus is on applying technology to solve different problems in the health arena. In particular, her work relates to stress, insomnia and speech disorders. Each of these areas have a common thread in that they are can be difficult or expensive to diagnose and treat. This is why Ahmed focuses on the use of smart phones and tablets together with machine learning algorithms and off-the-shelf sensors.
Stress is a major problem on college campuses and in the workforce. It can be managed using techniques such as yoga and meditation, but these take time to learn and practice, and are better for long-term management than in stressful moments. “They teach you how to relax, but they don’t teach you how to manage stress when you’re in a stressful situation,” Ahmed said. To do this, Ahmed and her team developed and tested a modified, tablet version of the game, Pac-Man, with the aim of teaching players how to better regulate their stress levels while performing a stimulating task. The game responds to stress measurements such as breathing rate, heart rate and skin conductivity, becoming more difficult when players are stressed and easier when they control their breathing and reduce their stress levels. Ahmed said students are a good group for testing because they are less likely to do something about stress and thus this game will help them develop good habits for the future.
Like stress, insomnia is another common ailment that can negatively affect health and the economy. Insomnia, however, can be difficult to diagnose. “If you start putting multiple wired sensors on people it makes it harder for them to fall asleep,” Ahmed said. Also, when they’re at a sleep clinic, people could sleep better or worse than they would at home. Ahmed and her team have developed a system that uses only one or two sensors wirelessly connected to a smart phone or tablet to send data to a remote server at the clinic where data analytics are performed to provide clinicians with important diagnostic information. Patients can be monitored while at home, reducing the need for expensive sleep clinic visits and allowing clinicians to carry out longer-term monitoring and treatment remotely.
Speech therapy, another area of research, is expensive and can often take years, so being able to use games on a mobile device as a therapy tool benefits patients and therapists alike. Ahmed and her team have developed speech controlled games similar to Flappy Bird that patients can use to practice their therapy exercises. Patients get immediate feedback from the game, which also records speech and sends it to a remote server. Ahmed developed machine learning algorithms hosted on the server that provide the speech and language pathologist with an evaluation of the patient’s performance, allowing them to monitor the patient more effectively.
As an educator, Ahmed teaches electrical engineering and engineering design courses. In her freshman engineering design course, Ahmed teaches new students hands-on design skills that they may have not been exposed to in high school. Ahmed developed the course and has been working with Qatari high schools to help teachers and students there develop the skills needed to make successful engineers. In her teaching role, Ahmed is a mentor for her students — especially undergraduate researchers. Her students have been involved with signal processing of the EEG (brain activity), investigating whether errors that children make in their speech could be identified using signal processing and developing an Arabic-language–learning app called Allemny (“teach me” in Arabic). Ahmed said undergraduate research helps students better understand engineering and the vital role engineers play in society. “I try to involve my undergrad students so that they can understand what the problems are in society and how we as engineers and academics can help them,” she said. “By giving them applied problems — for example, in sleep or speech analysis — they’re using engineering tools in an application that is completely non-engineering.”
The benefits to both students and faculty are numerous. Ahmed said she noticed an improvement in student researchers’ critical thinking and communication. Students who participate in research can look at a situation and identify a problem better, she said, even if they don’t have an immediate solution. And communicating their research process and results helps students learn how to structure and communicate their ideas better. “Most of the students who have participated in my research have gone on to graduate school because undergraduate research shows them what research is about and how to do it.”
The Winding Road to Solary Energy
The road from pharmaceuticals to solar energy may seem like a winding one, but that is the path traveled by Dr. Mohammed Al-Hashimi, a research assistant professor in the Science Program at Texas A&M University at Qatar. During the past seven years, he has taken his experience from the pharmaceutical research field and used it to build a niche in energy research.
Al-Hashimi studied pharmaceutical chemistry at Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom, and after finishing his Ph.D. in 2007, started working in the pharmaceutical industry. After two years, in 2009, he returned to academia, taking a position at Imperial College London as a researcher. In 2011 he moved to Qatar to join the branch campus, later moving to Qatar University for a short time before returning to Texas A&M at Qatar. Since arriving in Doha, Al-Hashimi has built a research group that is looking into new ways to produce energy from sunlight using natural products because, as he said, “Energy is a vital global issue.”
Qatar National Vision 2030 calls for significant strides in solar energy conversion to put Qatar in a global leadership position in alternative energy. The goal is to produce energy without the use of fossil fuels by converting sunlight into electricity in a cheap manner. “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” Al-Hashimi said.
Al-Hashimi’s research group’s primary focus is creating organic photovoltaic (PV) solar cells — that is, solar cells that use organic substances instead of amorphous silicon like conventional PV cells. To do this, they are working with iso-indigo, a product derived from plants that provide indigo dye. It’s a relatively inexpensive product that Al-Hashimi and his research collaborators noticed was able to generate electricity.
Iso-indigo–based PV cells would be cheaper, more flexible and easy to modify. The ability to use cheaper organic materials for solar energy is what drives Al-Hashimi and the four post-docs in his research group. Organic PV cells are not yet as efficient as conventional amorphous silicon cells, but Al-Hashimi said he expects his group will achieve a higher level of efficiency within the next three years.
Their novel work has caught the attention of the research community. In 2016 Al-Hashimi’s research has resulted in three disclosures and 12 high-impact publications. Chemical Science — a journal with an impact factor of 9.211 that publishes research articles of exceptional significance from across the sciences — selected and published an article in collaboration with Dr. Lei Fang from Texas A&M’s main campus on its front cover. Most recently he received the Best Research Presentation in Energy and Environment at Qatar Foundation’s Annual Research Conference (ARC 16). He also received the ACMME 2016 award in Malaysia for the best research presentation at the Mechanical and Engineering Conference.
In addition to making research advancements that will have both local and global impacts, Al-Hashimi in collaboration with Dr. Hassan S. Bazzi have been awarded a one-year UREP project which will allow four undergraduate students to expand their educational background in solar energy. “From a scientific standpoint it will have a significant educational impact on the students and advance the research capabilities at Texas A&M at Qatar,” Al-Hashimi said. “The students can decide on whether to continue in the field.”
What these students will learn will likely help them excel even in completely unrelated fields. After all, pharmaceutical chemistry seems like an unlikely background for a solar energy researcher. But the skills learned in one area often carry over into others. “The pharmaceutical field is truly multidisciplinary,” Al-Hashimi said. “My research background within both industrial and academic environments has allowed me to experience different research cultures.”
Advancing High-performance Computing
A longtime Texas A&M at Qatar research initiative in advanced scientific computing was designated an official center of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) by the Board of Regents of The Texas A&M University System in late 2016, brings together faculty and researchers from a wide variety of engineering and science disciplines to tackle complex computational problems.
The Advanced Scientific Computing Center, led by Dr. Othmane Bouhali, aims to become a regional and global leader in scientific computing by developing innovative solutions and using state-of-the-art computational tools to address computational challenges in science, engineering and industry. The center — the second Texas A&M at Qatar research initiative named a TEES center — is a partnership between the Texas A&M at Qatar, Texas A&M’s main campus and the engineering research agency, TEES. Areas of interest for the center are high-performance computing, computational material sciences and chemistry, computational physics and biology and 3-D scientific visualization.
Bouhali said the new center actively contributes to the implementation of the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS) in the field of computational science and its applications, including materials science, computational chemistry, medical physics, system biology and high-performance computing. Internationally, the group strives
to create links with supercomputing and computational science centers, and locally, the center is building partnerships with our colleagues at local institutions within Education City, Hamad bin Khalifa University and others.
Texas A&M at Qatar is at the vanguard of high-performance computing (HPC). In February 2015, the branch campus celebrated 10 years of HPC and marked several milestones, including more than five million calculation jobs, more than 30 million CPU hours execution time and more than 100 scientists and researchers across the country using the HPC resources and benefiting from the research computing skills of Texas A&M at Qatar experts. And in September 2015, Texas A&M at Qatar was accepted as a member of the HPC500, an exclusive community of high-performance computing user organizations. The HPC500 comprises the world’s foremost entities that bring high-performance computing technology to bear on challenging problems in science, engineering and business.
Bouhali, research associate professor and director of research computing at Texas A&M at Qatar, leads Texas A&M at Qatar’s endeavors in high-performance computing and scientific computing, and has collaborated with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) for the past 20 years. CERN, founded in 1954, is the largest research center in the world for nuclear and high-energy physics research.
Bouhali’s research includes several undergraduate researchers, including Fahad Al-Thani who was awarded a prestigious summer internship at CERN in summer 2016. The CERN summer program is offered to students studying physics, computing or engineering, and allows them the unique opportunity to join the day-to-day work of research teams in Geneva, Switzerland. The internship is one outcome of a recent agreement signed between Qatar Foundation R&D and CERN — and one that came about largely because of Bouhali’s research endeavors.
Bouhali’s research group has received four Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP) grants from QNRF, including one in 2016 for a project that aims to conduct a comprehensive simulation program for charged particle detectors to be used in future medical and accelerator applications. “Last year our UREP project won first place in Qatar for the work we have performed with the CERN collaboration,” Bouhali said. “This new UREP project involves four new students who will get introduced to detector technology, simulation programs and advanced experimental statistical analysis.”
Engineering a Cleaner Future
E xpanding economic activity has brought rising carbon dioxide emissions and
growing concerns about water scarcity and wastewater management to Qatar. These
environmental concerns have attracted significant attention from the research
community and funding from government and industry. Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Wahab, professor in the Chemical Engineering Program at Texas A&M at Qatar, is meeting these challenges head on by combining chemical engineering and environmental engineering to come up with new ways to clean wastewater and convert carbon dioxide into useful fuels.
Qatar is in an arid region, so water scarcity is a major issue. The majority of the country’s fresh water comes from desalination of seawater, with some coming from the recycling of wastewater. Because of this, industrial pollution is a big concern as contaminants like heavy metals persist in water.
Conventional wastewater treatment uses physical and chemical processes to remove
waste products and disinfect water. These processes fall into one of two categories —
oxidation or reduction, with oxidation being the most commonly used. There is a limit to how effective these techniques are, however. “Some contaminants are very resistant, and conventional processes are very slow,” Abdel-Wahab said.
To counter this, Abdel-Wahab’s research team — seven graduate students and four
undergraduates — has been working on treatment methods that use reduction
processes to attack and destroy unwanted elements in water. The new class of techniques, known as Advanced Reduction Processes (ARP), use reducing agents that are activated by sunlight that carry out reduction reactions on contaminants to remove them from the water. ARP research started several years ago and Abdel-Wahab’s group has been working to devise ARP techniques to remove many
persistent contaminants that conventional treatment processes miss.
Another major environmental concern is carbon dioxide emissions. Qatar is a top per
capita producer of carbon dioxide and as such has made reducing emissions a chief
goal. Solar energy is a major way for Qatar to reduce its carbon footprint and academia, government and industry have made research into renewables a priority. Other methods for reducing emissions involve capturing carbon dioxide and either sequestering it (injecting it deep underground, for example) or converting it to another substance.
Conversion of carbon dioxide is another area that Abdel-Wahab’s group is focusing on. The team is working on using photochemical processes to turn carbon dioxide into useful chemicals. “We’re trying to use sunlight with photocatalysts and produce radicals that convert carbon dioxide to chemical energy,” Abdel-Wahab said. So far the research team has been able to reduce carbon dioxide to formate and the research team’s target is to produce methanol, which can be used as fuel.
The work that Abdel-Wahab’s group is doing is more than an academic curiosity, attracting interest and funding from the Qatar National Research Fund and various energy and industrial companies totaling more than $10 million. Additionally, these projects have led to more than 78 peer-reviewed papers, more than 80 conference publications, and a large number of graduate dissertations and theses. The group of research scientists, post-docs and graduate and undergraduate students that Abdel-Wahab leads is making big advances in environmental engineering, and will continue to expand their research in the future.
Maximizing Well Productivity
Petroleum companies are always on the lookout for ways to increase the productivity of their wells. Dr. Eduardo Ponce Da Motta, visiting associate professor in the Petroleum Engineering Program at Texas A&M at Qatar, and his research team have
been looking into new ways to maximize oil well productivity through a project funded by Qatar Petroleum.
A major factor in productivity is reservoir permeability — that is, how easily oil can move through pores in rock. The act of drilling a well often causes damage that reduces permeability. This damage can be removed by pumping acid into the well bore, a process known as acidizing.
In wells drilled into sandstone, acidizing can remove the damage and bring the well to the same productivity level as an undamaged well. For wells drilled into carbonate rock, acidizing can not only remove damage, but create additional small passageways 10 to 20 feet into the rock, dramatically increasing how much oil can move through into the well. “This is a big improvement in production,” Da Motta said.
Nearly all the oil wells in the Middle East are in carbonate rock, so acidizing is common in the region. The trick with acidizing is finding the right injection rate for the well. Deep or long wells need higher injection rates, which are sometimes difficult to achieve. One way is to invest in new equipment and bigger oil rigs, but this can be costly. And even in Qatar where worries about production cost are less important than in other areas of the world, costs still matter.
To deal with this challenge, Da Motta and his team are taking a different approach.
Changing the type or concentration of the acid used can reduce a well’s optimal injection rate, making it easier to achieve. Da Motta has done analysis and simulations, which prove the idea can work, so now they need input data from Qatari carbonate formations.
Researchers will take cores drilled from wells or areas of similar rock type and run acids through them to see how different acid types and concentrations work. That will provide further input data for simulations to calculate new optimal injection rates. In the future, the team will seek to apply their new treatment strategy to a test well to see how much production can be improved.
Da Motta has been collaborating on this research with Dr. Dan Hill and Dr. Ding Zhu from Texas A&M’s Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering, and the international research collaboration is expected to continue for years to come. Da Motta said he hopes to get additional funding to continue the work from QF and through a collaboration with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). “We could have a very strong project with half here and half in the U.S.,” Da Motta said.
Intercultural Communication for Real-world Success
Globalization and advancements in communication technology are bringing more and more people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds together in the classroom and the workplace. Due to complex socio-economic, political and linguistic factors, English has become a language of global communication. The spread of English language, globalization, and advancements in technology and their effect on inter- and intracultural communication and understanding are among the areas of research that Dr. Zohreh Eslami, professor and chair of the Liberal Arts Program at Texas A&M at Qatar, focuses on in her scholarly activities.
Eslami said that research topics in intercultural communication deal with the reasons for barriers to communication and communicative failures, highlighting the importance of well developed intercultural skills and awareness of all the participants to make it effective and successful. One of Eslami’s areas of interest is intercultural communication and the role that linguistic politeness plays. Even though English has become an international language, there is still a possibility of miscommunication or communicative failure when the interlocutors, engaging in a communicative event, come from different cultural backgrounds. For example, in Western English-speaking cultures, requests are less direct than they would be in Middle Eastern cultures, where there is a tendency to be more direct, especially in business and other professional contexts. “Americans, for example, may get offended by this,” Eslami said. To counteract this, Eslami is studying the role of linguistic politeness in intercultural communicative contexts, more specifically how to convey communicative intentions effectively and come across as polite and friendly to all the participants of the communicative events.
Students at Texas A&M at Qatar will soon be joining the globalized business and professional world and need to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural and intracultural contexts using English as the medium of communication. To be successful leaders in intercultural communicative settings, they need to develop diversity consciousness, and intercultural competence. Our students come from around the world, many of whom use English as their second or additional language. “Many students in Qatar are learning academic content through their second language,” Eslami said. Educating and developing pedagogical skills of educators to teach academic content in students’ second language (English), is an ongoing task for Eslami, who has spent two decades working on English as a second language, (ESL) teacher education in American and international settings.
Eslami has been involved in three research projects funded by Qatar National Research Fund. The first research project studied how education reform is being implemented in Qatari independent schools. The second funded research project examined the role of gender in teaching materials used in Qatari independent schools and how gender roles are perceived by teachers and students. Eslami said she wants to continue this line of research at the branch campus. “I want to promote students’ awareness of gender roles and gender stereotyping using research-based awareness-raising activities,” Eslami said. The third research project Eslami was involved in focused on ‘improving reading skills in the middle school science classrooms’ in Qatar. “We examined the level of text difficulty in science textbooks and teaching materials and how visuals are presented in these texts,” Eslami said. To improve the pedagogical skills of teachers teaching science in English and Arabic, Eslami and a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, and Qatar University worked with Qatari teachers and provided them with professional development.
The work on education and the need for better intercultural communicative skills ties together with Eslami’s desire to form a connection between the liberal arts and engineering. In order to succeed in an increasingly connected global economy, engineers need more than technical skills; they also need rather sophisticated communicative, leadership and other so-called soft skills. “Our goal is to connect efforts in liberal arts with the engineering program to produce engineers who are not only competent in technology, but able to lead and be global and ethical citizens in a
Patented Solutions to Everyday Problems
In 2016, work by Texas A&M at Qatar researchers and their international collaborators added two new U.S. patents to the branch campus’s intellectual property portfolio. These patents are the second and third issued U.S. patents that involve Texas A&M at Qatar faculty and their international collaborators.
One patent, “Co-polymer Soil Subgrade binder” aims to improve the quality and lifetime of asphalt roads and pavement surfaces. Invented by the interdisciplinary team of Dr. Howard J. M. Hanley, Dr. Eyad A. Masad, Dr. Srinath R. Iyengar, Ana K. Rodriguez and Dr. Hassan S. Bazzi, the co-polymer developed can be used to enhance the stability of the supporting soil (called the subgrade) on which roads and pavements are built.
The project came about from a proof-ofconcept study funded by the Qatar Science and Technology Park in 2008. With Qatar named as the host of the 2022 World Cup, a 2013 report by Deloitte said the country is investing more than $140 billion dollars in its roads and transportation infrastructure. The soil in Qatar is primarily limestone based. Some asphalt roads in Qatar are constructed on loose subgrade, which can shift and deform with repeated use — such as the heavy traffic Doha experiences on a daily basis — leading to cracks and potholes in the pavement.
There’s no universal binder that can be used for stabilization of all soil types, Iyengar said. Nevertheless, this new polymer formula can be tailored to improve the stability of a variety of different soil compositions. The tunability of the polymer means it can be tweaked to be used anywhere, making it especially attractive in the region and throughout the world. “Ours is a timely solution — made in Qatar specifically for the soil in Qatar, but it can be used almost anywhere,” Iyengar said.
Simpler Chemical Manufacturing
Bazzi also received the second patent a catalyst that makes a widely used type of chemical reaction more efficient. Bazzi developed the catalyst in collaboration with Dr. Dave Bergbreiter, professor in the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M’s main campus after working together on the project since 2006.
A catalyst is a molecule that kickstarts a chemical reaction, and in this case, that chemical reaction is metathesis, which is used in chemistry to make small molecules or chains of molecules called polymers. Metathesis is an important chemical reaction involving carbon-carbon double bonds that can be used to make cyclic compounds, which are very important in pharmaceuticals and in building polymers, Bazzi said. “Once you form the polymers, the polymers can have several applications and there are applications in industry, such as in coatings, in bulletproof windows, even water-soluble polymers. The field is huge.”
The problem with metathesis, though, is that a small amount of the metal-based catalyst required to start the reaction remains in the end product. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, you don’t want patients ingesting the metal left in the drug. In other applications, such as materials, the metal in the polymer may color the material or alter its properties. Bazzi and Bergbreiter modified the rutheniumbased metathesis catalyst to make the whole catalytic operation more efficient and easier to remove the metal from the final product by attaching a “tag” to the catalyst that can be used to pull the metal out of the product at the end of the reaction. “That reduces the metal leaching, or the metal remaining in the product, quite extensively,” Bazzi said.
Cultivating a Culture of Safety in Qatar
Chemicals drive the machinery, both literal and metaphorical, behind a large part of the worlds economy. This provides livelihoods, convenience and comfort, but it also carries risks to environmental quality and human health and safety. The control of these risks are the motivation behind process safety, a framework for building good designs and engineering procedures meant to prevent and mitigate major hazards such as fire, explosions and toxic releases.
Promotion of process safety in industry and engineering education is the goal of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center – Qatar, an extension of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center’s main facility at the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station in College Station, Texas (USA). Dr. Luc Véchot, an associate professor in the Chemical Engineering Program at Texas A&M at Qatar, is managing director of the Qatar extension.
Launched in 2013 by Texas A&M at Qatar and Qatar Petroleum, the center has a vital role in Qatar, providing process safety education to students and working with Qatari industry to promote process safety. The center brings engineering faculty, students and companies together to train a new generation of engineers who make safety a key part of their practice and to build safety knowledge at a local and regional level. A consortium of companies support and help decide the future direction of the center through a steering committee and a technical committee.
The center offers both a Master of Safety Engineering degree and a Safety Certificate
for engineering students. Graduate and undergraduate students conduct research
projects on process safety, covering topics such as combustible dust explosions hazards and toxic gas release and dispersion, LNG spills hazards and chemical reaction hazards. Research helps identify and characterize such hazards, assess the risks involved and find ways to eliminate or at least reduce those risks to a tolerable level. The research topics are chosen by the industry consortium members and the students collaborate directly with industry to perform the work. Working closely with industry gives center researchers real-world information and feedback on process safety work, going beyond the academic and hypothetical. The student researchers have to write a full risk assessment for every project and discuss their research plans and results with experts from industry.
In addition to a stream of safety-conscious professionals from the branch campus, the center helps companies further develop the process safety knowledge of their existing workforce through short courses, tutorials and other forms of continuing education. The process safety community also shares knowledge and insight during the annual Qatar Process Safety Symposium. In 2016, Texas A&M at Qatar and ConocoPhillips co-hosted the seventh symposium, a two-day event that gave students and safety professionals in Qatar a chance to network and learn from each other. More than 250 people attended the symposium and listened to presentations from 30 speakers on a variety of process safety topics.
The work that the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center – Qatar accomplishes is helping make safety second nature to a new generation of engineers. By identifying and reducing risks and building a culture of safety, the center will benefit industry and the public in Qatar and elsewhere in the world. “I can tell you the number of students we have graduated that are working in industry in Qatar, but that is the smallest impact we can measure. We will never be able to measure how many lives these process safety engineers will save. We make sure that our engineers and workers are able to get home safely to their families at the end of the day.”
A new website, ur.qatar.tamu.edu, highlights the achievements of Texas A&M at Qatar’s student researchers and showcases the variety of projects students have been involved in, ranging from how high temperatures and pressures affect the rheological proper-ties of drilling fluids to data transfer via visible light communications to noninvasive wireless health monitoring systems. Whatever the topic, Texas A&M at Qatar provides its students opportunities to find solutions to real-world, real-life problems.
Research at Texas A&M at Qatar contributes to Qatar’s thriving industry and economy. We seek more effective oil and gas production, faster development of alternative energy sources, and better energy efficiency in buildings. We are developing novel methods for hazardous waste water treatment, we propose innovative materials; and we are studying methods for better mobile phone and internet performance. This engineering research is reinforced by fundamental studies in physics, chemistry and mathematics.
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