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Three faces of the Energy Efficiency & Systems Research

Three doctoral students from the research group share their inspiring researcher career path in the fields of electricity markets and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) -engineering.
HVAC -measuring
HVAC -measuring
Portrait of Anahita Farsaei

Anahita Farsaei

Anahita works as a doctoral student focusing on modeling electricity markets and analyzing possible impacts of renewables. Before her doctoral studies, she studied Bachelor’s in industrial mathematics, and Master's in socio-economic systems engineering with major in energy systems planning. Then, for around 3 years, she was working as a power market expert in one of the leading companies in the power industry in Iran.

However, to it was a long journey for Anahita to find her interest in electricity markets. During her undergraduate studies, she took several courses from different departments from project control to finance, and economics to find out, which field she is passionate about. Then, she chose her major in Master's in energy systems planning. She chose her thesis topic in the electricity market as she was interested in energy economics aspects of the electricity market. Her enthusiasm for research made her publish a paper after finishing her studies.

Although she was eager to do research, she wanted to make some experience in the industry to broaden her mind. It was her first challenge as a woman to find a job in a sector that is mostly fulfilled with men. She actually missed her first opportunity in one of the power companies because of her gender, which was told to her outspokenly. However, she was motivated enough to wait and look for opportunities. After a year, she ended up getting a job in a company that every person in the sector wished to work. In this position she was the first female trader in the Iranian electricity market. She tried to continue her research work while working, but it was difficult as she had many responsibilities even on weekends. Therefore, she decided to leave her job and continue research work. However, her knowledge in the industry has been useful in research.

She was interested in Nordic electricity market, which was a world fore-runner in creating a liberalized, multi-national electricity market and so, she contacted her supervisor and asked her if she had an open position. “No need to say that she is one of the best in this major, and I was really lucky, and it is my honor that I have the chance to learn from her, and I can follow my dreams as a researcher here in Aalto”, says Anahita. 

Anahita’s research is about modeling the electricity market and she is currently focusing on the Nordic-Baltic countries. She has done research about market power in the Iranian electricity market, Finland and the Baltic countries. Besides these, two of her recent works with colleagues are about the impacts of removing hard coal in Finland in the electricity market.

Anahita thinks that best part of working as a researcher is to work in a lively, and collaborative atmosphere along with learning the latest subjects in her major. She starts her day by making a to-do list and goes through the works based on the priority. As her work is collaborative, she usually talks to her colleagues to discuss the topics. Her research questions may change, or new ideas may arise during these talks. “I learned a lot from my colleagues since I started this work”, Anahita tells.

Her future goal is to make some industry experience in Nordic electricity market besides her research work. “I think experience in industry can make me a better researcher”, she concludes. However, it has been only a year since she started her work as a researcher, so she expects to learn many new topics during her PhD.

Her decision on becoming a researcher in electricity markets was based on her interest. However, her family support paved her way to make decisions and to make her path fearlessly. Her parents gave a good advice that success comes from enthusiasm.

Her tip to future students of mechanical engineering is that it is an interesting and rewarding major, which can open up so many doors for them. It provides them a broad range of courses and career options. Getting involved in projects and doing internships can help students better understand their interests. “So, step out of your comfort zone. Initial assumptions can be wrong”, Anahita advices.

Portrait of Natalia Lastovets

Natalia Lastovets

Natalias’s background is on HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning)-engineering in a Ukrainian university. The field of her current research is the same, and particularly ventilation technology.

After her graduation, she has been working at the university as a teaching and research assistant for about ten years. At the university, she started being interested in different aspects of HVAC-engineering. After specifying her research interests, she started looking for a proper research group, which she found at Aalto University “This subject is very diverse, dealing with branches of classical physics, technological development, engineering practice, energy management and human health.” Natalia comments.

Natalia considers that the best part of the work as a researcher is the fact that it implies expanding the knowledge boundaries and broadening the horizons. Besides, her field of study is directly connected to thermal comfort issues and indirectly – to global resource challenges. It makes this subject not only purely technical but humanistic as well.

Her research is about the modelling of a specific type of ventilation system, displacement ventilation, with the various indoor thermal environments, steady-state and dynamic conditions. She has developed steady-state and dynamic design models of displacement ventilation. Also, together with her colleagues, she has conducted field measurements to validate the accuracy of the models. The dynamic model can significantly decrease the design airflow rate of displacement ventilation, which can result in a reduction of investment costs and electrical consumption of fans.

Her working day is organised according to the primary purpose of research work, which involves planning, preparing and publishing scientific articles. The article preparation includes planning and conducting computer simulations and experiments and analysing data and existing literature in the field. Since this process is usually nonlinear, it is important to discuss the results and plan the future work with the supervisor and other researchers involved. During the working day, Natalia often goes outdoors for a short walk or jogging. “The beautiful nature in the Aalto campus is refreshing and inspiring in all seasons,” Natalia says.  

Natalia’s future goal is to continue working in academia, doing both teaching and research. However, since academic work is increasingly casualised, she does not deny working opportunities in the industry.

For the future students of energy technology, Natalia advises: “The knowledge in applied physics and engineering math is always beneficial in the field of energy solutions. Together with that, the ability to learn new technologies and software is likely to be needed in engineering research. Nevertheless, the strong interest in the subject and fearless approach to creating change are indispensable for any successful research.”

At the beginning of her studies, Natalia used to think that men are usually more confident in the engineering field. She concludes that “However, it turned out that almost everybody fights with a feeling of stupidity and insecurity at some point, especially in research. So, I wish the female students to be courageous, patient and inspired in their studies in the field of mechanical engineering. It is worth remembering that your research is based on the real needs of both technology and society.”

Portrait of Weixin Zhao

Weixin Zhao

Weixin is also conducting research on HVAC Engineering. She is a doctoral student and her research is focusing on indoor environment under ventilation. Her previous field is district heating adjustment.

When Weixin was a master student, she realized that she was interested in research work to find more new knowledge. She enjoyed doing experiment and observing the new results. “I chose to be a PhD in Energy Efficiency group, because I can do more deep and meaningful study as what I do is strongly related to human’s work and health”, she says.

Weixin consider’s that the best thing about her work as a researcher is that she can learn new knowledge and skills. “The work of everyday is fresh to me, not boring” she comments. Usually she arrives at office around 8:30am and the day includes reading literature, writing paper in office and conducting experiment in the test room until 17:30pm.

Her study on indoor environment under ventilation is focusing on creating better indoor air quality and thermal comfort. Specifically, she is focusing on the effect of heat load distribution on thermal comfort with diffuse ceiling ventilation, the effect of moving person on airflow characteristics with diffuse ceiling ventilation, the micro-environment created by low velocity unit and radiant panel in the office and the indoor environment under personalized ventilation and radiant panel.

Weixin’s future plan is to find a post-doc position in HVAC in another research group and extend her study field.

She recommends studying Mechanical Engineering and especially Energy Technology for those who are interested in physics and mathematics, but also with creative ideas. “In the energy solutions, the modelling skills and hands-on ability are important” she says.

For the female students Weixin advices that: “I think studying mechanical engineering is as good choice as for a male. Important is firstly, enhancing your hands-on skill, which is important to experimental work. Secondly, improving logical thinking ability. Then cultivating your innovative ability and practical experience. Do not worry the future career, especially for academic studies, there is no much difference in gender.”

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