USPCAS-E UET Peshawar on track to become a premier think tank on sustainable energy
The U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Energy, (USPCAS-E) at the University of Engineering & Technology (UET), Peshawar, is heading fast towards becoming Pakistan’s premier think tank on sustainable energy. The opening of the Center is an important initiative towards finding cost-effective, indigenous solutions to energy needs and challenges in Pakistan.
USPCAS-E is part of a five-year $127 million program funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to institute Centers for Advanced Studies in energy, agriculture/food security and water. The energy program is jointly implemented by UET Peshawar, the National University of Sciences and Technology, and Arizona State University (ASU). The program’s multiple objectives include: developing undergraduate and graduate curriculum in key energy fields, conducting applied research, providing scholarships, and establishing new laboratories and international visitor and exchange programs.
According to Dr. Najeeb Ullah, UET USPCAS-E Project Director, the center at UET will identify innovative and practical solutions to Pakistan’s growing energy challenges. Talking to The News, he said the project includes high-quality applied and policy research aligned with government and industry needs, updating curriculum to meet international standards, ensuring sound governance, and establishing linkages with private sector, think tanks, and U.S. universities.
The center currently offers master’s degree programs in electrical energy system engineering and materials for energy storage and conversion, and plans to introduce masters and Ph.D. levels courses in the areas of alternative energy solutions and energy management. Students with B.Sc. degrees in mechanical, chemical, electrical and material engineering, or a masters or B.S. in physics, chemistry, electronics and nanotechnology are eligible to apply.
“We will provide merit and need-based scholarships to 250 graduate students funded by USAID during the five-years (2014-19) of the project, which includes university fee and monthly stipend of Rs 20,000,” he said.
Dr. Najeeb further noted that 100 students and faculty members will attend Arizona State University and Oregon State University as part of a fully-funded exchange program. The first batch of students is currently studying for one semester at ASU, where they are getting hands-on training, interacting with American scholars, and visiting historical places to explore the diversity and culture of the United States.
The Center's focus is to solve real-world problems through multi-disciplinary research collaborations with higher education institutions and industry. In order to fully harness this potential, according to Dr. Najeeb, several applied research grants have been finalized which will allow researchers, academia and industry partners to find innovative solutions of energy challenges of Pakistan. Each research grantee will receive up to Rs 300,0000, funded by USAID. Two additional grants are sponsored by the Directorate of Science and Technology, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The provincial government has also provided a grant Rs. 50 million for solar photovoltaic testing and certification laboratory.
“With USAID and Govt. of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s funding, applied research projects in energy will bring innovative solutions to the industrial needs” - Dr. Najeeb
Regarding the selection of UET Peshawar for the project, Dr. Najeeb said, a panel of experts from USAID and HEC conducted a survey of Pakistani universities in 2010. UET Peshawar’s faculty has undertaken multiple engineering research projects in the field of energy since early 1970’s, making it a strong choice for selection as part of this flagship program. Keeping in view that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a great potential of hydroelectric power generation, the Center is rightly positioned to work on the development of hydropower resources through joint collaborations with government and industry.
When asked whether the project will sustain after completion of five years, Dr. Najeeb was optimistic saying, the Center plans to provide consultancy to the government and has been collaborating with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Oil and Gas Development Company Limited. The Center will go a long way to build network that helps towards its sustainability.