An interview with Mahrokh Samavati, BRISK2 Co-ordinator

Facility: KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Location:            Stockholm, Sweden

Mahrokh Samavati is an Iranian born researcher who currently co-ordinates the prestigious BRISK2 project facilitating transnational access. Her background is in the field of Mechanical Engineering with keen interest in renewable and sustainable energy systems. Her main speciality is fuel cell/electrolysers as well as thermochemical conversion of biomass. In 2018, she received her PhD from KTH Royal Institute of Technology as well as Politecnico di Torino within the Ersamus Mundus double degree programme SELECT+ framework. She currently is not only involved in different research projects but also assigned as the gender equality, diversity and equal opportunities coordinator at Energy Technology Department of KTH.

I had the greatest pleasure to sit down and have a coffee with Mahrokh, via the medium of Microsoft teams (how I long for human interaction again), and find out more about her prestigious career and how she ended up co-ordinating one of the most influential collaborative bio-fuels projects in Europe.

Alanna Boden, European Project Manager

Why this career?

My father was a mechanical engineer and he ran his own manufacturing company. Unlike the majority of children who were growing up playing with plastic toys in primary colours.

I was with my father, working with the heavy manufacturing machinery; these were my toys. The smallest machine was a hydraulic press and the biggest precision metal lathe which would act as my personal airplane from time to time and I was the pilot.

My back up plan was to become an astronaut, astro-engineer or something similar. I do not remember exactly when I made the decision to pursue mechanical engineering, I just knew that I love my father; I wanted to be just like him and to be close to him.

Educational Journey

I have always had a love of maths, and I think it is because I do not like to memorise things, I like to figure things out. History or geography were so heavily reliant on memorising facts and dates; whereas maths, you learn the process and you can pretty much figure it out. I was quite a restless and fiercely independent child. If an activity did not engage my brain or imagination, I struggled to pay attention.

I wanted to study mechanical engineering, so I went to university in Iran and gained my bachelors in fluid mechanics. Then by sheer coincidence, during my internship, I ended up in a research organisation and they were working on fuel cells. I was fascinated with fuel cells and hydrogen energy and I worked there for a further 2 years. I knew that if I wanted to get “somewhere” then I needed to pursue higher education but also for myself; I wanted to know if I could survive independently, rather than relying on my family.