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Maha RHANDI, Hydrogen Systems Engineer, PhD | DAES SA Geneva

Maha, Merci d'avoir accepté l'interview.

Maha RHANDI (LinkedIn)

Please briefly describe your thesis subject.

The subject of my thesis is “Modeling of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane devices for hydrogen energy carrier” under the supervision of Jonathan Deseure and Florence Druart.

I have developed a dimensionless model for PEM devices, and I have done experiments for hydrogen compression. This allowed me to accumulate a strong background in the hydrogen energy domain. I have also grown a certain passion about the hydrogen systems.

During these three years, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with other colleagues at LEPMI to write two reviews on Electrochemical hydrogen compression and purification versus competing technologies. Another collaboration with La Réunion University and University College London on a paper discussing a Dimensionless approach of a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Water Electrolysis: Advanced Analytical Modelling. I also did a voluntary research internship at HySa infrastructure in North-West University in South Africa. I have worked as a research assistant on Electrochemical Hydrogen Compression/Purification experiments under the supervision of Professor Dmitri Bessarabov.

Could you please describe your background?

After finishing my preparatory classes in Morocco, I moved to Nancy for ENSEM engineering school where I majored in Renewable Energy specializing in Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics. On my last year I enrolled in a double degree program with the Faculty of Science and Technology where I got a Master of Science in addition to my engineering degree.

During these three years, I had the opportunity to do a voluntary summer research internship at EproLab in the University of Salerno in Italy. I have worked as a research assistant on Water droplet dynamics inside the channels of a PEM Fuel cell under the supervision of Dr. Pierpaolo Polverino and Prof. Cesare Pianese. I chose to continue working on this research project during my last year at the engineering school in collaboration with LEMTA (Laboratoire d'Energétique et de Mécanique Théorique et Appliquée). Finally, I did my engineering trainee at MICHELIN MFPM (Campus RDI Ladoux) in Clermont-Ferrand. Where I worked on the Validation of a simulation tool for water flow on the road.

I defended my Ph.D. thesis on the 22nd of January 2021 at LEPMI (Laboratoire d'Electrochimie et de Physicochimie des Matériaux et des Interfaces) in Grenoble, specialized in MEP (Fluid Mechanics, Energy and Process engineering).

Doing a PhD is not an easy undertaking. What is your impression of your time as a PhD student?

The struggle in the PhD is more psychological and mental than professional. As a PhD student, you need to learn how to deal with failed experiments and writer’s block. And you need to learn the importance of the mental heath and go through anxiety due to multiple deadlines alone the way and some even struggle with depression because they were left alone to deal with a workload bigger than what they have anticipated.

Luckily for me I had very good supervisors who were very present along the way. The experience has showed me how strong I can be and how far I can go not only professionally but also personally. It was not easy, but it was so worth it, and I would do it all over again if I must.

What is your current position and how does the PhD provide useful in you daily job?

I am currently working as a Hydrogen Systems engineer at DAES SA in Geneva, Switzerland. DAES (Development of Advanced Engineering Solutions) is a consulting company specializing in numerical simulations for different sectors Humantech, Sports, Mobility, Watchmaking and Energy. We are currently working on a new state-of-the-art water electrolyzer. Having a PhD in this domain has given me a kickstart to understand the process and the different perspectives to develop and test this new device.

What is your advice to a prospective PhD student?

My advice would be to tell them: “it’s okey to feel stuck somedays, you are not alone, and you are not the only one who have walked this path. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Believe in yourself. Keep going even if it feels like it’s never ending, believe me it will. And you will be proud of yourself on the day that it does.”

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