UCL PhD student Sayara Saliyeva is looking for new technologies which might help deliver a future where the world’s vast coal reserves could be unlocked in environmentally and economically sustainable ways.
A Kazakhstani-born chemical engineer, Sayara is assessing the life cycle of coal-to-liquids technologies and says she hopes to discover environmentally acceptable ways to consume that resource.
“It’s all about identifying environmental impacts caused by liquid fuel production from coal, in particular underground coal gasification. Australia is well placed to lead the rest of the world in this technology, but there is competition from US, Canada, South Africa, India and China, she says.
With thanks to a BHP Billiton scholarship, Sayara chose UCL Australia because she is surrounded by academic experts in her field, all with strong and direct links to industry.
“UCL Australia is wholly interdisciplinary and has great links with industry and other academic institutions, especially research wise, so for me, it’s definitely one of the best opportunities to be in a country where this technology is establishing itself and to make a research contribution in the field of coal-to-liquids,” she says.
“The academic staff here are very research active and we get a lot of guest lecturers teaching on the MSc programme who are leaders of global companies, so it gives me direct access to the people who are at the forefront of their field.
“Already this year we’ve had small classes with Leigh Clifford (former Rio Tinto boss), David Knox (Santos CEO) and Christof Ruhl (BP Chief Economist). So, it’s a really practical-driven education and I really believe it will provide me with excellent career opportunities.”
Sayara graduated with a Masters in Chemical Engineering from University of Sheffield in 2011 before joining the newly established School of Engineering at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan as a teaching assistant. Keen to follow an academic path, Sayara applied for a BHP Billiton Scholarship through UCL Australia and has been in Adelaide for the past eight months.
There is no mistaking that the ease in which Sayara has settled into Australian life at UCL has a lot to do with the relaxed, friendly lifestyle Adelaide has to offer.
“It’s amazing here. So far I think coming here is one of the best decisions I have made,” she says.
“It’s a new experience, it’s still an English-speaking country, but it’s different from everything I’ve experienced before.
“Weather-wise it’s amazing. I came in February from -30C in Astana, Kazakhstan and arrived in Australia to 30C so that took a bit of getting used to. I still struggle to call it winter here because everything is green and not covered in snow.
“The wildlife is totally different to what we can expect anywhere else in the world.”
Sayara says the close-knit environment of UCL Australia made transitioning to her new work and home much easier.
“You feel like you’re part of a family here, everyone knows everyone and calls each other by their first name which was a bit of a cultural shock for me, but now I’m used to that it makes me feel more comfortable, like I’m part of the ‘UCL Australia family’ here, in Adelaide,” she says.