Spotlight on Dr Shahid Rasul
Research and Academic Perspectives
Dr Shahid Rasul is a lecturer of Mechanical Engineering at Northumbria University. He is originally from the city of Faisalabad, (Punjab region) Pakistan. In partnership with UPSIGN, he is leading the Texonomy project enabling the Pakistan textile industry to adopt a circular economy approach to reduce waste and reduce the carbon footprint. His academic career has led him to travel and work all over the world, from obtaining his PhD from Tokyo, conducting research as a PDRA (post-doctoral research assistant) in Saudi Arabia to Newcastle, to his current post in Northumbria.
What links do you have with Pakistan in research/education?
I have developed strong academic links with colleagues and institutions in Pakistan. Through UPSIGN, I have been part of consultations regarding the development of new academic institutions. For example, the establishment of a new engineering university in Sialkot. On the research side, our consortium (Northumbria, GCU (Government College University) Lahore, LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) and NUST (National University of Science and Technology) has been awarded 30 million PK rupees. This project is funded by the Local Challenges fund (HEC, Higher Education Commission) which focuses on production and storage of renewable hydrogen as a clean fuel vector.
How do you think the UK and Pakistan academics can work together?
There are two key areas. These are research and supporting educators (via training the trainers programme) at university, policy, and institute level. For example, during the development of new universities, UK academics bring a wider perspective, supporting the sustainability of the university.
At a research level, there can be student exchange programmes and potentially work together to deliver blended degrees. Facilities and specialist software can be shared. Funding can be targeted to support Pakistani academics from the HEC and vice versa (for example, from the UK, GCRF and Newton funds).
What Research are you doing that may be relevant to Pakistan?
The focus of my research is on developing clean energy technologies in the context of energy storage and energy conversion. More specifically, I am working on solid-state Li/Na-ion batteries and the production of solar fuels through an artificial photosynthesis process (electrochemical CO2 conversion to fuels). Recently, I have moved into the emerging area of materials informatics. The goal of materials informatics is to discover new materials with high-speed, robust acquisition and analysis of available data with the aim of greatly reducing the timeframe for development of materials discovery to the application at a commercial scale. The development of clean energy technologies and the application of materials informatics have enormous potential in Pakistan. Pakistan is vulnerable to climate change and can take this opportunity to become leaders in adopting clean energy as well as the development of materials informatics. It will allow Pakistan to meet its own energy needs (sustainable) and provide economic stability. Globally, there is increased demand of electric vehicles which again Pakistan can take the opportunity to produce, develop and research batteries technology.
You were funded on a recent project called Texonomy, tell us about it.
The textile industry is a major contributor to Pakistan’s economy but there are issues surrounding air and water pollution, waste, and the contribution of CO2 emissions to the environment. This project focused on bringing the textile industry to a circular economy model, reducing the carbon footprint, and developing the concept of zero waste throughout the whole process. This idea was reinforced, whilst attending the UPSIGN GCRF workshops in Islamabad, Pakistan, 2020.
The project has been very successful. It brought together various textile stakeholders from both the UK and Pakistan. This included industry partners from INTERLOOP, iTextiles and KLASH textiles from Pakistan and acquired interest from both Pakistan and UK academics.Challenge prizes were awarded to projects who are at the forefront of development of sustainable textiles/production for example the use of AI in farming or self-healing fibres for wounds.
The Texonomy project was funded by the British Council and received support from, Mike Nithavrianakis (Deputy British High Commissioner and Trade Director for Pakistan), Malik Amin Aslam (Federal Minister and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Climate Change, PK), Amir Ramzan (Country Director for the British Council, PK) and Moazzam Ahmad Khan (High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK and NI). They spoke about climate change, COP26 and the need for change and Pakistan’s value-added textiles.
What is your message to other British diaspora and Pakistani academics?
British Pakistani diaspora academics need to collaborate more on research and other activities. For example, I believe the collective voice of Pakistani origin academics is stronger together. It can provide support to younger and new academics and researchers into the field and key senior positions at all levels (academia, industry, policy etc). Initiatives should not just focus on providing support for Pakistani people, but the collective work should focus on the wider community supporting community cohesion (including supporting the younger generations). This can lead to better relations with wider communities and promoting a positive outlook/reputation for Pakistani diaspora in the UK.
Further information / Contact details
Texonomy (YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6KGklLYQJVpnsb7nNn89DA
Texonomy (Twitter): @Texonomy1
Texonomy (Instagram): @Texonomy1
Texonomy website: https://texonomy.org/