We interviewed Semra Bakkaloglu, a Research Assistant at the Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI) who joined in October 2020.
Welcome to the Sustainable Gas Institute. Could you tell me a little about your background?
I earned double major degrees from the Departments of Environmental Engineering and Chemical Engineering at Middle East Technical University (METU), which is the most prestigious university in engineering in Turkey. Both BS programs have been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET (Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology).
Because my ambition was to become a top researcher on the subject at the global level and to be a forerunner to expand its application in further areas in large scale, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and completed my Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering and Earth Science Department at Clemson University (Clemson, SC, USA). I did my Master’s degree thesis on superfine powdered activated carbon adsorption.
After that, I decided to put my advancement in Environmental Studies to the test of industrial experience. To this end, I worked for three years as an Environmental Process Engineer in Petroleum Refinery, the top company in the energy sector in Turkey with four Refineries. It proved to be the best place for me to expand my technical knowledge as well as apply my environmental expertise.
My experience in studies of refinery greenhouse gas emissions and air quality analysis diverted me to study in more detail about climate change. Although I appreciated my time in industry, I was sure that I could contribute to human knowledge better if I could work in research and development in environmental sciences. Thankfully, I was given an award with the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions and European Innovative Training Network program as an Early Stage Researcher in Royal Holloway University of London.
What was your PhD about?
My PhD experience gives me a chance to explore new and advanced environmentally sustainable methodologies for mobile methane measurement tools and networks, stable carbon isotopic signature analysis, and modelling at different scales. I mainly worked on the isotopically characterization of methane emissions from waste sources, such as biogas plants, landfill areas, wastewater treatment plants and composting facilities in the Europe, specifically in the UK.
I had a chance to work with my non-academic partners from the landfill operators in the UK and delivered positive outcomes that will be published in my next paper.
What type of research experience do you have?
In addition to my industrial experience, I worked in the lab, the field and on the computer as well during my academic life. I collected air samples in the field, used different kind of analytical tools in the lab, and interpreted them by using computer programmes, such as R or Python.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I've been skiing since I was four, thanks to my father for teaching me! Besides the beautiful beaches, we have quite a lot of mountains for skiing in Turkey.
I love the theatre and acting. During my industrial placement, I was head of the theatre club for a year. I performed live performances on stage for two plays. One of them was a part of a social responsibilities project to combat violence against women. For this purpose, we performed this play on different platforms, even in three different prisons. We aimed to draw the attention of people from all different backgrounds. This was a glorious experience for me, both being a part of the social responsibility project and improving my acting skills.
So tell us about your new role in the SGI?
My new role focuses on methane emissions, specifically biomethane emissions, and hydrogen emissions to identify key emissions sources from their supply chain. I will develop innovative comparative technology studies, using environmental software such as GaBi, with process simulation software such as Aspen Hysys.
I am interfacing with different MEng student projects, MSc and PhD students, postdoctoral researchers at Imperial as well as across the world. I will assist teaching of undergraduate and postgraduate modules, conducting lectures, tutorials and the planning and marking of coursework and examinations. I will present my research from the team to industry and policy stakeholders.
What originally motivated you to work in this area of research?
My main motivation is to discover new approaches in our scientific field and help universe to achieve net zero emissions. I feel like we owe a duty to future generations to prevent global warming. We all have to consider the planet and fight climate change. As a member of a team in the Sustainable Gas Institute at Imperial College London, we can open new frontiers in the field of a sustainable environment.
What are your dreams for the future?
I have experience in both academic and industrial life. I would also like to be a part of a committee to lead the world in climate change policy while doing my academic research and giving an advice to industry at the same time. It will be really exciting to see research impact on the industry by making new policy.
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Department of Chemical Engineering