18 April 2019

A more sustainable future

Soheil Mohseni
Iranian PhD student

Soheil's goal is to build the sustainable energy systems of the future.

When I was looking for somewhere to study for my PhD, I knew I wanted to work with one of the world’s most recognised scientists in renewable energy systems.

That’s because I am passionate about bringing clean energy to people in remote communities around the world, so they can power their schools, hospitals and other public institutions without using fossil fuels.

I was in contact with many prominent professors, and had offers from universities in many countries. But I chose New Zealand because it was an opportunity to work with Professor Alan Brent at Victoria University of Wellington.

Alan is one of the leading global experts in my field, with a really profound level of knowledge.

It was also a chance to study in a country that is a pioneer in renewable energy. People in New Zealand are actually installing renewable energy systems, not just talking about them. At least 50% of the energy in the electricity sector of New Zealand is supplied by hydropower, which is a clean energy source.

When I knew I was coming to New Zealand, I got married. I’d been in a relationship for eight years, and we wanted to go to a country where we could build a life together.

My wife, Maral, who is a fluid mechanics engineer, got a scholarship to do a PhD at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Her supervisor did us a big favour by allowing her to work here in Wellington, in the building next to mine.

To me, New Zealand is like a piece of paradise. It’s very beautiful, and the people here are so warm and welcoming. I feel really grateful to New Zealand for giving my wife and me the opportunity to be together and to do the work we are passionate about.

Since our first day here, Maral and I have both been given everything we need for our research, from computer resources to financial support to attend conferences.

In New Zealand, everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and say what they actually think. If I wasn’t able to express my ideas, I wouldn’t have the freedom to go as deeply as I want to into my research area. It makes me feel even more excited about my research.

I've noticed this respect for all kinds of human rights by members of all segments of society in New Zealand.

Another difference about studying in New Zealand is that I call my professor Alan, not Professor Brent.

The work I’m doing here is about using artificial intelligence to realize a cost-effective solution for the deployment of stand-alone micro-grids: small-scale, free-standing power grids that can provide affordable, fast power to communities on islands or in remote areas.

Most of the existing solutions to provide electricity to remote areas rely on diesel generators, but we’re looking at ways to create sustainable systems using whatever renewable power sources are available in the area – wind, solar, hydropower, tidal, geothermal or bioenergy.

Previous generations didn’t know about the consequences of fossil fuels, but we do. Now we have to decide: do we only care about ourselves, or do we care about our children as well?

That’s why I’m here in New Zealand: so I can gain the knowledge to help local and global communities in their transition towards sustainable development. My dream is that one day I will also be able to help the people in my country.

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About the contributors
Soheil Mohseni
Iranian PhD student

Soheil Mohseni, from Iran, is an electric power engineer studying for a PhD in sustainable energy systems at Victoria University of Wellington. He moved to New Zealand with his wife, Maral, a fluid mechanics engineer who is also studying for her PhD.