Dealing with multidisciplinary challenges


As an electrical engineer, I’ve been always thinking of finding and optimizing the solutions for problems. As a good starting point, I worked with micro-controllers for monitoring sensors, collecting signals and controlling electronic devices in bachelor studies. Then, getting familiar with machine learning and various datasets, in master’s degree, led me into a new world. However, something was always missing. Making an objective function is considerably problem depended. So, how could I be beneficial, in real-life problems, without being involved in multidisciplinary aspects?

In our FibreNet project, we are working on bio-based fibers to help making the world green and more sustainable. So, Why am I in FibreNet?

One of my tasks is to make the micro-robotics platform more automated for mechanical properties measurements of fibers. When I started my research in collaboration with other researchers, with different fields, I felt like a foreigner. Without any background in Chemistry, Materials and Mechanics, it was hard to understand the needs, challenges, bottlenecks and feasible solutions.

Fortunately, in the FiberNet ITN project, the secondment strategy has been so that we could collaborate in action. This opportunity directedly helped me to get started with bio-based fibers during Matin Rostamitabar’s secondment visit in our micro-robotics lab at Tampere university. As a booster to me, we worked on measuring mechanical properties of cellulose-based aerogel fibers using micro-robotics platform. The fibers are so delicate and brittle at the thickness of 60-350 µm. Thus, the challenges of tensile properties measurement and time-consuming data collection showed up. Gradually, I’ve learned to improve our micro-robotics platform towards automated measurements for more precise and faster data collection.

The second step, in my multidisciplinary career, has been my secondment visit in paper mechanics group, at KTH university. The group is working on characterization of pulp and paper fibers and products. Again, new concepts and challenges (e.g. from preparation to manipulation and tests related to pulp fibers with ~20µm thickness and 1-3mm length) came up. So, the final micro-robotics functionality should be compliant with different types of fibers.

In parallel with our secondment visits, the Network Wide Training Events (NWTEs) give a good overview of individual projects in which all researchers could find some points for collaboration and learn about problem depended challenges.

These situations helped me think more realistic and figure out how I can be beneficial for high level objectives of FibreNet project.

In the world of fast running developments, we can say the most productive way is such a multidisciplinary infrastructure. In fact, in the modern development, role-playing of all scientific fields should be considered.



Ali Zarei

ESR2 - Tampere University