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Looking back at the 4TU.Energy PhD Course - November 2023

Thursday, 7 December 2023

On 20 and 21 November 2023, the first edition of PhD course organized by 4TU.Energy was well received by the 40 attending PhD candidates.

Among these participants the majority was from the University of Eindhoven with a delegation of 19 candidates, 8 were from WUR, 7 from TU Delft, 3 from UTwente, and we welcomed 3 PhD candidates from the University of Groningen!

We are proud to quote some positive feedback from the PhD candidates:

‚ÄúThank you for organizing this 4TU energy PhD event in Utrecht. I gained a lot. Looking forward to more cooperation and contact in the future!‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI really enjoyed the course. It was very enlightening to obtain insights on the energy transition from the different perspectives and disciplines.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI appreciated the course very much: I learned much from topics that are not connected to my research and found them very interesting. The level of the presentations was understandable and all presenters were very engaging.‚ÄĚ

The annual PhD course aims to enable knowledge transfer and build the capacity of young researchers to learn from and to reflect on timely energy topics. Each year the course program is curated by the scientific committee members who are the experts on the program topics.

For this year the course focused on ‚ÄúSustainability, Systems and Societal Aspects in Energy Transition‚ÄĚ. We had the following scientific committee members on board:

-        Dr. Pedro P. Vergara, TU Delft, Intelligent electrical power grids

-        Dr. DuJuan Yang, TU/e, Energy smart system in built environment

-        Dr. Canan Acar, UTwente, System modeling/transition/integration

-        Dr. ir. Keerthivasan Rajamani , UTwente, Heat transfer/Refrigerator

-        Dr. ir. Akbar Asadi Tashvigh, WUR, Biomass/Hydrogen fuel cell

-        Dr. Mattijs Smits, WUR, Sustainable energy/Energy policy


The program of the PhD course 2023

Through this year’s PhD course, the participants attended lectures and presentations not only from the scientific committee members but also from guest speakers, who contributed with different perspectives, such as the Province of North Brabant and TNO.

We look back on two fully packed and fruitful days

The first day began with the welcome speech of our scientific director - David Smeulders and two inspiring presentations from Sven Stremke and Floor Alkemade.

Sven Stremke holds a senior Associate Professor (ius promovendi) position in Landscape Architecture, at Wageningen University. His presentation was on ‚ÄúThe Systemic Power of Landscape: Sustainability and Societal Aspects in the Energy Transition‚ÄĚ;

Floor Alkemade holds a Full Professor and Chair position in Economics and Governance of Technological Innovation at TU/e. Her presentation was on ‚ÄúSocial Tipping Dynamics in the Energy Transition‚ÄĚ.

David Smeulders

Speech from Scientific Director of 4TU.Energy, David Smeulders, bidding all participants and speakers welcome.


Floor Alkemade received a thank-you gift from Sha Lou, coordinator of 4TU.Energy, after her presentation


Sven Stremke opened his presentation by introducing his book which bridges the gap between renewable energy and spatial designers

A glimpse of the fully packed day 

After the lunch break, all PhD candidates had the opportunity to pitch their research projects. It was pleasing to see all the skills they have acquired during the 4TU.Energy PhD Pitch Training. Based on the vote results, the best pitch winner was Freek Karacoban, from WUR. Congratulations!


Freek Karacoban received the Best Pitch Award from the session moderator ‚Äď Canan Acar

After the pitch session, Dujuan Yang and Keerthivasan Rajamani gave the first main lecture on ‚ÄúSmart and Sustainable Built Environment Using Solar-Hydrogen System‚ÄĚ.

Dujuan works on addressing urban development challenges with a focus on supporting smart, sustainable, and evidence-based decision-making processes; while Keerthivasan is an expert on hydrogen and thermal science and technology with a focus on magnetocaloric refrigeration.

This lecture was followed by the presentation from Andre Faaij who is the Director of Science of TNO Energy & Materials Transition and holds a position as a full professor in Energy System Analysis at Utrecht University and the University of Groningen. Andre shared his insights about ‚ÄúAccelerating the Energy Transition and Industrial Transformation‚ÄĚ, which gave food for thought and started interesting discussions during dinner at NH Utrecht Hotel.

The theme of the evening program was Contested Windscapes, a table game in which wind turbines are supposed to be installed in a certain area. The PhD candidates played different stakeholder roles to together make the best decisions and deals for an optimal outcome.

The second day started with a lecture from the managing director of EIRES - Mark Boneschanscher about ‚ÄúModular Scaling to Speed Up the Energy Transition‚ÄĚ followed by the main lecture from Mattijs Smits on ‚ÄúInterdisciplinarity in energy research: why (not)?‚ÄĚ.

Mark gave a comprehensive overview of the current status of the Energy Transition and shared his opinions on how to speed up the transition from modular scaling; the presentation from Mattijs who is a social scientist at WUR, was nicely combined with an interactive workshop, during which the PhD candidates discussed the topic ‚ÄúHow (un)suitable is your project for interdisciplinary approach‚ÄĚ.

group discussion

Group discussion during Mattijs Smits’ workshop

active participants

Participants were active during Q&A

After the lunch break, the afternoon program began with the last main lecture given by Pedro Vergara Barrios and Akbar Asadi Tashvigh, with the titles ‚ÄúImpact of the Energy Transition on the Dutch Electricity Infrastructure‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúThe Dynamics of Energy Networks and Carriers‚ÄĚ; besides the academic position as assistant professors, both Pedro and Akbar are also the young board members of 4TU.Energy, actively contributing to the research and education support of 4TU.Energy.

The program ended with the presentation on ‚ÄúRegional Perspective on Energy Transition‚ÄĚ by Coen de Graaf who is the policy advisor for the Province of North Brabant and project leader of Interregional Innovation and Energy Transition.

The PhD course was evaluated by the attending PhD candidates, you can read the anonymous results here.

The pre-course Pitch training provided by professional trainer - Elroy Training, was evaluated by attending PhD candidates as well, you can read the anonymous results here.