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Interview with a PDEng trainee: Muhammad Faizan Rabbani

Why Muhammad chose for a PDEng traineeship

“With a PDEng you focus on design instead of research”

Who: Muhammad Faizan Rabbani
Country of origin: Pakistan
PDEng at: Faculty of Engineering Technology, Surface Technology and Tribology, UTwente

Muhammad is a Mechanical Engineer and a Materials Science Engineer with a focus on Tribology, the science of wear, friction, and lubrication, and encompasses how interacting surfaces and other tribo-elements behave in relative motion in natural and artificial systems. He is currently working on wet tire grip with Apollo Tyres as a PDEng Trainee at UTwente.

Academics and industry
You could describe Muhammad as a cosmopolitan, he has lived and studied in many different countries. Born in Pakistan, he started his schooling in Lahore. After he obtained his Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, he worked one year in the petroleum industry and two years in the industrial equipment manufacturing industry. He felt the need to study more and got selected for a Master's program in Russia. He also joined the Erasmus program and studied in Leeds, United Kingdom, Ljubljana, Slovenia and moved for his thesis to Coimbra, Portugal. When Muhammad finished his masters he got an offer for a Ph.D., but a senior from his program in Portugal told Muhammad about the PDEng programs in the Netherlands. “I checked it out online, read about the opportunities in Eindhoven and Twente and was fascinated by the synergy of academics and industry in these programs.”

Solutions for today’s problems
“What I like about the PDEng, is that I work on today's problems instead of something that might be a solution in fifteen years, like often is the case with Ph.D research. The PDEng has a much more practical approach. I work on my academic skills and solve design challenges. I can be part of the change of a product for a company and I can see how my solution is tested at their lab. This is for me an engine of motivation. For Apollo, my designs and solutions can make a difference for the company and the customers. Tires have a label for the grip level, regulated by the EU. This label corresponds with the grip performance you should expect from the tires you buy. I work on wet grip testing and I am designing a friction tester which the company uses for improving compounds. For me, this is a design assignment, backed by science. It is all about the further improvement of safety while driving in wet weather conditions.”

Help from the university
Muhammad is very enthusiastic about living in the Netherlands. “I’m enjoying myself, I love being here. Of course, there are some minuses, but that’s something you will always have, no matter where you are. I love the way of working here. The university is very supportive and helped me with housing and the paperwork. One thing that didn’t work out well was that I had to move out of my apartment, arranged by the university, after one year. I knew this in advance, but it wasn’t very convenient. My PDEng program takes two years and it took me two to three months to find an apartment for a year. There aren’t a lot of furnished apartments for rent, so I had to buy a lot of new stuff for an apartment I will be living in for a year.”

Work as a designer
Currently, Muhammad is halfway with his PDEng. How does he see his future? “When I finish my PDEng, my first choice is to work in the industry as a designer. Having a design degree makes that I can see past the context of the problem and also past society and the company. I am focused on working on solutions. Right now I would like to do anything that is tribology focused. This is such a growing field with a lot of jobs and is present in every field. For the future, I would like to work for the automotive sector, equipment manufacturers or tire industry in a leadership position, aiming towards improving engineering systems. I would love to work in the Netherlands because of the welcoming environment for cultural diversity. I see Scandinavia and Germany also as potential options.”

The right mindset for a PDEng
“People who are thinking about applying for a PDEng should join with the right mindset; you are going to be in design instead of research. You learn to manage stakeholders and work on your management skills overall. Also, keep in mind you have to spend 45 ECTS on in-depth and broadening courses you can study to enhance your knowledge about the subject you are working on and at least 6 ECTS are about improving personal skills. I can recommend the ‘Professional effectiveness course’ about understanding yourself as a professional including your strengths and what you need to improve about yourself. It equips you with a good framework, which in the future helps to settle in at a company more easily. Everything you learn gives you confidence. For people who are enthusiastic about their industrial career but feel limited due to lack of professional skills, PDEng will help you not only to diversify your subject oriented knowledge but also offers you courses that will help you to fit in a professional environment successfully.”