FURCA Opens Doors

A passion for research guides international student towards career goals.

By Sarah Bowes on April 29, 2016

(Edmonton) The conversation over crude oil's effects on the climate is a hot topic that won't burn out any time soon.

The science is undebatable, and second year undergraduate student Meor Muhammad Hakeem Meor Hashim, from Malaysia, is passionate about it. In particular, Meor is examining molecular effects through his major in petroleum engineering.

As part of his degree, Meor decided to investigate the reaction of oil in water and its potential environmental effects. His goal - to help solve environmental issues; and what better way than through the Festival of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (FURCA ) an opportunity to conduct research at an undergraduate level. FURCA showcases research and creative achievements of undergraduate students across disciplines. This year, University of Alberta International (UAI) was a proud partner sponsor with FURCA.

The award consisted of a certificate and a $250 cash prize was awarded to Meor for his outstanding research on asphaltene. He was delighted to be this year's winner. For his outstanding research on asphaltene

Meor had applied to the Festival of Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities (FURCA) out of the pure joy of expanding his knowledge and sinking his hands into tangible research. Meor originally heard about FURCA by volunteering for Undergraduate Research Initiatives (URI). "I started by getting involved in URI as a volunteer; I became interested in research projects and asked my faculty student advisor, about entering, and they encouraged me to participate."

Meor has a natural interest in petroleum engineering and this program allowed him to explore the research beyond his textbooks. It was very exciting, "I was recognized for my research as an undergraduate! He explains.

We sat down with Meor to congratulate him and hear more about his research.

Thanks for meeting with me! Can you share what your FURCA research project was about?

I explored asphaltene properties (the molecular substances found in crude oil) and the behavioural reaction of combining oil/water. I used a camera to capture a drop of oil in water and analyzed the interfacial tension (the adhesive force between the liquid phase of one substance and either a solid, liquid or gas phase of another).

Why did this particular research interest you?

I wanted to understand the effects of oil in water and its potential environmental effects; I hope to be able to apply my findings to help solve environmental issues. I also wanted to expand what I learned in the classroom directly into a research project.

How long did you work on your project?

My Chemical engineering professors were already conducting research and they suggested I examine this one element: the effect of oil in water. My project took 3 months to complete.

Where do you want to go from here?

I am interested in exploring a variety of other research projects. I plan to volunteer this summer for more research work in petroleum, I really want to continue to expand my investigation in asphaltene as well as other behavioural relations between petroleum and the environment.

What are your future plans?

I was sponsored to study at UAlberta by Petronas, a Malaysian petroleum company, so I plan to return to Malaysia to work for them for a little while. My ultimate goal is to get field experience for a few years and then, eventually, return to university to do a Ph.D. and become a professor.

But first, I really look forward to having more hands-on experiences.

Do you have any tips to share with international students interested in FURCA?

Yes! Follow your passion, find what you're passionate about and apply for FURCA! My passion for research on asphaltene pushed me to apply! I love what I researched, and the research results really motivated me to complete my project.

Here are some more tips I would recommend:

  1. Find a supervisor and ask to help them conduct their research; FURCA isn't limited to Sciences, all faculties can apply.
  2. Start your research before you start your application, it will help you write a better proposal, and then use your findings to support your FURCA application.
  3. Meet with an undergrad research initiative (URI;) they offer great support and one-on-one consulting
  4. You will have a great experience when you work on a FURCA project. I gained a lot out of my experience, not only did I get positive results through my research; I got experience public speaking in English.