Sara Shafiee's awards became the shortcut to world-renowned research environments in manufacturing

On November 30, 2017, Sara Shafiee was on the stage at MADE’s Annual Meeting, receiving the 2017 Alexander Foss MADE Award and a standing ovation from the large audience.

She was acknowledged for her research within modularization and how configuration systems can be used in engineering and industry to combine customer specific solutions with short production time.

The research was conducted in collaboration with Haldor Topsøe as Sara Shafiee was an Industrial PhD from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

Haldor Topsøe has been able to realize remarkable benefits from the IT solution that Sara Shafiee has developed as a member of a broader research team and together with the company.

Just a few months after receiving the Alexander Foss MADE Award, Sara Shafiee was also honored with Innovation Fund Denmark’s Industrial Researcher’s Prize.

"The impact of receiving the awards from Denmark was actually my starting point for building trust and professional relationships with well-known researchers in other parts of the world," Sara Shafiee says.

"I was accepted and welcomed to make publications together with them and visit their research teams, not only because of my own publication record but also because of the the honor of receiving these awards," she continues.

Visit in Belgium: digging into a new discipline

The Alexander Foss MADE Award consisted of a travel grant of 70.000 DKK. Thanks to that grant, Sara Shafiee has been able to plan and complete two visits, attend four conferences and publish and present several research papers.

Sara Shafiee’s first visit was at KU Leuven, one of the world’s most renowned universities, on the Campus of Brussels. At the university, she visited Yves Wautelet, Head of the Research Centre for Information Systems Engineering, and the team he manages for research on Agile Software Development methods like Scrum.

"I was connected to Yves while I was working on my article on how to benefit from Scrum methods to accelerate the development process for configuration projects. As a cross-disciplinary contribution, it was not possible to wrap up this research without his knowledge and expertise," Sara Shafiee says.

"We have continued our mutually beneficial collaboration since then. This connection has resulted in presenting papers in a couple of conferences that subsequently led to new collaborations and publishing journal papers," the Iranian born researcher continues.

Visit in Hong Kong: inspired by a different work culture

Next up was the University of Hong Kong as Sara Shafiee was writing a paper about modularization in construction industry and had to discuss some topics with someone with deep knowledge and expertise within that specific field. The challenge of building relationships to and work with the relevant researchers in Hong Kong proved to be twofold.

"It was not difficult to find an academically known researcher like George Q. Huang but building the relationship and convincing him to collaborate could be an interesting challenge," Sara Shafiee says. 

George Q. Huang is Chair Professor and Head of Department at Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at The University of Hong Kong. At the department they have access to an extended lab with Industry 4.0 facilities and a team working on all aspects of Industry 4.0 including VR, MR, additive manufacturing, big data analysis and so on.

Sara had the chance to meet him, visit the lab and initiate research collaborations. Then she was inspired by a completely different way of working and conducting research at the University of Hong Kong. 

"My visit in Hong Kong was totally a different experience in terms of research style compared to Europe. It helped me to recognize the culture, style, feeling, and understanding of the research team while I learned a lot from George and his way of management during this very short visit," Sara Shafiee explains and elaborates:

"Even though the whole team was so busy, they welcomed me warmly and shared their knowledge generously. The hardworking enthusiastic working style at the university motivated, inspired, and empowered me with the new skills and mentality in my future research."

Planning new collaborations and visits

Sara Shafiee obtained her PhD degree in September 2017 and since then she has been working as a Postdoc at DTU within the MADE Digital platform.

The visits abroad and the chance to build up relations to acknowledged researchers in other countries have been highly relevant to Sara Shafiee. After obtaining her PhD, she has started broadening her expertise by looking at other research fields and by conducting cross-disciplinary research.

“Writing and publishing in cross-disciplinary area brings experts from both fields together and helps them develop an academic platform. Visiting different research groups not only ended up initiating a specific research project but also enabled me to know the most hard-working researchers in the world and their research and work style. It also expanded my network indirectly to know other researchers working in different domains,” Sara Shafiee explains and turns to specific output of the visits and the conferences, she has been attending:

“I have published more than 10 conference papers and I am expecting to have more than five journal papers as the direct and indirect outcome from my very short visits. Besides that, I am currently planning several other collaborations, projects, fundings and upcoming visits.”

Sara Shafiee

  • Sara Shafiee is currently Postdoc at DTU Mechanical Engineering and in the MADE Digital work package Digital Design
  • Her research is centered around modularization and product configuration systems in engineering
  • Was the winner of the Alexander Foss MADE Award in 2017 and the Innovation Fund Denmark’s Industrial Researcher Prize in 2018.
  • Recently Sara Shafiee was also appointed as one of the eight ambassadors on Innovation Fund Denmark´s new Gender Sounding Board to inspire more females in technical research areas.

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