Contribute to accelerating the energy transition

Sha Lou is from China and obtained her PhD in Biomedicine Application from Leiden University Medical Centre in 2016. She participated in a research project on Kidney-on-Chip for cure and care as a postdoc at Eindhoven University of Technology. Since September 2022, Sha Lou is the coordinator for the 4TU.Energy centre.

Sha Lou at Eindhoven University of Technology

What is your role in 4TU.Energy? “In my role as coordinator for 4TU.Energy, my responsibilities are daily management and coordination of activities in 4TU.Energy and the collaboration with other knowledge centres.”

You have a strong background as a researcher, why did you choose to pursue a different direction in your career? “I wish to make an impact on a wider scope and aspire to extend the reach of my work. During my time as a researcher, I experienced conducting research as delving deep into a solitary point in a vast network of nodes. Along the way, I discovered that my passion really lies with supporting research, which I compare to weaving a meaningful tapestry in this network of countless nodes. This approach offers a great potential to explore possibilities and connect with so many single nodes. It gives me the opportunity to prioritize and to work in creative ways; it also gives me the opportunity to look at research from a helicopter-view and I value that highly.”

Concrete examples that contribute to accelerating the energy transition

Sha: “My work is aligned with our mission: ‘4TU.Energy strives to accelerate society’s transition to a carbon-neutral future by fostering connections within its energy community and leveraging their expertise.’ I focus especially on fostering connections and leveraging the expertise of our members.” This means that Sha works on a number of projects: Focus on research support by updating the research map; to support education with the development of a curriculum overview; to support the community by organizing an annual Community Day; an annual PhD course; andhelp organize the MSc honours track ‘Responsible Sustainability Challenge’. The goal of these projects is community building and knowledge transfer, which are the stepstones towards the energy transition.

Charting the landscape of energy-related research and education

Sha continues: “In 4TU.Energy, our objective is to map out the energy-related research initiatives across the four universities of technology in the Netherlands. This research map sheds light on “who is working on what,” and as a result facilitates the identification of common interests and unexplored areas within the energy domain. Over the next year, we will dedicate our efforts to an overview of the diverse curricula offered within the BSc and MSc programs specializing in Energy. This endeavour is designed to provide students and educators with insights into the course offerings and thus to find the best fit for both groups within our community.”

Cultivating a collaborative community

Sha Lou’s foremost emphasis lies in strengthening the bonds within the community while simultaneously concentrating on research and education. “To put this mission into practice,” Sha tells, “we have established two key events on our calendar: the Annual Community Day and the PhD Course. The 4TU.Energy Community Day serves as a platform for researchers to forge connections, expand their professional network, and seek inspiration from their peers. Our aim is to promote a sense of Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ and mutual support within our community.”

Each year, the Community Day centres around a specific theme, with the 2024 edition focusing on the evolving energy landscape and forthcoming funding opportunities.

Capacity developing courses and programs for students: research and education go hand in hand

The annual PhD course aims to build capacity of young researchers by enabling PhD candidates to learn from and to reflect on energy topics. This year is a first, and for future PhD courses we intend to invite a different scientific committee each time to curate the programme. The topic for this year is “Sustainability, Systems and Societal aspects in Energy Transition”. This year’s PhD course is fully booked, and the programme consists of academic lectures as well as presentations from different contributors, such as the Province of Noord Brabant and TNO. In addition to acquiring a broader-perspective understanding of energy topics on an academic level, the PhD candidates will also receive support in honing their soft skills, including pitch training. Sha: “The pitch training is scheduled to take place just before the PhD course in November, and I am eager to observe its impact.”

The MSc honours track “Responsible Sustainability Challenge”, often referred to as RSC, is developed in collaboration with other 4TU.centres: 4TU.High-Tech Materials and 4TU.Ethics and Technology. This track offers a unique opportunity take part in interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-university learning (at TU Delft, TU Eindhoven and University of Twente). The educational approach within this track is rooted in Challenge-Based Learning, with a blend of live events and online mentoring from both academic teachers and companies who provided the real-life challenges. “This year is the second year that we organize this honours track and I hope for its growth in terms of student participation. When the track takes off this year, I will be hosting a live event welcoming these talented students at TU Eindhoven!” says Sha.

“What is most important to me, is the bonding within 4TU.Energy, for researchers and for students alike. I would be delighted to see this community expanding in numbers of participants, collaborative projects and programs that we undertake together.”

Mastering the coordination puzzle

With over a year of work experience as a coordinator for 4TU.Energy, Sha has encountered various challenges and opportunities: “Our shared vision and goals provide a sense of unity and purpose, which I find comforting in dealing with the day-to-day challenges. In my daily practice, I’ve learned the importance of time management and person-oriented communication approach. Ultimately, my intention is to facilitate researchers’ ideas and contribute to achieving significant milestones in the energy transition. Performing the coordination work feels sometimes like playing a puzzle game, which is one of my hobbies”, smiles Sha.

Bridging the gap: Sha’s views on the Dutch energy transition

Asked what Sha thinks of the energy transition in the Netherlands, she says: “While I am not an energy expert, I find the current developments in the field encouraging. There are many ideas and projects within academia and industry. However, a gap exists between our aspirations and tangible achievements. The hot topic of hydrogen is a clear example. While numerous ideas for hydrogen production, storage, and use exist, they are not yet mature enough to implement on a large scale. As a support staff member, my commitment is to bolster research projects. I look forward to and I enjoy being part of a team consisting of smart and dedicated colleagues, working together to address the energy transition!”

Please contact Sha Lou by sending her an email.

This article was published on the website of 4TU.Energy in November 2023 for the “Meet our Energizer!” series.