Tell us something about yourself.
I am Mina Hakim, an international student at ITMO University. My Master’s program offers a double degree, so I will spend the first two semesters at ITMO and then transfer to ITMO’s partner Zittau/Goerlitz University of Applied Sciences (HSZG University) in Germany. I am also one of the winners of the Open Doors entrance competition, in which I was ranked 6th overall.
What subject did you select in Open Doors?
I selected chemistry because my program – Industrial Ecology – is a part of the Faculty of Biotechnologies and chemistry is a vital subject in Biotech. My project is also related to this field. I am working on methods of mitigating carbon dioxide emissions. In the framework of our course, we study various chemicals that pollute the environment. We are also taught about several organic and inorganic materials that can be used to purify the environment.
Can you elaborate on your project?
Sure! It is focused on developing sustainable strategies to reduce carbon emissions. This is the need of the hour due to the rapidly increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the environment. I am investigating materials that might be able to efficiently absorb carbon dioxide from the air. My supervisor, Anastasia Pavlova, is a very talented person. She is a great science communicator and is passionate about conserving the environment, eating healthy, and women in STEM.
What are the potential outcomes of your research project?
This project can have a lot of impact on the world, especially in developing countries. The goal is to manufacture a portable carbon-capturing machine that would be able to absorb carbon dioxide and thus bring down the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide would then be turned into fertilizer or fuel and reused. This is essentially a hypothesis to recycle CO2 with negligible wastage.
So what are some of the hotspots for carbon emission?
There are factories and automobiles in Egypt that contribute to the huge amount of carbon emissions. My country is suffering a lot due to global warming. Many other countries are facing such problems as well. An interesting fact that many people do not know is that a large amount of carbon is emitted by restaurants and cafes. Therefore, in a city, there are quite a few carbon emission hotspots and each of these would be our customers once we launch our product.
What do you plan to do after completing your Master’s studies?
I am not quite sure yet, but I have two plans in mind. Either I will pursue a PhD in environmental science or I will take a job in the sustainable development sector. I really want to contribute to projects related to the conservation of the environment. However, at this point, it seems the first option has a greater probability of happening.
Where do you want to work in the future?
My dream is to either work in Russia or in Germany. Russia is a beautiful country with picturesque monuments and architecture. It would be great to live and work here. The second option would be Germany because I have many friends who work there. I have heard from them that Germany is very good in terms of work ethics. So, I might give it a shot as well.
How do you feel about the weather in Russia?
It is quite a new experience for me. As you might know, the climate in Egypt is hot and humid. Even during winters, the temperature is usually somewhere around 15 degrees. But in St. Petersburg, the temperatures have already gone below freezing. To be honest, I like this weather a lot. After experiencing the heat for so many years, the snow really feels nice.
What are your plans for the winter?
I am a very active person. I have a number of hobbies. I play volleyball, soccer, and table tennis. I even represented my university in volleyball at the national level. I also play the guitar and sing. I also like participating in debates and literary events. In the past, I have won a number of awards. So, I want to participate in such events here as well. While I was in Egypt, I used to volunteer for an organization called Enactus. I am sure they also work in Russia, so I will definitely be looking to join them.
Where do you live in St. Petersburg?
I’m at one of ITMO’s dorms located on Alpiysky Lane 15. It is a very cozy place to live in. The building is clean and equipped with all modern amenities. We also have a gym in our dorm. I am a very lucky guy because my roommate is an old friend of mine from Egypt. We used to study at the same university. It is really great to share a room with someone whom you have known for years. He came here a few months earlier than me, so he knows the city better. He is my go-to person for everything.
What has your experience with ITMO’s Buddy System been like?
I really like the concept. My buddy Karen is a really helpful person. Having a local buddy is always so good. It helps international students to settle down better in a new country.
Do you cook your own food?
Yes, I cook my own food although I am not good at cooking. I can make a few dishes like pasta. My roomie is a great cook. Whenever he has some spare time, he cooks for both of us. With respect to Russian food, I am still adapting to it. I really like blini and pelmeni. I was also surprised to find out how different the McDonalds and the KFCs are here. The food they serve is pretty different from what is available in Egypt.
Do you like traveling?
Yes, I do like traveling and I am going on a few trips soon. Apart from sightseeing in St. Petersburg, I want to visit some of the other well-known tourist destinations in Russia such as Kazan, Moscow, and Sochi. I will also be going on some field trips with my supervisor regarding my project. That is something I am really looking forward to.