International student looks to renewables

Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Ali Asghar '20

There are times in the Pakistani neighborhood where Ali Asghar ’20 grew up that the electricity still goes out for hours; sometimes, half the day. It is estimated that some 50 million people across the country don’t have access to the energy grid. If all goes according to plan, Asghar could be part of the future that changes that.

Asghar is a chemical engineering major, with a focus on energy. He wants to work in research and development, particularly with renewable energy options. And he wants to do it in Pakistan.

“Right now I’m interested in any job in the field but given the future, and the need to come up with alternatives to fossil fuels, I’d like to work on renewable energy,” Asghar says. “The switch won’t happen overnight. We need to start with clean energy and then move more toward renewable.” According to U.S. government statistics, 64 percent of Pakistan’s energy comes from fossil fuels, with 27 percent coming from hydropower and 9 percent from renewables and nuclear power.

During his time at UNH, Asghar has served as a mentor at the student-run Makerspace, a place where students have access to such tools as 3-D printers, a laser cutter/engraver, and software programs, among others, that they can use to bring their ideas into being. He also works at Philbrick’s Dining Hall and as a freelance photographer for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Asghar is past-president of the UNH Photography Society.

“Right now I’m interested in any job in the field but given the future, and the need to come up with alternatives to fossil fuels, I’d like to work on renewable energy."

In 2019, Asghar completed an internship with SMARTwheel, makers of an intelligent steering wheel cover that helps prevent distracted driving. “It was a great experience,” Asghar says. “It was the kind of research and development work I like to do.” UNH’s research reputation and its facilities were factors in choosing to attend, Asghar says, noting he had applied to other schools.

When he started at UNH, he arrived a week early so he could get settled. Relatives from Chicago helped him with the move.

"After the first few days I started meeting people. It was interesting — I’m used to eating lunch and dinner later but when I’d walk out of my room at 8 o’clock at night, expecting things to be lively, it was so quiet,” Asghar says.

“Going to school here has definitely been different but it’s been great in so many ways,” he says. “Especially being on my own. I’ve picked up how to cook, I’m definitely more responsible and I’ve done some interesting things; when I was a sophomore, I went to church on Easter with a friend. And I’ve met a lot of people.”

His focus now has shifted to after graduation, to going home and finding a job. But he is open to  anything that will help get him started. During a recent UNH career and internship fair, he talked with representatives from Fuji Films, and found their work interesting.

“They have some cool internships,” Asghar says. “I’d like to get a job but at this point, I’m keeping my options open.”

Jeremy Gasowski | UNH Marketing | | 603-862-4465