NTNU Alumni

Alumni portraits

Read about our Alumni’s careers and contribution to society

 

Biraj Singh Thapa - Contributes to hydropower development in Nepal

Biraj Singh Thapa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Kathmandu University (KU) in his home country Nepal.

Thapa contributes to finding solutions to technical challenges through transferring knowledge acquired from NTNU and KU to local industries in Nepal. This is a significant contribution to the development of his country.

Biraj Singh Thapa - Contributes to hydropower development in Nepal

Biraj Singh Thapa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Kathmandu University (KU) in his home country Nepal.

Thapa contributes to finding solutions to technical challenges through transferring knowledge acquired from NTNU and KU to local industries in Nepal. This is a significant contribution to the development of his country.

Assistant Professor Kathmandu University. PhD in Fluids Engineering, 2013–2016.

 - I teach and supervise research to undergraduate and postgraduate students related to hydropower and hydraulic turbines. I also serve as the Faculty-in-Charge of the Turbine Testing Lab (TTL), which is one of the largest labs in my university and the only one of its kind in the region. Its vision is to support hydropower development in Nepal, and I have been part of TTL´s development from its conceptual phase.

What is the best part of your job – and what is most challenging?

The best part is training new students and researchers in my field, and at the same time learning from them. I also enjoy facing new technical challenges and scientific questions which need engineering solutions.

One of the most challenging parts of my job is to transfer knowledge to the local industries in Nepal. We work hard to convince local industries to cooperate closely with the academic institutions to find optimal solutions to the technical problems they are facing.

However, the most important challenge for me personally, is to keep motivating myself, my students and my fellow researchers to live and work in Nepal. We must use our knowledge and skills to further the development of our country.

What has been the most important competence you have brought with you from NTNU?  

During my professional training at NTNU, I learned an understanding of how research-based knowledge is fundamental for a society to prosper. The expertise I obtained from NTNU is used to build strategies and activities that can be practiced in a young institution like KU. This is also vital for my country´s development.

NTNU’s vision is “Knowledge for a better world”. How do you as an alumni contribute in bringing knowledge to your academic community and into society?

I do a lot actually! My team at KU are working on the new design philosophy of hydraulic turbines for sediment-laden flows with the aim to support local manufacturers in Nepal to produce better machines for the regional market in the future. The success of this mission will not only update the turbine technology developed at NTNU. It will also contribute to the development of hydropower in the Himalayan region supplying clean and affordable energy to the developing countries in this region. Bringing knowledge from the laboratory to the community through the local industries is my approach to implementing NTNU's vision in the Nepalese context. I take pride in being part of this process.

The research topic for my PhD was a specific problem of sediment erosion affecting the hydropower sector of my country and the region. The knowledge gained and transferred from NTNU has become a part of the basic education for my students at KU.

I also take part in organizing international symposia every year where students, mostly from NTNU and KU, can share their research ideas and progress as well as develop networks for future cooperation.

As a result of my network at NTNU, several new industry-based research projects have started jointly with the Waterpower Laboratory at NTNU. Together we are creating similar research standards and activities in KU that I was exposed to at NTNU.

You are currently also a member of the board of NTNU Alumni Nepal. What future aspirations do you have as a board member?  

My aspiration and priority as a board member is to link NTNU alumni from different academic and industrial backgrounds in Nepal and develop communication channels where they can unite. I want to align the expertise of the NTNU alumni to improve research-based education in Nepal. I will also work together with the other board members to build bridges for collaboration between relevant Norwegian industries and agencies and their counterparts in Nepal. The aim is to enable long-term and sustainable cooperation between Norway and Nepal.

Anna Sara Fjeld - as a graduate in business and administration from NTNU, she was welcome in the working world

Anna Sara Fjeld from Sarpsborg came to Trondheim in 2014 and took a master’s degree in economics and business administration at NTNU Business School, specializing in strategy and management. After graduating, she landed a job at the Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management here in Trondheim.  Anna Sara  had always found it difficult to imagine what she should become and had no career plans, but as a graduate in business and administration from NTNU, she was welcome in the working world.
Anna Sara Fjeld from Sarpsborg came to Trondheim in 2014 and took a master’s degree in economics and business administration at NTNU Business School, specializing in strategy and management. After graduating, she landed a job at the Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management here in Trondheim.  Anna Sara  had always found it difficult to imagine what she should become and had no career plans, but as a graduate in business and administration from NTNU, she was welcome in the working world.

Master in Economics and Business Administration, 2014-2016

Anna Sara Fjeld. Photo.

What is your current position? Can you tell us something about your duties and area of responsibility?

I am currently working as a project manager in the Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management (DFØ). Our vision is effective use of resources in the State, and we work with development and operation of financial systems for government organizations. I mainly work on getting more State organizations to start using our systems for payroll and accounting. I really enjoy my job. There are few sharp elbows here and I was given a lot of responsibility early on. My work tasks are not the most typical for a person with my academic background. I am not the number cruncher in the team, but have responsibility for planning, progress and implementation.

In the autumn, I will take leave from the job I have now to work as project manager in the environment and climate organization Framtiden i våre hender (the Future in our Hands). I love my job in DFØ, but I am really looking forward to the opportunity to work with climate issues in the region.

Now you have been working for a few years: can you tell us something about how graduates from NTNU Business School are ranked? How do they compare with other business school graduates?

I would say there is a high demand for Masters of Business and Administration from NTNU. I don't know of anyone who hasn't found a job after graduating. NTNU graduates are well regarded, and definitely no further behind in the queue than others.

What has been the most important skill you've taken with you from NTNU?

It must be that I have learned how to learn. In the working world, the tasks are complex and varied – and then it's incredibly important to be able to acquire new information, sort it and structure it. I have also brought with me the self-confidence and social commitment that I gained through the work of completing my master’s thesis.

Was the alumni network important for you as a student – to get an impression of the working world?

We have an annual alumni evening at the Business School, and it was always very interesting to take part. Alumni can help students to gain real insight into the working world and the opportunity to think about how they will use their education. But actually I have experienced a greater need for the alumni network since I graduated. I am very curious about what the others from my programme are doing and I want to stay updated on NTNU news and events.

NTNU’s vision is Knowledge for a Better World. In what way are you as an NTNU alumna helping to bring knowledge into society? Which problems and challenges are being solved?

We achieve a better world by making good choices, and every day I need to trust that the knowledge I have gained contributes to that. My colleagues and I are not politicians, but financial management helps create the foundation for the policy that is developed. Then it is important to be able to make good, well-considered choices. At the same time, it is important to have fun along the way. We must bring out the best in each other – we can challenge established ideas without pointing fingers! There are many problems and challenges in society, and the most important thing we can do is to be aware of what we choose – and what we choose to say no to.

Amritha Ballal – The best part of her job is also the most challenging

Amritha Ballal works as an architect at SpaceMatters, an architectural practice outside of New Delhi, India. The practice was founded in 2004 by Ballal with two colleagues, Suditya Sinha and Moulshri Joshi.
Amritha Ballal works as an architect at SpaceMatters, an architectural practice outside of New Delhi, India. The practice was founded in 2004 by Ballal with two colleagues, Suditya Sinha and Moulshri Joshi.

Since then it has become an award-winning design practice that has been consistently recognized as one of the leading design firms in India. In 2009-2011 she came to NTNU to do her MSc in Urban Ecological Planning, an experience she speaks warmly about, and she recently joined the board of the newly established international chapter, NTNU Alumni India/Bhutan.

Founding Partner at SpaceMatters 
MSc Urban Ecological Planning 2009-2011, NTNU

We asked Amritha some questions about her work and her connection to NTNU.

Amritha Ballal. Photo.

What is your current job position?  

– I hold the position as Founding Partner at an architectural practice called SpaceMatters. I founded the company together with two of my friends. We had freshly graduated and were working together as architects, and in 2005 we won the national competition for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Memorial. This was a very prestigious commission, and we have worked together ever since, with a vision to create socially sustainable design and inclusive cities.


What is the best part of your job – and what is the most challenging?  

– The best part is also the most challenging. I love that every day is filled with creativity. We work on a very diverse range of projects – it is always something new and I am always outside of my comfort zone. But with creative work comes a lot of responsibility, to contribute positively to the environmental, cultural and economic context in which we work.


As an architect, what are the most important skills you have learned at NTNU?  

– I learnt so much from the master’s programme, Urban Ecological Planning. Ten years ago, it was really a front-runner in Urban Planning and policy courses and very far thinking in its inclusive approach to urbanism. What they taught us back then has now become mainstream. But my stay at NTNU also taught me to adapt. Norway is such a contrast to India, in many ways, and to go somewhere so «unfamiliar» is very informative. Such shifts and exposure to new cultures gives a lot of valuable takeaways. I have also established a bigger network for myself – both professionally and personally. During my time in Norway I established deep friendships and our contact has been continuous since then. We collaborate on research as well as architecture projects, including with NTNU and Snøhetta.


NTNU’s vision is «knowledge for a better world». Can you say something about how you, as an alumni from NTNU, are contributing to this vision? 

– As an architect and urban planner, these are very interesting times, especially in India, as we try meeting the urgent challenges of explosive urbanization and climate change. We are increasingly focusing on restorative design and urban as well as rural ecology to work towards reconciling development imperatives with environmental and social goals. We are not just focused on building but invested in habitat related research and policy.


Finally, you are currently also a member of the board of NTNU Alumni India/Bhutan. What future aspirations do you have as a board member? 

– Being in India we are very far away from Norway and NTNU, but I think I am speaking for the board in general when I say that we feel very close and we are very happy to have established this network. The board has just been formed, so right now we have to start small to build our foundation. First of all, we will have to reconnect and create a community. Through it, we hope to establish a platform that will facilitate the mobility and exchange between Norway and India.


Haibo Chen – Got a top position with a PhD from NTNU

Haibo Chen took his master and doctor degree in marine technology at NTNU. Now he holds a senior technical position in a global company, Lloyd’s Register. 

Haibo Chen took his master and doctor degree in marine technology at NTNU. Now he holds a senior technical position in a global company, Lloyd’s Register. 

Principal Consultant at Lloyd's Register 
M.Sc. Marine Technology, 1997-1999
Dr.ing. Marine Technology 1999-2003

It’s more than 20 years since he came to Norway and NTNU for the first time, but Chen still remains devoted to his NTNU identity. He visits NTNU regularly and assists several Ph.D students, and lately, he’s made an even stronger connection between himself and NTNU, as vice chair of the NTNU Alumni chapter, China. The mandate of the chapter is to link NTNU with business and society in China in order to enhance cooperation and contribute to NTNU’s vision “Knowledge for a better world”. Together with his fellow board members, this international chapter is really leading the way. 


First of all, what is your current job position and how was your way out into working life? 

Haibo ChenWith a finished degree from NTNU, work life was very accessible. I was immediately hired in a Norwegian company, Scandpower, located in Oslo. It was actually love at first sight. Scandpower and I were a perfect match, both professionally and geographically. I had done just the right research within risk management, and they were setting up an office in Beijing and needed people there. This meant that I had the opportunity to transfer back to China, which I wanted on the long run. In 2010, Scandpower became a part of Lloyd Register. After working for years on various management positions as country and regional managers in Asia, I decided to focus on technology and now work as a principal consultant for technical matters. 


What was it about NTNU that made you travel to the other side of the world for your education? 

NTNU (or NTH as it was back then) had a cooperation agreement with the university where I initially was studying. I did my bachelor in naval architecture and marine engineering at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University between 1993 and 1997. In the autumn of 96, I was about to graduate, and I saw a fax posted on the wall – a call for applicants to do an international master at NTNU. I saw that I fit the conditions, and my head started to spin immediately. I had to apply! Also, I’ve heard that the father away from home you go, the bigger the momentum of happiness. It was a high competition to get admission, but as one of the top ten students at my department in the university, I made it! 


What is the best part of your job – and what is the most challenging?  

The best part is working as a consultant, to help clients solve their problems. All clients deal with different problems, face different risks and are involved in different supply chains. Our job is to design risk reduction, give advises and provide insight in complex cases and situations. It is very rewarding to help people solve problems. It’s a driving force for happiness. The challenge is that I don’t have unlimited time resources to solve the problems. It’s always a pressure and it means that I can only go so far, even though I know that with more time and resources, the results will be even better. It’s a challenge for me, because I’m very curious, and due to limitations, I have to hold back.  


What has been the most important skill you have obtained from NTNU?  

I liked all my courses at NTNU. They were so practical! I left the university 15 years ago, but what I learnt is still useful. The most important thing I learnt was a special mindset that I obtained while doing my Ph.D. and that is a special inner strength. Working on a Ph.D is like going through a dark tunnel. Never again will you be so puzzled, so blind. Once you have survived, you find the inner strength. Another thing I’ve learnt is how important it is to box the problem you are dealing with. It’s even more important than finding the solution!  


Finally, you are currently also a member of the board of NTNU Alumni China. What future aspirations do you have as a board member? 

I have not seen such alumni work in China – they are mostly focusing on the students. But I do believe that the alumni and the alumni networks are just as important in the project of creating “knowledge for a better world”. These chapters have a lot of potential, and can be the right vehicle, on the way to bridging the gap between the academia and the industry. The chapter provides a platform where people could communicate, share and collaborate. And with NTNU’s wide alumni network, we have great strength.

 

Mariam Kaynia – Finds solutions to problems that have never been solved before

Mariam Kaynia lives in Germany and works for the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Her work tasks are varied and challening, and she often has to find solutions to problems that have never been solved before.
Mariam Kaynia lives in Germany and works for the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Her work tasks are varied and challening, and she often has to find solutions to problems that have never been solved before.

Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company
PhD in Wireless Communications, NTNU
MSc in Electrical Engineering, NTNU

We asked Kaynia some questions about her work and her connection to NTNU.

Mariam Kaynia. Photo.What is your current position?

– My current position is Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company. The way I came to this position started during my studies. I found out about an internship at McKinsey & Company, so I sent in an application and I got accepted. My time as an intern was really exciting and I learnt a lot! In particular, I came to understand how my education could be applied in productive ways. After finishing my internship I decided to go back to finish my academic career. I did my MSc (one in the USA and one at NTNU) and a PhD at NTNU. After finishing, I went back to McKinsey & Company, first as a Junior Associate. Since then I’ve worked my way to the position I hold today, as Associate Partner.


What is the best part of your job – and what is the most challenging?

– The best part is the feeling of being at the forefront, where we can contribute to shape the industry of tomorrow. That is really motivating! I get to work with a broad range of tasks, and by being challenged to solve unsolved problems I’ve learned and grown a lot, both professionally and personally. However, what is the most exciting is also the most challenging. It’s not easy to work on unsolved problems, so I’m still learning every day.”


What are the most important skills or expertise you have taken from your time at NTNU?

– I think it must be what I learnt from working on my PhD. As a researcher, you work much like I do today – you have to take creative approaches to find solutions to unsolved problems. The expertise I value most is that I have become comfortable working with problems that neither I nor anyone else have solved before. Working on complex issues is the best form of learning.


How have you kept in touch with your academic community after finishing your education?

– I’ve been lucky to be able to maintain a strong connection to my former academic community at NTNU. I have kept in touch by helping with strategic efforts at the faculty and through my role as an Associate Professor II.  This role means I am still affiliated with my previous study group. I have been a guest lecturer and I sit on different committees and boards, so I am definitely still in touch. And I have just been elected chair of the NTNU Alumni Germany Board, where we are establishing a network for former NTNU students who are now located in Germany. The aim is to establish a stronger link between NTNU research and industry, students and work life, and between Norway and abroad.


Can you think of something that you wished you were told as a new student? Do you have any tips?

– I wish someone had told me about all of the great possibilities that are out there in the working world. When you make choices between different study programmes or specializations, many students get the feeling that they are closing doors on other opportunities. But you won’t necessarily have to pursue exactly what you study; studying teaches you above all to learn. This gives you expertise and skills you can use in many different ways. Education itself is more important than the specific degree or specialization you choose.