Project Director Sayfe Kiaei with USPCAS-E Scholar Nisha Hareem (Photo by Haute Media)
Message from the director

Securing Pakistan’s Energy Future

Message from the Director

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy (USPCAS-E) project for five years, 2014-2019, and we are indebted to USAID for its support and vision. National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) and University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Peshawar  have developed plans to support and continue the center’s operation going forward. The centers now have about 45 faculty, and more than 1000 MS and Ph.D. students enrolled in energy-related areas, from renewables to thermal to solar energy.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy formed USAID in 1962. He believed in the power of science, engineering and education to transform nations. He said, “The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

Pakistan’s population has doubled since 1990. This explosive growth has stretched the capability of its systems, including energy, to adequately support a thriving economy. But Pakistan’s hope lies in its people, particularly its young people, as a source of ideas, enthusiasm and innovation to remake Pakistan’s infrastructure.

Growing up, energy crises were a fact of life for USPCAS-E scholar Amir Nangyal. Power outages of up to 18 hours in the heat of summer were commonplace. He knew that he wanted to change the situation for himself and his country. He joined USPCAS-E at UET Peshawar, and during his first semester, he learned how to design a solar energy system and then installed one in his home.

“I decided to be an engineer and find a solution to this problem. Alhamdulillah, for the last three years, I haven’t faced load shedding because I installed a solar system in my house.”

Amir explains that Pakistan lacks expertise and access to technology in almost every field. And the energy sector is no exception. “My wish is to teach everyone about designing their own system and doing their own power load management.”

Amir’s outlook is like that of other USPCAS-E scholars. They recognize the challenge and want to be part of the solution. We have planted seeds that we won’t see grow, but we know that they will. The impact of the USPCAS-E project goes far beyond our original goals, and the centers will continue to work on research that addresses Pakistan’s energy needs.

Projects like this one exist to boost a region or a country’s progress in a critical economic area. In the case of USPCAS-E, that area is energy. Energy is ubiquitous, an invisible resource. But with even a brief power outage, activity grinds to a halt. When these disruptions are pervasive, the results can be devastating to economic well-being. Finding indigenous solutions is the key to creating relevant, affordable options that can be implemented across Pakistan.

In the final year of the USPCAS-E project, we met many critical milestones in the project’s key component areas: governance, curriculum, research, exchange and sustainability.

A primary focus of our efforts has been on the financial sustainability of the centers. Why is this important? We have invested heavily in creating new knowledge and a trained workforce. The centers have developed 13 new degree programs and more than 150 graduate-level courses in cutting-edge energy fields. More than 1000 students have enrolled in these programs, and more than 300 have earned degrees to date, and we expect that number to grow to 400 by December 2019 – and to keep growing. More than 200 faculty and students have completed exchange programs. These opportunities for research training and cultural exchange have been transformational and will likely pay dividends for years to come. The center buildings at NUST and UET Peshawar provide 114,000 square feet of research and classroom space and include 16 state-of-the-art labs, two libraries and two Technology Centers.


We hosted the fifth and sixth stakeholder meetings along with Think Tank Dialogues. These dialogues are critical to the sustainability of the centers as they assume the roles of connectors and thought leaders in Pakistan’s energy landscape. Beginning in January 2019, the centers started organizing these meetings on their own, a critical handoff in the project, and one of many that happened throughout the year.

USPCAS-E hosted a joint international conference in March 2019 with UET Peshawar and NUST taking the lead. More than 550 attendees met for two days to discuss pressing issues and opportunities in renewable energy. Conferences help create vital connections within the partner universities, and they solidify a global network of partners. They also bring important research findings to the center faculty and students so that they can stay abreast of the advancements in energy research.

On the heels of the conference, USPCAS-E hosted a multi-day leadership training for faculty and staff at both centers. These hands-on sessions led by ASU Professor Dan Shunk provided a critical opportunity for center leaders to work together to create meaningful and actionable strategic plans that will help carry the centers forward after the funded project. Everything that we have done up this point is to build the new leaders that can take Pakistan into a bright future. This training was designed to solidify all that the center leaders have learned during the past four years as they create their independent road maps for the future.


Curriculum requires ongoing review to adjust to changing industry needs and student expectations. In the past year, ASU conducted detailed curriculum reviews for all program streams at both NUST and UET Peshawar.

Pedagogy training provided USPCAS-E faculty with the latest tools to create the best possible learning environments for our students. ASU supported both partner universities in adopting the latest pedagogical practices to improve course delivery practices and enhance the learning experience. The six-month effort included classroom observations, a three-day pedagogy training, online modules and virtual Zoom sessions focusing on the scholarship of teaching and learning to provide actionable feedback to ensure that classroom instruction is on par with international best practices.

ASU worked with faculty at NUST and UET Peshawar to deepen their understanding of active learning approaches and improve their use of these approaches in the classroom. In the wrap-up session held on June 27, 2019, participants shared their findings and classroom practices. 

In the summer of 2019, ASU hosted a online program development training. Five visitors from Pakistan, visited the U.S. to learn more about online course content delivery for graduate courses.


The USPCAS-E project supported and promoted a culture of applied research. Building on this research environment, NUST and UET Peshawar can attract the funding needed for the ongoing support of the centers.

The project provided funding for 36 applied and 12 joint (U.S.-Pakistan) research projects to address pressing energy problems in Pakistan. These research projects have fostered a culture of research and, most importantly, by creating directly applicable results that help communities and individuals flourish. Working together with Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission, industry and government agencies, the centers can continue to identify solutions critical to grand challenges in energy. Together we can bring the unique strengths of academia to foster the development of research projects that will make an impact on Pakistan’s energy landscape for the benefit of all.


We welcomed the last exchange cohort in January 2019. NUST and UET Peshawar sent 47 exchange scholars to spend the semester in top labs at ASU and OSU, bringing the total number of exchange scholars to 217. The exchange program was critical to jump-starting new ways of thinking about energy problems in Pakistan. The exchange program is one of the significant successes of this project, and we have exceeded our project target of 200 exchange visitors—which was a revision to the original goal of 100!

Many of the exchange scholars have said that the opportunity to work in U.S. university labs and learn more about U.S. culture first-hand is transformational. We hope that these experiences will ripple across academic and cultural communities in Pakistan.

Many of you have been instrumental in supporting and mentoring the Pakistani faculty and students who visited the United States as part of the exchange program. We want to offer our heartfelt thanks to you all.


Outside financial support helps leverage these accomplishments and creates a virtuous cycle. With funded research, training and testing services offered through their technology centers, both centers can sustain and continue these efforts. The centers have already reached their fundraising targets of $1 million each through public-private partnerships, and the new Technology Centers offer the opportunity to create multiple revenue streams.

The Technology Centers create a critical mass of high-tech capabilities that can be used by faculty and students for future research endeavors.

These centers also provide a source of income for the centers by offering unique photovoltaic training programs and testing services that address unmet needs in Pakistan. The Technology Center training programs began in July 2019 and are designed to be immediately applicable, enabling students and professionals to put their new skills to work right away. Both Technology Centers are equipped with specialized state-of-the-art tools and equipment.

ASU also conducted a five-day train-the-trainer photovoltaic (PV) workshop in July 2019 for USPCAS-E faculty and staff as well as representatives of the solar PV industry. Led by ASU program manager, Bülent Bicer, each trainee learned to deliver training programs that provide vocational proficiency in the application, design, installation and operation of residential and commercial solar PV systems. They also learned how to conduct PV power plant surveys, identify potential material, safety and performance-related issues, and conduct analyses on the impact of these issues on long-term energy production for solar PV power plants in Pakistan.

Finally, the impact of the more than 300 graduates – with more to come – cannot be overstated. These men and women are poised to be catalysts for change in Pakistan’s energy sector. Their training, drive, and dedication make them invaluable resources in the creation of a secure energy future for Pakistan. Thank you to the many faculty, staff, stakeholders, and friends who helped make this project a success. We are indebted to you for your vision, dedication, and support.

Writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1858, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. said a mind “stretched by a new idea or sensation … never shrinks back to its former dimensions.” The USPCAS-E project has allowed many people to see the future from a new vantage point. After her exchange experience, USPCAS-E scholar Maria Kanwal altered her plans for the future.  She applied for a scholarship and hopes to begin working on her Ph.D. in a U.S. or European graduate program in September of 2020. “Spending a semester working in the lab of Professor Zachary Holman was life-changing,” she asserts. “The experience was great for both my resume and my abilities. Working with Ph.D. students and post-docs in Professor Holman’s lab, I learned how research should be conducted, became more focused in my work, and improved my ability to approach problems in the lab.”

The stories of our scholars have a common thread: “I can do more and be more than I thought I could.” Their stories are stories of transformation and imbued with a sense of purpose about their futures and their hopes for Pakistan.

USPCAS-E graduate Muhammad Ahsan Amjed is from Rajana, a small town in central Punjab in district Toba Tek Singh. He is currently a Ph.D. student at Ocean University of China (OUC) in Qingdao, China, where he studies energy and environmental engineering. He says that many young scholars have benefitted from the USPCAS-E program and that these benefits extend beyond each individual to their families and communities, and Pakistan as a whole: “I would like to say thanks to USAID and USPCAS-E for supporting me at every stage and making this dream possible. It’s not just the story of one person; it’s the story of one family and one underprivileged small town. Most importantly, it enhanced the mutual relationship of two countries (USA and Pakistan) at a public level and helps Pakistan, from the grassroots level to higher government levels, to mitigate energy challenges.”

ASU is committed to connecting people around the world to education and research that improves the quality of life and economic well-being. We are proud of the accomplishments of the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy, and we look forward to continuing this vital work around the globe.

Sayfe Kiaei, Ph.D.
Project Director/ASU, USPCAS-E