Muscat: GUtech's new rector brings with him energy, enthusiasm and a wealth of experience as he assumes the top post at what he hopes will soon be the best technical university in the GCC.
Prof Michael Modigell left his position at GUtech's parent university RWTH Aachen University in Germany, packed his bags, and came to Oman in the heat of high summer.
Though he had other job offers to lead research work in Spain and Italy, it was the idea of a European-influenced technical university in the desert that intrigued him and he couldn't resist the opportunity.
"This is completely different from the things I have done in the past. Now I will be with a university as well, but in a different position. I can bring my experience gained while working with the industry. I spent 30 years in the industry. I can also bring my experience from my work with the university. I know the structure of a German university. I know how to ensure cooperation between a university and industry, which is something we want to apply here," he told the Times of Oman, sitting in his airy office at GUtech's campus in Halban.
Modigell is a physicist who has worked and carried out research in a number of fields including Process Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Material Sciences. He also has over 10 years of experience in the chemical industry in Germany.
He hopes to bring his personal experience to GUtech and let the students benefit from it.
Students at the GUtech will have access to more expertise and hardware that is available in Germany, as well as the strength of the European education system, which is centuries old and has long ties to the industrial sector.
In Europe, the universities and industries work very closely together to solve problems, make new discoveries and innovations, and offer practical training for students. This is the approach he would like to see developed even further at the GUtech, while at the same time adapting it to the best of Omani traditions.
"What we try to do is to cover the gap between the Omani tradition and the traditional European approach to education. At the end of this term, we can go to Germany and present our German colleagues with ideas we have developed in Oman which is something different than what is practiced in Europe now and better, such as their traditions and ways to approach life, including learning to be patient," Modigell explains.
Among his plans for the GUtech are new programmes including several part-time courses in railway engineering, which will be an asset for students interested in working in the new GCC railway, and a new Master's programme in Urban Planning. Both of these have been launched this semester.
"Our idea is to educate the students as broadly as possible so that they are able to cover a lot of job demands around the region, not just transportation," he says.
While he may be the new to the role of a rector at the GUtech, Modigell isn't a complete stranger to the region.
He worked at some desalination plants in the UAE about 30 years ago, but says this is first time he will be truly living in a country that is so different from Germany.