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Andrew Martin

conductor of vital research collaborations

Professor Andrew Martin

Before meeting Professor Andrew Martin, I look through his publication list of and find a solid amount of decades of multifaceted research. It contains: polygeneration, biogas, membrane distillation, solar energy, biomass and other sources that play critical roles in sustainable development.

Why did he choose his field of research?
Well, he grew up in Florida, USA, had his first main studies in Mechanical Engineering and achieved a PhD at the University of Florida 1997. But then a well-known solar scientist caught his interest. He changed the focus of his studies and did his bachelor work in the solar energy laboratory. The project was a water purification process with help of solar energy and solar radiation which was a new field then. After that he has continued with other innovative research for the future. First as a docent (2004) and then professor (2012) in Energy Technology at KTH. Since 2015 he is the manager of the division of heat and power technology at the department of energy technology.

Florida is far from Sweden, how did you end up here?
"Love." One of the most classical reasons. He met his Swedish wife in Florida and 1998 they left for Stockholm. In Sweden he found a new home and after studies in the Swedish language, research could continue. Now Andrew is a double citizen with a strong second language. KTH has been a good support from start. Geographically it's a long distance between his past and his present home but academically it's close. Andrew speaks warmly about Stockholm as a natural connection point for the world and skilled in receiving new people.

His students are a recurrent topic during our conversation. Over 15 PhD students have graduated under his supervision. Good leading skills and a passion for sharing knowledge and encouragement seems to be some of Andrew’s talents as a teacher and co-worker. "I give examples, show interest, share and like to inspire!" And the students also inspires him. "I admire their abilities, curiosity and fresh points of view."

I wonder about his publications, it's a wide range of applied research projects in various contexts and in different places on earth. From rural areas in Bangladesh to a single family villa in the cosmopolitan metropolis Dubai. The diversity in the projects is also thanks to the students, they come from all over the world. At KTH there are about 80 nationalities represented and the students all contribute with different kinds of life perspectives. "I could do research by myself, I have lots of experience and skills but it's not very efficient to work alone. Research takes time and it's hard to find solutions all by yourself. I like to get an overview, search for solutions and locate how to adapt them to different conditions, for example an African context or how to work towards the industry."

Over the years Andrew has built up a network of successful collaborations, both with industry and within academia. He thinks it is interesting to create flexible innovations that can cross-fertilise each other, and within the right collaborations they can be both better and easier developed. To achieve research findings of relevance to industry and society, it is important to anchor research in reality and strive for evidence.

Andrew has been in the academic world for 30 years and is still very curious and enthusiastic about his work. Sustainable energy supply and storage are crucial key issues for our future. We talk about the challenging days we live in, when many things falls apart and climate issues increases. It can be stressful for researchers who fight against time to find solutions for tomorrow, so I wonder: 

"Is there any room in your life for something else than work?"
"Oh, I don't usually get questions about that, Andrew answers with a smile. Of course there is other things of importance in my life." After the age of 50 he has been downshifting, one day off every week gives more time for family; his wife, the same that he met in sunny Florida in the 90s, the grown up kids and the dogs. But also to be able to enjoy walks in the nature, and then there is a special car, an English veteran MG. I ask if he likes to fix engines during his free-time. "No, no, the car is for relaxation only”, he answers. When I google MG:s I understand why it's enough to peacefully cruise in a beauty like that.
He also points out the importance of rest to his co-workers. It is easy to get stuck in a produce-and-perform-mode, which is no good for neither health nor sustainable ideas. But even during the relaxed free-time, work is not too very far away. Andrew finds that these more calm moments in life give fine opportunities to be able to reflect and do some serious slow-thinking. A day off reinforces not only health and social life, but it is also a gain for the research mind and gives possibilities to put questions in other contexts that might open up for unexpected solutions. It does seem that this curious mind never rest.

Text: Åsa Riestola

Belongs to: WaterCentre@KTH
Last changed: Oct 31, 2022