iMEP student Suad Muradov, pictured here at Azerbaijan’s Shahdagh Mountain, plans to research airborne wind energy systems, a new generation in renewable energy
By Craig McIntosh
Suad Muradov just wanted to spend 2020 focused on his environmental research. But first Covid-19 struck. And then came war.
“The really challenging part is fully concentrating on any one thing,” he said.
Muradov, 20, enrolled in Duke Kunshan’s international master of environmental policy (iMEP) program in the fall and has been studying remotely from his home in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, where he lives with his parents and older brother.
The arrival of Covid-19 has resulted in Azerbaijan going in and out of lockdown since the spring, with restrictions on public transportation, business operations and non-essential gatherings. The country has reported over 70,000 cases and 900 deaths.
Then, in late September, Azerbaijan entered into a war with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region that saw an estimated 10,000 people killed in 44 days. The two sides agreed a ceasefire on Nov. 9.
“We’re pretty far from the conflict zone, but many problems exist here, too,” said Muradov. “There are a lot of Armenians who live in Baku, and we have been on high alert. And I have many friends and family who were on the front line.”
Muradov’s father is from the Lachin region, a strategic corridor that links Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. As part of the Nov. 9 agreement, most of the region will come under Azerbaijan control in December, meaning Muradov will no longer be an internally displaced person and can finally visit his father’s hometown.
“I hope peace will last for eternity,” he said, “but for that we need not just a ceasefire but a peace treaty.”
Muradov graduated from ADA University this summer with a bachelor’s degree in international studies. Although unable to travel to China, he said he was excited to begin his studies at Duke Kunshan.
“In the beginning, it was very smooth. I was doing well. Then it became a distraction from war, but the war also distracted me from study, so it’s been difficult,” he said. “I think the only way is to be strong with myself and accept reality.”
Clockwise from top: Muradov and his ADA University classmates meet Tijjani Muhammed-Bande (center), then president of the UN General Assembly; he receives best delegate at the Model Islamic Organization award ceremony from Damir Fattahov, minister of youth for Tatarstan; he meets Kestutis Jankauskas, head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan, at a EU Neighbors East event
Regular interactions with his professors and classmates have helped, Muradov said. This semester, he’s been conducting group work with peers based in China, the United States, Vietnam and Rwanda.
“We’re constantly talking to each other. Many of my classmates I haven’t met face to face, but I feel they are close to me,” he said. “I’m trying not to let down my peers, and they understand my situation.”
Muradov developed a deep interest in politics and environmental policy while at university. He is a member of Azerbaijan’s Green Party and serves as a country coordinator for EU Neighbors East, a European Union-backed program that promotes social responsibility, gender rights and other values in six Eastern Partnership countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus.
As a “bright environmentalist,” he believes the convergence of technological change and social innovation provides the best path to sustainable development.
In his second year at Duke Kunshan, when he will receive funding to conduct 10 weeks of field research, he hopes to continue his studies into airborne wind energy (AWE) systems. Touted as a new generation in renewable energy, AWE systems use aerodynamic or aerostatic devises to capture winds blowing at atmospheric layers that traditional wind turbines cannot reach.
“Azerbaijan has some problems with energy. We’re an energy-rich country, but we’re too dependent on oil and gas,” he said. “It’d be great if we could start understanding what is environmentally sustainable, so we can move to cleaner and more-lasting energy supplies. I think it’s the future.”
For the time being, though, Muradov is just looking forward to the day he can meet up with his classmates on the Duke Kunshan campus.
“Everyone’s trying to help me,” he said. “I can only wait.”