Mohammad Farkhondeh, a University of Waterloo alumnus, embarked on a career journey dedicated to advancing electrification and sustainability.  Farkhondeh began his PhD in the Department of Chemical Engineering in 2011 and successfully completed it in 2016.

Inspired by the mentorship of his undergraduate professors in Iran, many of whom were alumni of the University of Waterloo, Farkhondeh was driven to pursue graduate studies here.

“I did my undergrad project on fuel cells under the supervision of Professor Abbas Ali Khodadadi at the University of Tehran, who himself is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo. Although too brief, this was enough of an experience to spark my interest in electrochemical engineering and transport phenomena in porous media. This led to my PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo,” says Farkhondeh.

Farkhondeh is passionate about electrochemical engineering. He feels that battery research and the drive towards vehicle electrification are critical for creating a more sustainable, efficient, and resilient transportation system while also fostering economic growth and technological innovation.

Graduate student experience

 Farkhondeh completed his degree under the supervision of Professors Michael Fowler and Mark Pritzker. Fowler was researching and designing fuel cells and Farkhondeh soon became an integral part of his team.

“My PhD studies in the Department of Chemical Engineering impacted my life and career in many ways; Professor Mike Fowler and Professor Mark Pritzker gave me the opportunity and freedom of choice to develop my research independently. That’s where I learned how to generate and frame ideas, own them, and commit to them, regardless of the outcome. I believe this constitutes the backbone of any doctoral research,” says Farkhondeh “Of course, having great support from my advisors guaranteed my success. Collaborations with my fellow researchers gave me the chance to broaden my research domain.”

Farkhondeh stayed on in the Department of Chemical Engineering as a post-doctoral fellow doing research for Fowler and Professor Zhongwei Chen.

International opportunity

In 2018, Farkhondeh received an exciting opportunity to relocate to Paris, France, where he joined the ranks of Renault, a French car manufacturer. Over the span of three years, he played a pivotal role in their battery team, making significant contributions by getting electric vehicles (EVs)  road-ready.

In 2021 Farkhondeh had the opportunity to join Verkor, a start-up company dedicated to battery production, as a Modelling Group Leader. Farkhondeh works in the Research and Development Facility located in the south of France. Since Farkhondeh joined Verkor the company has expanded from 69 employees to over 450. The company’s growth has led to the establishment of a gigafactory in the north of France. Verkor produces batteries for various applications, including lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

Farkhondeh is the leader of the battery modelling team. His team’s role is to simulate the electrochemical mechanical thermal aging and behaviour of Verkor’s products, including the battery cells, and the battery module.

Paying it forward

Farkhondeh recently hired a University of Waterloo undergraduate student, Brendan Ng to work at Verkor for his co-op work term. Ng was employed as a characterization intern within the battery modelling team. He was responsible for developing novel methods to assist with the characterization of electrode material properties through experimental techniques and electrochemical models. These were used with the models to simulate battery performance.

“I'm very proud of my research and studies in the Department of Chemical Engineering and having Brendan here demonstrates my wish to pay it forward. It is a full circle moment for me to be mentoring a Chemical Engineering student,” says Farkhondeh.

For Ng working alongside a University of Waterloo alumnus had a profound effect on him personally and professionally.

“Mohammed’s extensive career experience demonstrated the value of this work and the impact it has in the industry. His deep knowledge of the electrochemistry behind lithium-ion batteries brought the theory to life, it was amazing to work with and learn from him,” says Ng. “ From a personal perspective, being a part of Mohammad’s team has given me insight into the knowledge and skills that the chemical engineering program prepares us with and how we can apply them, and also the opportunities that arise from pursuing a graduate degree.”

For Farkhondeh, his path from a PhD student in the Department of Chemical Engineering to a leader of a battery modelling team exemplifies the department's commitment to fostering innovation and excellence. His dedication to sustainability and mentorship serves as an inspiration to the University of Waterloo community and beyond.

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