One man's trash is another man's PhD

When Ehsan Moslehi started at EasyMining in 2021, he was a lab and pilot engineer helping test the applications for innovative resource recovery. Now, he’s leading an R&D project while also pursuing an industrial PhD at SLU. But he’s facing those new challenges with the same excitement and energy he had on day one.

12 Dec 2023

Born and raised in Iran, Ehsan initially moved to Sweden for grad school. He received his master's in chemical engineering for energy and the environment from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, then worked at the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) before joining EasyMining in Uppsala.

Ehsan was brought on as part of a group within the R&D team that ran implementation testing for one of the company's flagship processes: Ash2Phos, which recovers the vital resource phosphorus from the ash of incinerated sewage sludge.

– I think I’ve worked on basically every step of the process, from the initial stage with the ash itself to the final step where we produce phosphorus as a clean product, he says.

Along with providing an indispensable understanding of innovative technology, the role also further fueled the desire to be part of something with a positive impact on the world that had initially drawn Ehsan to work at EasyMining.

– The processes we work on are not just to improve or increase production. They’re actually to help the environment. You end up feeling good about what you’re doing at the end of the day, he says.

Such insights and drive have been invaluable to Ehsan since he became an R&D engineer in July 2023.

An international team of R&D engineers

Research and development appeals to Ehsan on many different levels. The work fits well with his curious and analytical mindset, as well as his preference for novelty. R&D at EasyMining not only requires all of that to formulate totally new processes for reclaiming nutrients from waste streams but also to devise optimal versions of those processes for real-world application.

–  We come up with ideas, and we test them to see whether they can be implemented and whether the concepts actually work. Then, we try to optimise everything and make sure it’s running in a way that’s good for the environment, good for society, good economically, and so on, Ehsan explains. 

And while EasyMining’s R&D team is a diverse group with a variety of backgrounds, they share many of the same qualities that led Ehsan to where he is today.

– We have people from everywhere. I’m from Iran, and we have people from India, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Romania, Australia, and many other places. It’s a good combination. We all came to work at EasyMining for similar reasons. We all want to take on these challenges, he explains.

Although, Ehsan now has a unique challenge all his own.

Balancing employment with doctoral studies

In August of 2023, right after his change in job titles, Ehsan officially entered the industrial PhD programme at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Supported by the Ragnar Sellberg Foundation, his research will utilise a project he heads up at EasyMining. 

In essence, the research aims to produce clean commercial products from waste streams.

– Simply put, I am trying to transform trash into valuable products, Ehsan concludes.

Even though he can use the labs at SLU’s main campus in Uppsala, not far from EasyMining’s facilities, Ehsan admits managing it all can still be tough. 

– It’s hard because I’m the project’s lead R&D engineer and the PhD student. Sometimes, that makes me want to go in different directions; for example, the project lead part of me wants to focus on the customer aspect, and the doctoral student part of me wants to take the perfect picture of the material under the microscope. So I have to balance those things, he explains.

Ehsan says he’d considered pursuing a PhD before, but the only projects he could find felt too academic and not feasible for implementation. It was through his experiences at EasyMining that he encountered a research avenue that felt worth exploring.

– We work on new processes to tackle real problems. It’s research that’s going to make it out of the lab.

Watch the film where Ehsan talks about his research project, supported by the Ragnar Sellberg Foundation: