My work in geotechnical engineering involves the use of probabilistic methods for design. Existing methods have shortcomings which can prove frustrating for many reasons. Because of this, I decided to enter the field of research so I could work at improving engineering practice.
Research in geotechnical engineering allows for a broad range of experiences – from field work for data collection, and experimental work testing design strengths to mathematical modelling and simulation using supercomputers. It is hard to get bored!
Part of my work concerns the interactions between our mathematical and computer models and how we can approximate real world behaviour when our information is limited. Arguments over the interpretation of the techniques used are very interesting and are related to our fundamental understanding of what safety in design is. Most modern design practice suggests that risk-based techniques will be the way of the future. I really enjoy reading the arguments in the literature whilst formulating my own thoughts about the development of future design philosophy.
Ultimately, the most important aspect of my work is to help design safer buildings and infrastructure. However, there is another human aspect to my work. The spaces we live in are partly defined by the manner in which they are built. By shaping the design methodologies used in practice, Civil Engineering research directly influences the way our living spaces develop and evolve in the future. I find the implications of this quite interesting and exciting.
I chose to come to UNSW for my postgraduate study because, after completing my two undergraduate degrees at UNSW and entering the workforce for some time, the the solid reputation of UNSW Civil Engineering graduates in industry made it an easy choice.
In geotechnical engineering, the collection of academics at UNSW is very strong and this is the sort of environment I felt a young researcher needs to reach the leading edge in their field. The research community at UNSW is diverse and intelligent, supporting each other while always challenging for improvement.
I was stopped the other day by an undergraduate student who I tutored the previous semester. He reported that he had done very well in the class and thanked me for being an inspiration. As Yeats said, “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I was pleased that I was able to instill some of my own passion for lifelong learning in a future engineering graduate as successful work in engineering practice and research requires that one has a desire to always know more.