Farewell and thank you to Mario Attard

Farewell and thank you to Mario Attard 

 At the end of 2020 the School sadly farewelled CIES academic Associate Professor Mario Attard, our Associate Head – Academic - responsible for many years in overseeing the vast teaching and learning enterprise of the School.

It was a very appropriate leadership position, as Mario Attard has long been an advocate for teaching excellence and innovation. The influence of a great teacher can last a lifetime, and students never forget those who inspire, challenge, clearly explain complex material, and are eager to assist student learning.  All of these attributes were Mario’s.  

In 2008 he was the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. The Awards measured students’ learning experience and outcomes, as well as the staff member’s scholarly approach to develop their teaching. CVEN student teaching awards and alumni memories always placed Mario Attard in the best teacher ranks.

Teaching innovation. Civil with Architecture!

Creativity is not always a word associated with engineers or engineering. Yet as Mario and his colleague Dr Zora Vrcelj pointed out, ‘creativity is essential in all branches of engineering and is of paramount concern in engineering design’.[i] Gifted with their own determined creativity – the two structural engineering colleagues designed the innovative multi-disciplinary single degree, the first in Australia - a BE Civil with Architecture degree. 

Working with UNSW colleagues from the Faculty of the Built Environment and with the support of Head of School, Nick Ashbolt, the new degree was launched in 2007, and was an immediate success.  It combines civil engineering courses with almost a full year of architecture courses. Its aim is to provide an appreciation of architectural principles, an understanding of both architectural design and better interaction between architects and engineers. 

Mario himself was a proud alumnus of the School, graduating with a BE Hons in civil engineering in 1977, and awarded his PhD in 1985.  His structural engineering thesis topic, supervised by Prof Al Kabaila, was on the topic of “The elastic flexural-torsional response to thin-walled open beams.” He was appointed as Senior Lecturer in 1992, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2001.

Impact of Research on Australian Standards

As a member of the School’s (Centre’s)  structural engineering group, Mario has been part of a long history of successful research into concrete and composite structures, as well as concrete technology and structural mechanics.

Mario was particularly involved in analysis of buckling – based on hyperelastic constitutive modelling of materials – and developing improved models that would provide a much better measure of the extent of deformation for an applied shear stress. He supervised many PhD students in these areas. and has authored or co-authored over one hundred research papers.

Stephen Foster and Mario Attard’s work on confinement of the compressive core in high strength concrete columns and in modelling the compressive zone in high strength concrete has been incorporated into the Australian Standard for Concrete Structures, AS3600. Their work facilitated an expansion of the scope of the Standard to cover design usage of high strength concrete – a change that was long requested by the profession.  

School stalwart

Above all Mario was an indefatigable worker for the CVEN cause –a trusted and utterly reliable colleague, responsive to students and professional staff, managing the endless changes in the curriculum, student services, staffing resources and university timetabling.   

Mario was always aware of student needs. "Some students were very vulnerable, and it was up to us to find solutions to make their circumstances better." he said.  "Each day if I made life better for one student, I was happy."

School Business Manager Anthony Dever summed it up when he said, “Mario had a real love for the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He was a passionate teacher and wanted all students to succeed and work to the best of their abilities. He always worked for the benefit of students and spoke up when he felt proposed policy changes would have an adverse effect on the student experience. Mario was fair and honest in his dealings with students and they found him very approachable. Mario was highly regarded in the School and across Faculty and will be extremely missed.”

 We will certainly miss him, and we wish him the very best in his new world.

[i] Vrcelj Z, Attard M, Margalit H and Plume J, ‘New Civil Engineering with Architecture Program @ UNSW’ Conference Proceedings of Connected

2007 International Conference on Design Education, UNSW Sydney, Australia, July 9-12 2007.


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