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SEI graduate student chapter named National Chapter of the Year

Thursday, May 30, 2019 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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For Upal Mohammad Towfiqul Quadir, there’s a good reason why the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Structural Engineering Institute recognized The University of Texas at Arlington as its graduate student chapter of the year for the second time in three years.

Quadir, doctoral student and the chapter’s president in 2018, said the commitment from adviser and civil engineering Professor Nur Yazdani and Department Chair Ali Abolmaali makes all the difference.

UTA's American Society of Civil Engineers’ Structural Engineering Institute graduate chapter

UTA's American Society of Civil Engineers’ Structural Engineering Institute graduate chapter was named chapter of the year.

“Dr. Yazdani uses his contacts in the community to take us to real-world job sites so we can see how structural engineering is applied, and Dr. Abolmaali has continually and generously supported the chapter,” Quadir said. “We’re grateful to both of them for their support.”

Abolmaali pointed to the chapter as an example of the department’s successful efforts to increase numbers of diverse graduate students, prepare them to lead in specific disciplines and foster sustainable urban communities, which is one of the themes of UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“I’m very proud of our SEI chapter for earning this honor again,” Abolmaali said. “These students are highly motivated and they are an active, important part of our department. This honor gives us more visibility on a national level, and Dr. Yazdani’s sound leadership is commendable.”

Under the leadership of Abolmaali and College of Engineering Dean Peter E. Crouch, faculty, staff and students have propelled UTA’s Department of Civil Engineering to a new level of excellence in research and teaching that directly addresses local and national engineering needs by providing innovative solutions to challenging infrastructure problems.

For example, Simon Chao, professor of structural engineering and applied mechanics is an expert in the structural design of earthquake-resistant buildings. Surendra Shah, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Advanced Construction Materials, recently joined the faculty, and is an internationally renowned expert in cement-based materials and a member of the National Academy of Engineering who will serve as the director of the new Center of Excellence in Advanced Construction & Innovative Materials for Infrastructure.

Yazdani is a fellow of ASCE, SEI and the American Concrete Institute. He is well known for his research on bridge design, evaluation and rehabilitation; resilient and high-performing infrastructure; natural and man-made hazard mitigation; concrete properties; and engineering education.

U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 “Best Graduate Schools” list ranks the College of Engineering No. 82 in the nation and No. 89 for its civil engineering graduate program.

UTA’s SEI chapter helps students gain skills that will enable them to more easily transfer from student life to a career, Quadir said. The chapter provides training for software that professional engineers use in their careers, invite speakers, organize community service opportunities and host networking and social events.

The chapter has about 50 members, who hosted outreach activities for high school students and applied their knowledge of structural engineering as they built homes for Habitat for Humanity. The members also participated in a joint event with the SEI Fort Worth professional chapter, where professional members shared their experiences with the students.

UTA’s SEI chapter, also won the national award in 2017, stands out nationally against other top-ranked universities such as Georgia Tech, the University of Illinois and Virginia Tech because of the faculty-student interaction, Yazdani said.

“Although our research program is robust, our faculty takes time to engage with students,” Yazdani said. “Our students are special. Because we have so many international graduate students, and because they have unique challenges, I try to work with the chapter to help make their transition to UTA easier. Members perform admirably, in spite of their academic and research commitments.”

-- written by Jeremy Agor