SEI Grad Student Chapter Named National Chapter of the Year

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

For the second time in three years, the American Society of Civil Engineers Structural Engineering Institute has named UTA’s Graduate Student Chapter its graduate student chapter of the year.

The chapter’s main objective is to help students gain skills that will help them more easily transfer from student life to a career, according to U M Towfiqul Quadir, doctoral student and the chapter’s president in 2018.

“We provide training in software that students will use in their professional careers and invite speakers and host networking events to enhance our members’ knowledge. We also emphasize social events and community service, to help our members become part of the group,” Quadir said.

The chapter has about 50 members. Members hosted outreach activities for high school students and applied their knowledge of structural engineering as they built homes for Habitat for Humanity. They 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 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, said adviser Nur Yazdani.

“At the larger schools, the research program is very big and faculty don’t have time to engage. Here, 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.”

Yazdani is a fellow of ASCE, SEI and the American Concrete Institute. He is the author or co-author of more than 246 articles in journals and proceedings, and an invited speaker at conferences and seminars. 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.

Quadir praised Yazdani’s commitment to the chapter, as well as the commitment of Civil Engineering Department Chair Ali Abolmaali.

“Dr. Yazdani uses his contacts in the community to take us to job sites such as the I-30/SH 360 interchange and the new UTA parking garage so we can see how structural engineering is applied, and Dr. Abolmaali has continually and generously supported the chapter with funding. That allowed 10 of our members to attend a national conference. We’re grateful to both of them for their support,” Quadir said.

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.

“I’m very proud of our SEI chapter for earning this honor again. 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,” Abolmaali said.