We spoke with Dr Shahab Ramhormozian, a senior lecturer in structural and earthquake engineering at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

What’s your role at AUT?

I’m a Senior Lecturer of Structural and Earthquake Engineering in the Built Environment Engineering Department. I undertake and supervise research in the same area. I teach Mechanics of Materials to second year, Design of Steel Structures to third year, and Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics to fourth year and postgraduate students.

My research focus is on the steel structures and low damage seismic resisting systems. This includes supervising master and PhD students, as well as collaborating with national and international research groups.

I also provide service in different areas including coordinating and directing the industry engagement and partnership of our department and newly established School of Future Environments as well as being the academic lead of the construction lab’s health and safety.

What got you interested in engineering?

Since primary and intermediate school, I was always very interested in analytical subjects; specifically, mathematics and physics, where we learned about the facts and rules governing the world. I truly enjoyed how physics laws and principles could explain and formulate real-world phenomena, and how mathematics could help us solve those formulated situations and predict what would happen in reality. At high school, this fascination grew and I realised that engineering combined both my love of mathematics and physics.

More specifically, I liked both mechanical and civil engineering majors. Finally, I chose to study Civil Engineering in my BSc, given my interest in being eventually able to do the full design of the whole structure, particularly to be safe against severe earthquakes. This is what I pursued more during my MSc and PhD studies.

Who inspired you to become an engineering academic?

I was lucky enough to learn from a series of great professors who inspired me to become an engineering academic. Back in Iran, during my BSc and MSc studies, the professor from who I learned the design of steel structures as well as structural dynamics influenced me a lot during my BSc studies. During my MSc studies in structural engineering, I was fortunate to be approached by one of our leading professors, under whom later on I undertook my master research, to be his teaching assistant, which built the foundation’s reinforcement of my teaching and research building.

Finally and above all, during my PhD studies at the University of Auckland, I was so lucky to have Associate Professor Charles Clifton as my supervisor who quickly became one of my engineering heroes and forever mentors. In addition to undertaking my PhD research under Charles, I was heavily involved in assisting him in teaching and supervising undergraduate and postgraduate research students.

Those few years built the main structure of my teaching and research building. I learned (and still am learning) from Charles to ‘be an engineer who works at the university’ (a quote that Charles recalls from one of his engineering heroes, Late Professor Tom Paulay). I learned to implement my knowledge to address and research practical engineering problems and needs.

What have you learnt from the students that you teach?

There’s a lot that I’ve learned from my students. I learnt there is always something for me to learn! Sometimes I learn from their questions to think more deeply about a technical subject or to look at that from a different angle. Sometimes I need to research to answer their questions, so I learn with them. I’ve learned that it’s not only technical aspects that matters; in other words, EQ is as important as IQ. I’ve learned how people’s attitude and manner may differ, and as an academic how I should be flexible and considerate of this regard with my students.

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Dr Shahab Ramhormozian

How has your teaching changed due to Covid‐19?

In many different ways! It was a steep learning curve for me with online teaching ­– maximising the use of technology to remotely teach, receive feedback from the class, run and mark the assessments, and support the students appropriately. I had to rely much more on the digital and virtual tools and platforms that we had.

In the beginning, it was a kind of “flying blind” however I learned over the time how to manage the situation, thanks also to AUT’s excellent support to academics and thanks to the students who did so well in adapting with the new situations. This has been a valuable experience that will definitely enrich our normal teaching and learning in the future when we will overcome the current world pandemic and return back to normal.

Why are you a member of Engineering New Zealand?

It's an excellent way to be in the loop about different engineering-related activities, including, but not limited to, attending and/or presenting at the annual conferences such as New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE) and Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand (SESOC). I’m a member of NZSEE and SESOC through Engineering New Zealand. Moreover, I’m directly involved with Engineering New Zealand to facilitate linking AUT and industry.

How do you engage with Engineering New Zealand?

In different ways, such as attending regular meetings between NZ academics and Engineering New Zealand in which I represent AUT, being an Engineering New Zealand Student Academic Champion for AUT, and making a technical presentation for engineers in practice dealing with my field of expertise.

Which Engineering New Zealand technical interest groups do you belong to and why do you belong to them?

The two key groups are New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE) and the Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand (SESOC). They’re significantly related to my areas of teaching and research, and their journals, conferences, news, and updates are a great way of being up to date. I have also presented numerous papers and research at their conferences. I’m honoured to have received two prestigious awards from NZSEE too.

What’s your favourite piece of engineering in Auckland?

There are quite a few, to name one, I would say AUT City Campus’ WZ building in St Paul street. This multi-storey building’s structure is mainly made of structural steel, incorporating different structural systems, which are all intentionally and beautifully exposed in such a way that I usually use the building as a teaching exhibition for my students. I take them for a tour showing them all the braces, beams, and columns connected by bolted and welded connections.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m a musician playing the Kamancheh, a Persian traditional bowed string instrument, which has been part of my life since childhood. Depending on time, I will try to compose and perform at one or two music or musical theatre festivals each year. I’m a car enthusiast and have an extremely well maintained 90s Mercedes that I truly enjoy driving as well.

Finally, yet most importantly, I enjoy spending time in the beautiful New Zealand nature and taking road trips with my fiancée Emma.