Mark's experience during his MSc in Civil Engineering: Innovative Structural Materials at Bath motivated him to pursue an academic career. Now he is a first-year PhD student working on a four-year project to use structural over-design in existing structures to help the UK meet the UK net zero target by 2050.
Balancing housing demands with zero-carbon design
'What motivates me to work on my project is very much a desire to contribute towards meeting the UK net zero target by 2050. Instead of building new buildings, there is the potential to add extra storeys to existing structures, using zero-carbon design principles to construct the vertical extensions. This way, I can help to meet the increasing housing demands too. I am currently researching and analysing the existing structures built after World War II in London to see if they have enough capacity for vertical extensions.'
The impact of structural engineering on the environment
'Before my PhD, I completed my master's in Innovative Structural Materials at Bath. The thing about this course is it's based on innovation; it covers a wide range of knowledge from non-conventional materials to low-carbon concrete. The course allowed me to develop my creative and critical thinking skills. The most enjoyable thing for me was the structural design using innovative materials.
'The course also gave me a clear vision for the type of structural engineer I’d like to be. I used to think a structural engineer’s challenge is to design tall structures efficiently and safely. But I have never thought about how structural engineers can relate to the environment we all live in. Carbon emissions have been such an important topic for a decade. Designing structures with naturally grown materials (timber, strawbale, hemp-lime, etc) or using non-conventional materials (CFRP, GFRP) as substitutes to conventional steel reinforcement in concrete, is very exciting. My dissertation was about designing shell floors with timber. It ignited my passion for researching low-carbon structural design, which lead me to my PhD and future ambitions.'
A learning experience that brings out the best
'My MSc taught me a lot about better ways of learning and understanding what works for me. Learning everything well and quickly is hard and it made me realise that communication with classmates is a very efficient way of understanding new knowledge. My learning ability is limited, but we all can learn more through communications and sharing knowledge. There were lots of opportunities to do this at Bath where many of our assignments and projects required teamwork. It is an essential skill that I have improved. The critical thing I learned from the group work during my MSc was to be respectful and aware that everyone is different. Bringing the best out in everyone creates a beautiful final product.'
Learning in unprecedented times
'I joined Bath during the most challenging academic year (2019-20) when covid-19 started. Everything moved from campus to online and I had to adapt quickly. Talking to friends and encouraging each other to work hard was very helpful to relieve stress from the heavy workload. But I found that the most important and useful ways to overcome any challenge are passion and determination. When I want to understand something new I have learnt or a problem I want to tackle, this self-driving force is powerful enough to help me overcome any obstacle.
'It is a great pleasure to be in this lovely community - through my MSc and now my PhD. The University really cares about every single student. All the members of staff I worked with were very kind. Also, I want to take this chance to say thank you to Professor Ibell, Dr Darby and Dr Hawkins, for your constant support, guidance and excellent supervision! And thank you, Dr Holley, for your support to our MSc 2019-20 cohort during such a difficult time!'