Meet NCE's Grad Student of the Year

Yazdan Majdi, the top NCE grad student of the year, with his wife Jila Mosahebi, who is doing a masters of architecture at NJIT.

Yazdan Majdi came from Iran to study civil engineering at NJIT. He already had a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from an Iranian university but he wanted to do his Ph.D. abroad.

He considered universities in New Zealand, Canada, and Australia but while researching those he discovered that the Civil and Environmental Engineering program at NJIT was an excellent choice. Also, a friend of his from Tehran had studied civil engineering at NJIT and recommended the doctoral program to him.  He applied and was accepted.  In the summer of 2009, he left his home in Tehran for America to study at NJIT.  His wife, Jila Mosahebi, joined him; she is enrolled in the masters of architecture program at NJIT.

Now, four years later, Yazdan is glad he and his wife came. 

During his time at NJIT, he has excelled as a student (4.0 GPA), a researcher with significant publications and as a teaching assistant (TA) -- he was twice nominated as the best TA of the year.  And recently the Newark College of Engineering (NCE) named him the Outstanding Graduate Student of 2013.

He also has a great job lined up. Right after graduation, he'll begin work as a structural eningeer for Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers and technical specialists. He'll join Arup's structural analysis and design team, where he'll get to work on a major civil engineering  project :the Second Avenue Subway, a mult-ibillion dollar underground new railway line on Manhattan's east side. . 

In this interview, Yazdan, talks about civil engineering and his focus: structural engineering. He also talks about his love of teaching, his interest in sustainable design  and his plans for the future 

You focus on structural engineering.  Can you explain structural engineering in layman’s terms?

A structural engineer is someone who performs calculations to assure that buildings, bridges and tunnels are stable safe.  We get involved early on in the design phase of a building project.  We use computer simulations, mathematical modeling and hand calculations to assure that structures are safe and meet regulations. We also make sure the structures are cost efficient and functional. 

Do structural engineers work with architects?

They often do especially then the project is a building. The architect makes his or her design, which comes to the structural engineer in the form of architectural drawings. Then we devise the structural elements, such as beams, columns, foundations, ceilings and walls into them.  And we must do that in a cost-efficient way that services the design.  You don’t put columns, for instance, in the middle of a room.  We work also on the structure of manufacturing plants, bridges, and tunnels, anything really that needs stability.  We get involved in the design phase and calculate the loades on the structure; then we analyze and design the structure such that it tolerates the loads in  efficient ways. 

Talk about the research you did here.

Under the supervision of Professor C.T. Thomas Hsu, I researched a special type of a floor that is designed to be lighter, cheaper and more reliable than current floors on the market.  The floor combines cold-formed steel and concrete. Steel must be rolled, and you can heat and shape it or you can forge it while it’s cold. The latter process is cheaper makes for a floor that is less in thickness and is thus lighter.  I used computer simulations to prove that the floor is feasible. 

Do you have a patent on this new floor?

Professor Hsu has a patent filed at NJIT on the floor; I worked on scientifically supporting his idea and also refining and extending his research; that lead to another patent.

So your research at NJIT was hands-on?

Yes. My attitude towards engineering is practical, and NJIT stresses and practical learning and research.  So it was a perfect fit for me. 

Are you interested in sustainable and environmental engineering?

I want to use structural engineering to make a better world.  My philosophy is that engineers should use sustainable materials that save on energy and resources. My research on the light floor, for instance, is sustainable because it uses fewer construction materials.

Population is skyrocketing around the world and engineers build the structures that people will live in and work in and the roads and tunnels and bridges they will travel on and through.   If we do a good job of building a sustainable infrastructure, precious resources of construction materials and energy will survive longer. 

You taught at NJIT with great success. What do you like about teaching?

I like interacting with students, and enjoy the challenge of explaining difficult concepts in simple language.  I’ve always gotten great evaluations and feedback from my students, so that is also very rewarding and encouraging.  I hope to teach part time while I work full time in industry after I graduate. 

What are your plans for after you graduate?

After graduation, I’ll work for a Arup in NYC, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. I’ll be part of the structural analysis and design team. I'll get to work on a great project. Arup is working the first phase of the new Second Avenue Subway a mult-ibillion dollar underground railway line on Manhattan's east side. In the evenings and in my free time, I’ll also work towards getting my structural engineer’s license. 

(By Robert Florida)