In the first interview in our Researcher Profile series for 2022, Dr Hassan Karampour spoke with the Library about his research and his advice for students embarking on academic collaboration and publishing.
An academic in the field of structural engineering and an Associate Professor at the School of Engineering and Built Environment, Dr Karampour is also a Program Director of Griffith’s Bachelor of Civil Engineering. In teaching, his aim is to create an engaging and stimulating multidisciplinary learning environment, enabling his students to integrate theory and knowledge with professional practice. Dr Karampour describes his passion in research as designing and implementing products, methods and policies that promote sustainable development in the energy and construction industry in Australia and worldwide.
What is the focus of your research?
My research is in computational mechanics: First, I create a mathematical model of the physical problem. Then, I use computer programs to solve the mathematical equations, also known as the numerical solution. The numerical solution is validated against results from physical testing. Sometimes we need to use parallel computers to solve complicated problems.
My current research is focused on developing composite structural products manufactured from combining engineered timber products or non-traditional wood (such as bamboo) with steel and concrete, to promote Australian wood usage and solve problems for the timber industry. I’m also keen on promoting cleaner energy. One idea that I work on is the design of an innovative pipeline for the transport of pure or blended hydrogen. Another interest is to stimulate production of more environmentally friendly food sources. As such, I work with industry partners to tackle challenges of existing and future offshore aquaculture (fish farms).
What sparked your passion for this area of research?
The role of food, energy and housing in a transition to a sustainable future is undeniable. I would like to have a part in aiding industry to tackle challenges in this transition. For instance, compared to steel and concrete, timber buildings require less energy to produce and can store carbon long-term. However, application of timber in construction of multi-storey and high-rise buildings is currently hindered by lack of research and proof of concept. I hope my investigations can help architects, engineers and builders to embrace engineered wood products and to design and build with confidence. Likewise, there are smarter food choices and energy resources. I hope that the studies carried out by academics and researchers like me can encourage public sectors, private sectors and governments to shift towards sustainable development more swiftly.
‘… the world out there is interested in applications of our research, not the number of our articles.’
You’ve co-authored many research papers. What advice do you have for students about working as part of a research team?
Research happens in collaborations. Sometimes a single publication is the combined work of several academics, post-docs, PhDs and honours students. Best practices working in a team are: be transparent about your strengths and weaknesses, be committed, engaged, open-minded and consistent.
A note to students early into their academic experience: it is fine to increase the quantity of your publications. Nevertheless, what I’ve learnt is that the world out there is interested in applications of our research, not the number of our articles. Sometimes less is more—the key is early communication of what you do to a greater audience.
The feedback you receive should determine the future pathway of your research. Sometimes the feedback is harsh. But, bear in mind that industry is driven by mechanisms totally different from university or your research centre. Adapt to change as quickly as possible. Change your research focus if needed—in the long-term it might be a brilliant self-investment.
Do you feel you have moved into a mentor role?
I would like to say yes. Mentorship is a mutual gain. I have benefited a lot from several mentors that helped me grow, and I am very keen to help others develop their careers.
Who has inspired you?
Many people—from a high school teacher who taught me how to stop hating math and enjoy it, to engineers that I worked with, supervisors and line managers. People who are passionate about their life, devoted to their jobs and committed in helping others are most inspiring to me.