Meet the academic: Dr Boulent Imam
Senior Lecturer and MSc Programme Leader, Dr Boulent Imam tells us why he became fascinated with infrastructure engineering, and how studying for a Masters can open up exciting career opportunities.
Please could you introduce yourself – perhaps you could tell us something that isn’t on your staff profile page?
Originally my teaching and research focused on bridge engineering. However my exposure to this area made me realise that bridges are more than just structures, they are entities that keep transportation systems alive: the failure of one single bridge can significantly impact the economy, the environment and society.
What’s your favourite memory of being a student?
The close friendships I developed when I did my Masters at the University of Surrey, many of whom I still meet up with on an annual basis.
How and why did you become an academic?
I’d never considered doing a PhD, but when I carried out research as part of my Masters dissertation, I found it fascinating to investigate something which nobody else in the world had investigated in detail before. This led me to decide to extend my studies by undertaking a PhD, and then pursue an academic career, which enabled me to continue my research and share it with students.
What excites you most about your current role?
Welcoming new students every year to train them as our future engineers, and also hearing news of our former students going on to important professional roles. A graduate of our MSc Infrastructure Engineering and Management course recently told me the course had helped her secure her dream job: being responsible for the planning of infrastructure systems in a large town.
What is your particular area of academic expertise, and why are you passionate about it?
My particular area of interest is asset management, which involves the management of existing historic bridges so that we can continue using them safely and efficiently into the future. It’s fascinating to investigate bridges that were constructed over a century ago by the Victorians, and understand how they perform in our current circumstances – both in terms of the differing volume of traffic and also the environmental conditions surrounding these structures.
Why should people study at postgraduate level in your academic area?
A Masters course gives both new graduates and professionals working in industry the opportunity to expand their knowledge and expertise, and enables them to apply for specialist roles. The courses we offer at Surrey are very distinctive – for example our Bridge Engineering MSc is the only course of its kind in Europe while our Infrastructure Engineering MSc and Management is one of the few in the world that provides a holistic overview of the subject.
What are you looking for in a postgraduate student?
Students who are motivated and excited about expanding their studies to the next level, and who have an open, questioning mind.
Is there a particular memory of your time at Surrey (so far) which stands out for you?
There are two memories that really stand out for me. One was when I was invited to deliver my first keynote speech at the most prestigious conference in my area of expertise, in front of an audience of 600 people in Shanghai. The other was when Surrey was named as the UK’s University of the Year by The Times and The Sunday Times – it made me really proud to be part of this very strong university community.