I studied for Bachelor of Civil Engineering at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology. This was a four year degree covering a wide range of disciplines that come under the umbrella of civil engineering, e.g. structural engineering, transport engineering, soil mechanics, town planning, fluid mechanics, engineering mathematics, project management, etc. We were always given the impression that the education from the western universities was much more comprehensive and valuable, to the extent that many engineering job advertisements would stipulate for the candidates to have foreign qualifications.

However, after coming to the UK, I realised that it was far from the truth. Universities did have very large budgets, extremely expensive degrees, access to equipment and links in industry, but the education itself wasn't even half as good. Being mathematically challenged is quite acceptable even for the teachers, and everyone expects students from Asian countries to be mathematical geniuses. In my view, the minimum amount of mathematics required to pass from an Asian engineering university is higher than what the best engineering students attain on average in western universities at this time.

In the final year of the engineering degree, it is a requirement to submit a research based thesis/dissertation or a project report. I first started research on using the fly ash, from a local coal power plant, as a substitute or partial replacement for portland cement in construction. This was initiated by reports that if they fly ash was mixed with water when it was hot, it solidified rock hard like cement, and some workers from the power house had built small structures or used them in construction of their houses. I had to abandon this because of some broken equipment in our materials testing lab, and it was taking too long to prepare the test samples manually. This is a prime example of where the asian universities lag behind because of a lack of funds. I had to pick a different project quite late and finish it in time. Having given up on something that required physical tests, this time I wanted to do something that would not rely on materials sourcing, access to equipment, etc. Having a good background in computer programming and mathematics, I decided to develop a finite element model and write a piece of software to implement it. It was the hardest I have ever worked, it took two months of working on this project, not doing anything else at all apart from eating and sleeping. The PDF of this thesis can be found here, some pictures have gone missing from the original Word document, which I will replace if I find time.

To be continued...
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