Anas Issa, PhD '18, School of Engineering

Anas Issa
“What you know is not as important as being able to recognize what you don't know, so that you can either learn what you need or get help from someone who does.”

Anas Issa is a PhD candidate who joined the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan in January 2016. For the last two years, he has been extensively involved in research related to the development of self-centering bracing systems, smart materials and their structural applications, vulnerability assessment of buildings, and seismic rehabilitation techniques. His research is focused on the development of innovative spring and piston based self-centering bracing systems for enhanced dynamic performance of buildings. He completed his MSc in civil engineering from United Arab Emirates University (UAEU).

His appetency to conduct research has resulted in many conference papers and journal papers. He has already presented his research at several national and international conferences and received appreciation from the scholarly audiences. The research he has done at UBC Okanagan is already in the process of patenting. Issa, mentored by UILO at UBC Okanagan and e@UBC is in the process of establishing his own business which will commercialize his patentable research idea.

What have you learned in engineering that is most valuable?

I've been studying engineering for nine years (a five-year undergrad, two-year master’s, and two-year PhD). I wouldn't highlight any particular technical skill as being the most valuable; rather, the most important engineering skill has been learning how to go about tackling problems, such as developing intuition to apply what you know. An engineering education doesn't teach you how to solve specific problems (as much as individual courses might feel that way), but it gives you a toolbox to approach new problems. What you know is not as important as being able to recognize what you don't know, so that you can either learn what you need or get help from someone who does.

I think engineers generally tend to make solutions as comprehensive as possible. However, the lesson I have learned is that the most comprehensive (and thus more complicated) solutions are not always the best solutions with regard to technical problems. Less complicated solutions often produce results nearly as useful as the most comprehensive ones, and then it becomes difficult to justify the extra time and energy spent. Therefore, we need to be careful in deciding what we want to achieve and how can we do things efficiently.

What advice would you give a student considering engineering?

Engineering is tough, and I don't say it to turn people away. I've often heard people say that completing an engineering degree gets easier as you get closer to finishing, but I would disagree, and argue that you expand your knowledge and adapt your work habits to the increasing challenges. In this sense, engineering is very rewarding and can put you onto one of many career paths if you're willing to work for it.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Actually, I find inspiration from “good things,” such as parents, family, friends, culture, mentors, scientists, activists and sports. I am inspired by anything that motivates me to positive initiatives; in particular, my father Dr. Salem Issa (who is a professor of civil engineering) and both supervisors of my master’s and PhD are major inspirations. I learned countless things about engineering and life in general from them. I highly appreciate the role engineers play toward the advancement of human civilization since ancient times. When I see their numerous achievements shape modern lifestyle, I feel very inspired to work hard to become an accomplished engineer.

When my efforts are recognized, I feel motivated to perform better. Each of the three awards I have received at UBC Okanagan (Center for Green Infrastructure Award 2018, University Graduate Fellowship 2017, and Graduate Entrance Scholarship 2016) inspired me to intensify my efforts.

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

Someone once told me “Civil engineers are the anonymous heroes of society.” We’re responsible for creating infrastructure and systems that people rely on every day: from the clean water that runs from our kitchen taps, to the homes we live in and offices we work at, to the roads and bridges we drive every day. We work to not only make people’s lives easier, but to keep them safe, healthy and comfortable.

As I embark on my career as a civil engineer, I know that I will be making a difference in the world. Ultimately, I hope to use the knowledge I’ve gained during my time at UBC in combination with modern technology and the movement for a greener world to help improve how we interact with our global environment and mitigate the footprint we leave behind.

Whether it’s through my work as a professional or my work as a volunteer, I want what I do to help make people’s lives a little bit better.