Meet the researchers: Aryan Razaei Rad

Aryan Razaei Rad first joined NCCR Digital Fabrication in the first phase and recently defended his PhD thesis. Find out how he got into his work with interactive design for digital fabrication.

Position within NCCR: PhD candidate (2016-2020) and Postdoctoral Researcher (2020-).

What is the aim of your research?

The scope of my research includes the disciplines of computer science, digital architecture and structural engineering, and it is oriented toward developing an interactive design framework for digitally-fabricated timber structures.

What does your work involve? What does a typical day look like for you?

It depends on the phase of my research. Generally, my work involves computer programming, numerical simulations and structural design. On the other hand, if I am involved in experimental studies, I normally start my day in the structural laboratory, designing test samples and setups, testing, and post-processing the results.

What was your background?

I am a civil engineer and I majored in structural engineering. My areas of expertise include computer-aided engineering, numerical simulations, earthquake engineering and structural dynamics. Before starting my PhD, I received my M.Sc. diploma from Tehran Polytechnic, in which my research was focused on probabilistic (passive) control of structures using risk evaluation techniques under earthquake.

Aryan Lab

How did you end up doing this PhD?

Before starting the Ph.D. at IBOIS EPFL, I became familiar with timber structures while I was collaborating with Prof. Dr. Henry V. Burton at The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). That helped me to come across The Laboratory for Timber Construction (IBOIS) and NCCR Digital Fabrication. The highly collaborative projects and cross-disciplinary platform of NCCR Digital Fabrication and IBOIS attracted me and motivated me to apply for the PhD position.

You recently had the very strange experience of defending your PhD remotely – what was that like? Have you found that the lockdown has impacted on your ability to finish up your work?

At the beginning, it was very stressful. Before COVID-19, we had planned to invite globally -recognised jury members for my Ph.D. exam from Switzerland, Los Angeles and London. As the situation with COVID-19 escalated globally and Switzerland started a lockdown, jury members could no longer travel to Lausanne. By this time, I had two options, to postpone the defense or to hold it virtually. We were able to switch to the remote version thanks to the great cooperation and flexibility of the jury and EPFL doctoral school. It was one of the first PhD exams in the history of EPFL where all members joined remotely. All in all, that was a very great and unique experience. The jury members were able to evaluate my work, ask questions, and make comments. I also held my public defense online through a zoom webinar, and I would conclude that the lockdown has had a constructive impact not only on my ability but also on the visibility of our research at IBOIS and NCCR Digital Fabrication. Specifically, with my online public defense, which more than 130 people attended.

Team outing

What do you plan to do next, now that you have completed your PhD?

I have the opportunity to continue my collaboration with IBOIS and NCCR Digital Fabrication as a postdoctoral scientist.

Is there anything that you wish you had known when you first started out on your PhD?

This is not a new point, but I think it needs to be reminding to every PhD who is at the beginning of his/her road, to keep in mind that there are a lot of ups and downs until the finish line and s/he needs to be patient and keep up hope!

You always have a very friendly and positive attitude, how do you keep so cheerful even when things aren’t going so well?

Thanks for the comment! I guess that is a family trait. I believe this is a good way to retain morals and also give positive energy to my colleagues.

What do you do outside of work to relax and unwind?

Enjoying Switzerland's, and especially Lausanne’s, nature. The EPFL campus is remarkably beautiful and you can easily go for a walk by Lac Léman and recharge. Also, spending time with my family, and travelling. I am also interested in enriching Persian poetry, however, I can barely find time to dive into the literature!

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Photo credits: EPFL - Alain Herzog