After earning his Ph.D. in civil engineering, Mahmoud Shakouri did extensive research into the durability and impact of concrete and cement, including how to minimize the concrete industry’s carbon footprint. Now, he’s continuing his research as an assistant professor at the Department of Construction Management at Colorado State University.
Born and raised in Iran, Shakouri spent most of his childhood in Karaj, one of the large cities in proximity to Tehran, the capital of Iran. Both parents were first-generation college attendees making education a high value in the Shakouri family; Shakouri’s only sibling, his older brother, also is earning his Ph.D. in international finance.
Shakouri received his undergraduate degree in architectural engineering in Iran. By his own admission, designing was never his strong suit; therefore, after graduation he decided to work as a field engineer to gain some hands-on experience. After a few years of working in the industry, he decided to pursue his master’s degree in construction management. He went to Malaysia for that purpose, receiving his degree in 2012.
While in Malaysia, Shakouri started applying to U.S. universities. He felt very fortunate in finding a graduate research assistant position at Louisiana State University. During his tenure at LSU, he worked on a full-size driving simulator, and tested the safety level of various construction work zones.
After two years, he decided to pursue his Ph.D. at Oregon State University. He considers his move to Oregon to be the start of a very important chapter in his life. He began doing research in concrete, made many good friends, and most importantly, met his wife there, Thanh Tran. He completed his Ph.D. in three years and immediately after graduation, he began his faculty career as an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Shakouri joined the CM program at CSU as an assistant professor in August 2021.
Origin of construction career
The beginning of Shakouri’s construction experience happened during his senior year of college, when he worked as a field engineer for a general contractor. The company was involved in building football stadiums and recreational centers. It was quite a unique experience because as an architecture student, Shakouri had limited hands-on construction experience.
After two years in that role, he was promoted to assistant superintendent. His main responsibilities involved assisting the supervision of all on-site construction including the scheduling of sub-contractors on the job, resolving day-to-day problems on the job site, and inspecting all work during construction to ensure compliance with plans and specifications.
Research in construction
While he has various research interests, Shakouri shared the top three on his list: concrete durability, corrosion, and construction safety. In his Ph.D. dissertation, he studied how chlorides can penetrate concrete and contribute to corrosion of the steel rebars and concrete deterioration. After completing his Ph.D., he continued his research, developing new research thrusts to reduce the environmental impact by the concrete industry.
In some of the projects on which he worked, Shakouri studied the feasibility of using agricultural wastes, such as corn stover (the leaves, stalks, and cobs of plants left in the field after harvest), as a supplementary cementitious material in concrete. Since corn is one of the main grains grown in Nebraska, the idea gained traction, and Shakouri received tremendous support from both the university and the Nebraska Corn Board. Currently, he has several proposals being reviewed that look at using other types of agricultural wastes in the construction industry.
New role and future goals for CM at CSU
“Being a faculty member in one of the largest CM programs in the nation is very satisfying, and a dream come true,” Shakouri said. In September, he attended the CM Fall Career Fair and was impressed by the number of participating companies and the amount of support the Construction Management Program receives from the industry.
This semester, Shakouri is teaching the “Construction Materials and Methods” course, and feels like students are still adjusting to in-person classes again. He is hopeful that some sense of normalcy will return following last year’s challenges of many classes being moved to a virtual format due to the pandemic.
He likes doing research and that is one of his main reasons for coming to CSU. Shakouri says, “One of my future goals is to establish a stable and robust concrete research center at CSU. That involves equipping a lab, securing more research funds, and developing a rigorous graduate research program in concrete durability.”
Asked about his advice for current or new students in the Construction Management Program, Shakouri said, “Don’t be shy during class, and ask questions if you don’t understand a concept. Also, try to do as many internships as you can during summer. The construction industry is growing and with more internships on your resume, the prospects are significantly higher of getting a better and higher-paying job.”