Witnessing destruction led engineer into career of creation

Civil engineering doctoral student's career sparked by war in Iraq

University of Cincinnati doctoral student Rand Talib balances a full-time job, doctoral research work and being a parent. Her experience witnessing the destruction of beautiful buildings in Iraq as a child sparked her interest in becoming a professor who can teach others to rebuild, as well as her passion to find new ways to create more efficient buildings. Talib was named Graduate Student Engineer of the Month by UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science. Here, she shares her UC experience. 

Why did you choose to study civil engineering?

Rand Talib headshot

Rand Talib. Photo/provided.

I grew up in Iraq and I was always fascinated by buildings in my country and the  architecture and history in them. I was 13 years old when the second Persian Gulf War happened. I saw all the buildings that I loved being destroyed and it broke my heart into pieces. I remember crying watching the news when I saw the building that I used to walk by on my way to school was burned and destroyed by a rocket.

I grew up and decided to be an engineer. I wanted to one day help build again what I loved. I graduated with an architectural engineering degree in 2012 from the University of Baghdad. After graduation, I moved to the United States and I’m now a proud citizen of this country. 

Why did you choose UC?

After completing my master’s degree in civil engineering at North Carolina A&T State University and working as an adjunct professor there, I was interested in pursuing a Ph.D. degree, so I started doing my research on prospective schools in the field of engineering and this is how I found UC. The engineering program is one the best out there. Also, the College of Engineering and Applied Science just launched an energy program that specializes in studying the energy consumption of building systems which is the basis of my research work. This subject is getting more and more attention every day.

What does your doctoral research entail?

I am doing research work in in the modeling and simulation of HVAC systems. I created an accurate model that can predict and reduce the energy consumption of a building. My work has resulted in significantly reducing the energy consumption of the buildings that were being investigated. I also created an innovative optimization tool that will be used to better operate the chilled water VAV systems and reduce energy.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments?

I was able to author and co-author nine papers so far that facilitate my research work. I am also proud that I was able to achieve a 4.0 GPA in my Ph.D. course work as well as graduating from my master’s degree with the same GPA. 

What are some challenges you face? How do you stay motivated?

One of the challenges of being a Ph.D. student is time management. Between being a mom, research work and a full-time job while striving for perfection, time management becomes a challenge! 

The strive for more and the idea that I am not done yet and there is more to do or explore keeps me up at night. Believing that there is more I can do and accomplish that I have not done yet is my motivation to keep going every day. 

Outside of work I like to spend time with my 5-year-old son playing and building LEGO as our favorite weekend activity. 

What are your future goals?

I am hoping that I will pursue an academic career as teaching is my passion. I hope I will be able to pass on the knowledge that I am receiving and help make a difference. 

I still have my dream of one day being able to go back to Iraq to educate the new generations with all the knowledge that I received here and help them get the skills and education needed to be able to build what is destroyed.

Featured image at top: Rhodes Hall at UC. Photo/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.