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VIDEO: Liam Steers: Master's Candidate in Civil Engineering

Learn more about The School of Graduate Studies at Queen's and the Department of Civil Engineering.

 

Video transcript:

Hi, my name's Liam Steers,

I am supervised by Dr Andy Take in the

Department of Civil Engineering and my

research if focused on the static liquefaction of

granular slopes.

Coming from high school, I knew that I was always

interested in science and mathematics.

Engineering seemed to be a natural choice.

I am the fourth generation of engineer in my

family so there's my grandfather, my dad, myself, and I guess

my great-grandfather as well.

In my undergrad, instead of doing civil engineering,

I decided to do geological. It kind of fit the trend that

my family goes through. My grandfather was a

geological engineer as well, and his father was a

mining engineer, so it seemed to be a natural

choice and taking the first-year geo course really

inspired me to go into the geo stream, learning about

landslides and earthquakes just really seemed to fit what I

was interested in.

After I graduated, I worked for about a year-and a half

- two years for a geotechnical site investigation

company. I did often feel that I would come back and

do a graduate degree. I just didn't know when. After

graduating and getting a bit of work experience,

I just felt that it was time to go back and pursue

what I always wanted to do.

I always had a passion for landslides and having

taken Dr Take's undergrad geotechnical course,

I realized that this is the supervisor that I

want to work with.

I found his research to be quite interesting

and I knew that he was a leader in the his field,

so I thought this was the perfect situation.

My research focuses on the static liquefaction of granular

slopes, so what I'm doing is modelling with a

centrifuge out in Newfoundland.

We're testing at 30g on 5cm-thick slope,

so a 5cm-thick slope under 30g makes it seem

like it's 1.5m in thickness, making it a more

realistic problem. You're never going to have a

landslide that's 5cm thick, so doing this we get

more realistic slope, but also testing under g, we are

able to make these tests that might take months

or years to perform. We can do them in a matter of

hours so we get real-time results much more quickly.

I am using a process called digital image correlation

with a piece of software that my supervisor, Dr Take, developed

in his PhD to actually track specific pixels of images

in the slide so that we get an idea of their displacement

and how quickly they are moving.

From my personal experience, I find that

going out and getting work experience is quite

beneficial and coming back and doing grad studies

though, for example, in my undergrad, I took a bunch

of courses that talk about various types of field

testing that you do and they give you a very brief

overview of what it is and they show you some plots

of the data that's collected and they say,

'This is what this is, just run with it. Just test it.'

But having had that work experience and knowing how that

data is collected, how it's interpreted, how the consultant

then goes and uses it, gives me a broader understanding

of the strengths as well as the weaknesses with the

particular tests and how we can then later apply

them to actual design.

If you're on the fence, go for it because there's

really no downside to it.

You get some experience toward your PEng, you become a

specialist in the area you're researching, which can be very

appealing to employers, something appealing to graduates

is that once you graduate, you have a higher starting salary

more often than someone with an undergraduate degree

and it's really just two years. In the long run

that's not going to affect your overall career negatively

it can only affect it positively.