Curiosity creates…superior structures

Posted on September 10, 2020


The CN Tower, the Burj Khalifa, and the Golden Gate Bridge – three interesting, iconic, and highly recognizable structures which have come to represent the cities they call home. In doing so, they have captured imaginations of people the world over.

John Kabanda

One of those people wowed by these gargantuan structures was John Kabanda (PhD’20). Ever since he was quite young, he knew he wanted to build.

Kabanda pursued that dream throughout his post-secondary studies, beginning with his undergraduate degree in Ottawa and his masters in Toronto.

In 2013, following his masters, he began working as a structural engineer with Ankor Engineering Systems, applying his skills to buildings like the L Tower in downtown Toronto. He supervised a team of engineers and technicians as they fabricated the various steel frames, beams, and columns that make up the 59-floor tower.

The work was fulfilling, but Kabanda realized he wanted to spend more time researching and deepening his knowledge about steel.

He applied to several universities, with the support of his employer, and in 2015 accepted an offer from Queen’s to complete his PhD. Kabanda’s research, which happened under the supervision of Colin MacDougall, part of the Structures Group of the Department of Civil Engineering, looked at ways of optimizing hollow steel structures to create more durable buildings.

“Queen’s has an excellent research reputation, and I found Queen’s is more receptive to having industry partners involved in your research,” he said. “I applied to a few universities and the best offer was from Queen’s.”

As his PhD studies were concluding, Kabanda enrolled at Oxford University to complete an MBA and grow his network and his abilities as an academic. He also worked in Europe before returning to Kingston in 2019 to conclude his PhD.

With his doctorate complete, Kabanda recently began a post-doctoral position – also with Queen’s Engineering – under the supervision of Mark Green (Sc’87), who specializes in ultra high-performance concrete.

“Concrete and steel are completely different materials, and I see this opportunity as a chance to widen my experience,” he said. “I am looking for academic positions and having knowledge in other fields will help me be ready for those opportunities.”

Kabanda, who was born in Uganda but grew up in Ottawa, aims to teach in Canada following his post-doctoral position. His travels in Canada and Europe exposed him to a number of different university settings, Kabanda noticed a difference about the Queen’s community.

“Since Kingston is more of a university town than Toronto, you make friends here and get to know each other well,” he said. “It’s tight knit – you’re not just a number. I’m glad I did my PhD here.”

To learn more about graduate studies in Civil Engineering, visit the department’s graduate studies page.