On solid ground

UTS Insearch Managing Director Alex Murphy; Matt Hassoun and is wife.
UTS Insearch Managing Director Alex Murphy; Matt Hassoun and is wife.

Moving to Australian from Lebanon for university wasn’t a hard decision for Matt Hassoun – he was keen to achieve top engineering qualifications that would be recognised globally and challenge himself to experience a new culture and country.

Starting as a Diploma of Engineering student at UTS Insearch in Sydney, he has always pushed himself to get the highest grades and to achieve.  “I’d travelled all the way from the other side of the world to get here – and I want to be the best,” he said.  “Why should I be average?” 

Importance of internships

The highlight of Matt’s time at UTS while studying civil engineering was the opportunity to complete practical internships - which he now recommends to all his students.

Finding that first internship required some lateral thinking as the three largest engineering firms he initially approached were full. “I took a chance and dropped my resume into the office of a small firm next to the train station, and a few days later they called and said they’ll give me a go,” Matt said. 

Working in a smaller company turned out to have greater benefits than expected, as they offered much more one-to-one feedback and experience than a big company which may only have a few days of training.

“I’ve done a range of practical work such as drafting in AutoCAD, developing mechanical, fire, hydraulics and electrical plans for community centres, houses, residential units and medical centres. You need to know what happens in an engineering office and know exactly what the industry needs,” Matt said.

“I can immediately see the difference between a student who has done internships and worked versus someone who hasn’t. They have a better knowledge of what to do - they have professional email replies, know how to communicate with people, and how quickly they have to work.”

Commitment to further education

After completing his degree and going in to industry, Matt was attracted back to UTS for his PhD, and now also teaches at UTS Insearch, sharing his interest in engineering with the next generation of students.

“I think about classes from the student point of view - what would I want to do? I know what students want and what the industry needs from them,” he said. “I include lots of videos and practical work. I even have a student who got a job from using a class project in his interview portfolio.”

Matt is in the final stages of writing several papers for academic publication on his PhD topic looking at the potential for soil to control the impact of earthquakes on bridges. “It’s a lower cost, sustainable solution and very relevant to many parts of the world,” he said.

Love is in the air

To top off all his achievements, Matt also found love at UTS. He has recently had a son with his wife, Zahra Ali, also an engineer, having met at UTS in their civil engineering classes.

In April, Matt was presented with a UTS Insearch Alumni Prize at a special Graduation and Prize Giving Ceremony in recognition of his contribution to education and research. His research topic will also be presented in Italy this year at the Seventeenth International Conference on Earthquake and Geotechnical Engineering.