SU Alumnus wins CCSA ‘Young Concrete Researcher’ Award

[Article by Cement & Concrete SA]

Cement & Concrete SA (CCSA) has named Dr Benedict Olalusi, lecturer at the University of KZN’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as South Africa’s top Young Concrete Researcher for 2021.

The new award, made at CCSA’s recent Young Concrete Researchers, Engineers and Technologists’ YCRETS 2021 online symposium, recognises young researchers who are making a significant contribution to advancing concrete technology through research excellence at an early stage in their careers.

Dr Olalusi, 31, is a structural engineer who holds a PhD in Civil Engineering from Stellenbosch University. Working with Prof Celeste Viljoen as his supervisor, Dr Olalusi presented research in Structural Reliability and Risk Assessment. According to Prof. Viljoen, Dr Olalusi conducted his work with diligence and perseverance: “Throughout his PhD studies, Dr Olalusi kept a wonderfully positive attitude. He continues to grow as a researcher, collaborates widely, and eagerly tackles new challenges. We are proud of him for his continued achievements,” says Prof. Viljoen.

Before joining the Faculty, Dr Olalusi studied at the Federal University of Technology Akure in Nigeria, where he obtained an MEng degree in Structural Engineering and a B.Eng degree in Civil Engineering. During this time, Dr Olalusi also spent time as an international scholar at the Technical University (TU) of Dortmund in Germany on the institution’s 2019 Gambrinus Fellowship for global cooperation in teaching and research.

The CCSA Young Concrete Researcher for 2021’s research work is focused on structural reliability and risk analysis, shear in concrete beams, probabilistic safety evaluation of existing design standards, and innovative construction materials and application of machine learning and data mining in structural engineering. Dr Olalusi has already won several awards for his research projects from various institutions and has received several research grants from the SA National Research Foundation (NRF) and international bodies.

With years of industry experience in sectors ranging from civil/structural engineering, risk consulting and structural software development, he has authored and co-authored articles in peer-reviewed conference proceedings and reputable journals and has been a supervisor for many postgraduate students.

In accepting the CCSA award, Dr Olalusi said he was highly honoured to win such an important accolade which would inspire him to greater heights in his research work. “I have received inspiration from my seniors and my colleagues, for whom I have the most profound respect, and from whom I have derived the strength to challenge myself to perform better at each stage,” he stated.

Prof Mike Otieno, of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand, who chaired the CCSA Young Concrete Researcher adjudication panel, said CCSA decided to introduce the award, scheduled to be part of future YCRETS symposia, to recognise and appreciate the contributions of young researchers for:

  • The advancement of knowledge in the field of concrete;
  • Their engagement in activities of industry bodies; and
  • Their promotion of a “culture of excellence” among young researchers.

“CCSA wanted to encourage both established and young researchers to mentor and introduce novice researchers into the concrete community,” Prof Otieno stated.

Photograph: Dr Benedict Olalusi