National Professor Dr. Jamilur Reza Choudhury is the most eminent personality in engineering community of Bangladesh who played a cardinal role in development of the infrastructure system of Bangladesh. He was an internationally recognized civil engineer, educationist, researcher, administrator and a leader.
Prof. JR Choudhury was born to Mrs. Hayatun Nessa Choudhury (1922-2010) and Engr. Abid Reza Choudhury (1905-1991) in Sylhet on 15th November 1943. He had his early education in Mymensingh Zilla School and later moved to Dhaka where he attended Nawabpur Government High School and St. Gregory’s High school and completed his matriculation (SSC) in 1957. He completed his intermediate (HSC) education from Dhaka College in 1959. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from BUET (then EPUET) in 1963 (first class first with honors) and joined the Civil Engineering Department as a lecturer in the same year. He then went to the University of Southampton in 1964, UK on a Scholarship and earned his master’s degree in advanced structural engineering in 1965. The topic of his MSc thesis was Cracks in Concrete Beam using Computer Aided Design. He continued his study there and earned a PhD in 1968. His PhD research was on Shear Wall and Structural Analysis of High Rise Building. As a part of his research, Prof. Choudhury developed a simplified method for analysis of shear walls in tall buildings (Commonly known as Coull and Choudhury’s Method) which has been widely used all over the world. The method is now a part of many text books in the field and taught to designers in different countries. On returning to Bangladesh, he continued to serve as a teacher in BUET and in the course of time became a full Professor in 1976. In 1975, he was offered the Commonwealth Staff Fellowship to pursue his post-doctoral studies at the University of Surrey, where he spent a year as a visiting associate professor. He served as the Head of the Dept. of Civil Engineering, BUET for the periods of 1978–79 and 1981–83. He also served as the Dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering during the period of 1983-85. During this time and later, Prof. Choudhury also held the position of the Director of Computer Centre for about ten years (1982-1992) which has later grown into the Institute of Information and Communication Technology (IICT) in BUET. Upon his retirement from BUET in 2001, Prof. Choudhury was appointed as the Vice Chancellor of the BRAC University, Dhaka where he served till 2010. Since 2010, he is holding the position of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Asia-Pacific in Dhaka.
Prof. Choudhury’s contribution to infrastructure development of Bangladesh cannot be overstated. Virtually no important development project in Bangladesh has been implemented without the involvement of Prof. Choudhury. He acted as expert consultant to a large number of national and international agencies on projects related to expressways, bridges, tall buildings, industrial buildings, transmission towers, aircraft hangars, stadiums, ports and jetties, computerization of public and private sector organizations etc. He was the Team Leader for the Multipurpose Cyclone Shelter Program and prepared the master plan for cyclone shelters in the coastal areas of Bangladesh in the early nineties. He acted as expert adviser to a number of national and international projects. He was a key member of the steering committee on the Bangladesh National Building Code (1993) and played a vital role in formulating the first design wind speed map and seismic zoning map of Bangladesh. He was a chairman of the Panel of Experts (advising the Government, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and OECF, Japan) for the Bangabandhu (Jamuna) Bridge; he was the head of the International Panel of Experts for Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project. Besides, he also acted as the chairman of the panel of experts in many other mega projects such as the First Dhaka Elevated Expressway PPP Project (21 km), Karnaphuli Tunnel, Dhaka Subway, Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway Project (24 km) and many others.
The immense popularity and respect Dr. Choudhury draws from the engineering community of Bangladesh made him the president of the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB) for the period of 1992-93. Owing to his popular personality and neutral public image, he was appointed Adviser (Minister) in the Non-Party Caretaker Government in April, 1996 and was in charge of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the Ministry of Water Resources. Besides such top-tier leadership activities, Prof. Choudhury also served as the chairman or head of many other govt. and non-govt. committees and organizations. He was the Chairman of Board of Directors of Bangladesh Shilpa Bank (1996 – 1998), Chairman of the Board of Governors, Bangladesh Institute of Technology, Chittagong (1997-2004), Vice President of the Bangladesh Computer Society, founder president of Bangladesh Earthquake Society etc. He was the Chairman of the Board of Accreditation for Engineering and Technical Education (BAETE), Bangladesh. He was a Fellow of Institution of Civil Engineers (U.K.) and was a Chartered Engineer, UK. As the president of Bangladesh Mathematical Olympiad Committee, he was leading a movement to develop awareness on mathematics among the school and college students of Bangladesh.
Though Prof. Choudhury was a civil engineer, his contribution to IT sector in Bangladesh is noteworthy. He was appointed the chairman of the task force for developing Software Export and IT Infrastructure in Bangladesh from 1997 to 2000 under Ministry of Commerce. He was Convener, Committee on Export of Software and Data Processing Services (1997), Convener, Committee for Formulation of IT Policy for Bangladesh (1999 and 2008), Convener, ICT in Higher Education Group formed by Ministry of Education (2005). He was a member of the IT Task Force headed by the Prime Minister (2001–09). In 2007, he was the Convener, Committee for Preparing Voter List with Photographs. He was a ranking member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on developing Digital Bangladesh.
Prof. Choudhury proved himself to be a prudent and visionary administrator through many responsibilities he carried out throughout his career. Due to somewhat volatile and uncertain socio-economic situation of Bangladesh in the 70s, there had been an exodus of academicians to foreign countries. In those difficult times he became the Head of the Department of Civil Engineering, BUET (1978–79, 81–83) and at one stage was the only faculty in the department with a PhD. Under his leadership, the Computer Center of BUET evolved into a full-fledged computing facility which served the teachers and students as an excellent resource for carrying out research. As the top administrator of two universities (BRAC Univ. and Univ. of Asia-Pacific), he played the leading role in establishing these institutions as top ranking private universities in Bangladesh.
The works and contributions of Prof. Choudhury to engineering science and technology are reflected in various publications authored by him. He published about 70 papers in international journals and conference proceedings related to tall buildings, low-cost housing, earthquake resistant design, cyclones and storm surges, retrofitting of structures, IT applications and policy issues. His brilliant works continue to inspire young civil engineers home and abroad.
In recognition to his contribution to the society, Bangladesh Govt. declared him as a National Professor in June 2018. In the same year, he was also adorned with the Order of the Rising Sun: Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon – a highly prestigious honor conferred by the Japanese Govt. In 2017, he received the prestigious national award Ekuskey Padak for his contribution to science and technology. Earlier he received JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Recognition Award in 2013 for his outstanding contribution to Bangladesh’s high-profile development schemes. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa) by Manchester University in 2010 – the first person of Bangladeshi origin to receive this honor from a British University. Dr. Choudhury was also the recipient of numerous other awards and medals such as Dr. MA Rashid Memorial Gold Medal (1997), IEB Gold Medal (1998), Rotary Club Foundation SEED award (2000), Bangladesh Computer Society Gold Medal (2005), ICT Champion Award by Bangladesh Association for Software and IT Services (BASIS, 2009), Lions International (District-315) Gold Medal (2007), Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah Gold Medal (2012), BDI Lifetime Achievement Award (2017) and many more.
In his personal life, Prof. Choudhury was married to Mrs. Selina Choudhury. They are blessed with daughter Charisma Farheen Choudhury and son Kaashif Reza Choudhury. Prof. Choudhury passed away on 28th April 2020 at the age of 76.