Prof. Dr. Sohrabuddin Ahmad is a prominent civil and structural engineering personality in Bangladesh. He was born to Md. Abdul Zabbar Biswas and Mrs. Rahima Khatun on 28th Nov 1939 in Pabna district. He completed his matriculation in 1956 from Armeitola Government High School, Dhaka and Intermediate examination from Dhaka College, Dhaka in 1958.
Prof. Ahmad earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from BUET in 1962 and immediately joined as a Lecturer. On a commonwealth scholarship, he went to University of Wales, Swansea, U.K. in 1965 and completed his M.Sc. in 1967 and PhD in 1969 and returned to BUET. He became Asstt. Professor in 1969, Assoc. Professor in 1973 and professor in 1976.
In his PhD research, Prof. Ahmad worked under the supervision of Prof. O.C. Zienkiewicz who is generally regarded as the Father of Finite Element Method. Prof. Ahmad’s thesis title was Curved Finite Elements in the Analysis of Solid, Shell and Plate Structures. He formulated the famous general thick shell element as a part of his PhD research that enabled engineers and researchers to easily solve many engineering problems which were otherwise difficult to comprehend and analyze with the knowledge and technology available at that time. Prof. Ahmad belongs to that generation of researchers who pioneered the development of the finite element method. Few years later, Prof. Ahmad again went to UK in 1976 under a Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship Program to work with Prof. Zienkiewicz on further development and application of general curved shell finite elements. In 1977 he was awarded Killam Fellowship for one year by University of Calgary, Canada to work with another finite element pioneer Prof. Bruce Irons who developed the famous semiloof shell element culminating to the award of D.Sc. (Wales). This was done by incorporating additional loof nodes in the Ahmad’s thick shell element and applying discrete Kirchhoff hypotheses. During this time, Prof. Ahmad and Prof. Irons (who was Cosupervisor of Ahmad’s Ph.D. work in Swansea) worked together to write a textbook on finite element method titled Techniques of Finite Elements. It is a 529-page post-graduate level textbook published in 1980 by Ellis Horwood Ltd., Englad and distributed by John Wiley and Sons.
Prof. Ahmad continued to contribute to the engineering community at home and abroad through various researches conducted under his guidance where the thick shell element was used as a tool. He actively took part in the development of the first Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC, 1993) which incorporates some of his fundamental research outcomes with special reference to the design of stairs. He also authored and co-authored many other book/booklet publications such as Finite Element Methods in Stress Analysis, (Tapir Press, Trondheim, pp. 383-432, 1969), Engineering Concerns of Flood, 1998 Perspective (DAERS, BUET, 2002), Earthwork Manual, (USAID, 1981) including its Bangla translation, Road Structures Manual (Ministry of LGRD&C, 1986) etc.
Apart from his role as a pioneering academician and researcher, Prof. Ahmad also proved himself to be a prudent, patriotic and visionary administrator. Due to somewhat volatile economic and political scenario of the mid and late 70s in Bangladesh, there had been an exodus of academicians to go abroad. At one stage, he was the only faculty with a PhD in the department. In those difficult times, he became the Head of the Department of Civil Engineering in 1978 and administered the department of about 1000 students with only about 15 faculty members. In his administrative career, Prof. Ahmad also served as the Founder Dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering during the period of 1979 ~ 1981. As an administrator, he pioneered to establish the tradition of two-year tenureship of the Head of the Departments and other university officials. Prof. Ahmad’s bold step to recruit lecturers in numbers from the qualified fresh graduates has led to a steady gradual enrichment of the department. The current group of about sixty highly qualified active faculty members including fifty PhD holders is the result of Prof. Ahmad’s such visionary administrative actions. As a prominent scholar with meticulous administrative skills, Prof. Ahmad also additionally served in many positions appointed by the government. He served as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Bangladesh Institute of Technology (BIT) Rajshahi, Member of the University Grants Commission etc. He was Vice-Chairman, Council of Bangladesh Institutes of Technology appointed by the Honorable President of Bangladesh when the four Institutes were converted to four Universities of Engineering) & Technology (DUET, CUET, CUET & RUET)
As an expert structural engineering consultant and project management specialist, Prof. Ahmad had been engaged in rendering various services in the capacity of Team Leader/Member since 1969 with special reference to tall buildings, jetties, folded plate and shell roofs, lattice transmission towers, hangers, pavements, roads and bridges. Fender System for Jamuna River Crossing Towers, BTTB Microwave Towers at Chittagong, Wide-bodied Aircraft Hanger Complex at HSIA, Runway Overlay Project at HSIA, Kanchan Bridge, Paisarhat Bridge, Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive, Bogra Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College and 500 Bed Hospital are only a few among various projects where Prof. Ahmad successfully led the team of BUET consultants. Even after his retirement from BUET in 2004, Prof. Ahmad is continuing himself as an expert structural design consultant and project management specialist in many development projects of the Govt. such as the Zillur Rhaman Flyover, U-loops on the Pragati Sarani, Kuril Flyover (Interchange) at Kuril, Dhaka, Six Lane Overpass at Banani Rail Crossing in Dhaka, Mirpur-Airport Road Flyover in Dhaka, Post-disaster Construction and Bearing Replacement of Bahaddarhat Flyover in Chittagong, Rehabilitation of Meghna and Meghna-Gumti Bridge Superstructure, Maona Flyover and Salna Railway Overpass, Mohipal Flyover Construction at Feni, and Improvement of Jatrabari Intersection to Patchchar – Bhanga through Mawa Road of Dhaka – Khulna (N8) Highway.
In recognition to his academic excellence, service to the engineering community and valuable contribution towards enhancement of knowledge and innovation in discharging duties as an educationist, researcher and organizer, Prof. Ahmad received the IEB Gold Medal in 2003. He is also the first recipient of Dr. Rashid Memorial Gold Medal (1995) from BUET in 1997. Regarding his textbook Techniques of Finite Elements , the Syndicate of BUET observed with satisfaction and honour that the book is of very high standard and of International level. The Syndicate also felt that such achievement is, perhaps, the first of its kind in Bangladesh. As such he received a Letter of Appreciation from the Syndicate of BUET.
He has published extensively and edited quite a few technical books and manuals. He has received research excellence award for his publications in ASCE Journal of Structural Engineering Division presented by AABEA (California Chapter) in 1997 and IEB award for the Best Paper 2002, published in the IEB Journal of Civil Engineering.