Fahmid Tousif’s hometown of Dhaka, Bangladesh, is growing at the fastest rate of all Asian cities. People from the country’s rural reaches flock to the capital for work, and citizens of neighboring countries are drawn to Dhaka’s prominence in South Asia’s finance industry.
While the economy is steadily growing, the densely populated city experiences significant stress and strain on infrastructure, including roadways. Negative effects on the surface life of asphalt, which Tousif is studying at the University of Idaho under Assistant Professor Emad Kassem, include rutting, moisture damage and fatigue cracking — all of which lead to accidents and slower travel time for motorists.
“Lots of people are coming in every day,” Tousif said. “The government has put a 300 percent tax on people buying new cars, only to discourage people so they can minimize the effect on roads — because we don’t have enough roads.”
Before arriving at U of I’s College of Engineering in fall 2016, Tousif received his bachelor’s in civil engineering from The Islamic University of Technology in Board Bazar, Gazipur, about 30 miles from Dhaka. After graduation, he worked as a business development engineer in the capital for a worldwide infrastructure development firm. He was responsible for attracting new engineering projects, such as flyovers, bridges, metro rails and rapid transit, which he said will “add to the efficiency for the transportation system of the city.”
This work piqued Tousif’s interest in the more niche field of pavement engineering, and soon he began scouting options for an advanced degree.
“I was looking for opportunities to pursue my master’s and I came in contact with Emad and found that we have similar interests and that he’s working with Idaho Transportation Department,” Tousif said. “He told me we could work together on some projects while I pursued my masters, and I said, ‘That’d be great.’”
Tousif is currently assisting doctoral student Hamza Alkuime in a project to address variability in asphalt samples they’ve created in the lab and those that the Idaho Transportation Department has provided them from the field. The ultimate goal is to create the most sustainable mixture and engineer the most optimal design procedure for asphalt.
Tousif will no doubt be a welcome addition to the transportation sector once he returns to Bangladesh, which is experiencing a growing refugee crisis as thousands relocate to the country from Myanmar. While Tousif recognizes that this places extra stress on his country’s resources, he also acknowledges the instinct to help people in need.
“We’re not a big country, and that’s part of the problem,” Tousif said. “But we’ll let people in because you can’t let people die out there.”
After graduating from U of I in spring 2018, he hopes to apply the knowledge he’s gained in extending the surface life of asphalt at one of his country’s institutions for road safety and research. The knowledge will be helpful so Bangladesh can ensure sustainable roadways as their population expands and the impact on roadways increases.
“I think we are at a stage where we should do more research on our roads back home so we can make an educated judgment on rehabilitating the road or making new roads,” Tousif said. “Right now, traffic congestion is the most crucial thing over there. Every day, people are losing almost three to four hours in traffic congestion. It’s a huge waste of time and money. That’s why we need to come up with a solution.”
Article by Kate Keenan, College of Art and Architecture
Published in Spring 2018