Having grown up in Mafriq, Jordan, Hamza Alkuime has witnessed the impact that geopolitical instability can have on a country’s transportation infrastructure.
Five years ago, the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world, with nearly 80,000 people, sprung up on the outskirts of Alkuime’s hometown. Now the region is experiencing significant pressure on its highway infrastructure, as delivery trucks carrying food supplies and commodities come to the camp. The regions highways experienced additional strain when border crossings to Syria and Iraq were closed and the road maintenance ceased.
Alkuime came to the University of Idaho in December 2016 to study pavement engineering under Assistant Professor Emad Kassem. He says the Jordan government is “doing their best to fix the roads or construct new highways.” He’s hoping the expertise he’ll gain as a doctoral student in the College of Engineering can one day be an asset to his home country.
“We consider the roads important to us,” Alkuime said. “Maintenance is a very important part of their budget. We take care of our roads.”
Alkuime’s interest in engineering stems from his father, who owns a construction company in Mafriq. As a high school student, Alkuime would go to work with his dad and see the projects he was working on, primarily the construction of schools and roads.
In 2013, he received his bachelor’s in civil engineering from The Hashemite University outside Zarqa, Jordan. Then he worked for his dad in Mafriq for two years. After seeing how traffic could be controlled to prevent accidents, Alkuime decided to go back to school. In 2015, he received his master’s in traffic and pavement engineering from the Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid
When Alkuime began researching doctoral programs in the U.S., he felt drawn to the advanced coursework offered at U of I. He spoke with Kassem via videoconference about his collaboration with the Idaho Transportation Department, and Alkuime saw opportunity in the hands-on research and real-life applicability of the project. Now he’s studying how to extend the surface life of asphalt and avoid rutting, cracks and moisture damage.
Alkuime hopes to graduate in 2020. He wants to return to Jordan to teach as a professor in one of his country’s research programs.
Article by Kate Keenan, College of Art and Architecture
Published in Spring 2018