Meri Sadeghipour, Associate Engineer

Meri joined ATC Williams in early 2020 with over 14 years of experience in large-scale multidisciplinary and industrial projects. We talked to Meri about her speciality in performing numerical modelling and analysing dams and Tailings Storage Facilities (TSF).

Hi Meri, what does numerical modelling involve?

Numerical modelling is a sophisticated technique to simulate material behaviour and response of geotechnical structures under different conditions for prediction of deformations, seepage and ground water flow, stresses, and failure mechanisms. Whilst it is a powerful tool, it requires a thorough understanding and calibration of input material parameters and boundary conditions for a reliable assessment and prediction of the structure behaviour. In simple terms, Garbage In! Garbage Out!

It is an advance and complimentary design tool that can consider various types of analyses. This service is becoming common practice due to significant improvements in computing power and advancement in soil and rock materials constitutive models.

We offer the complete A-Z steps in numerical modelling so clients can be confident that all necessary measures are taken to ensure that the design of complex structures like tailings dams (which have special environmental importance) is adequately assessed and optimised.

How are clients using numerical modelling?

As an advance tool, numerical modelling can benefit the client allowing improvements in design and operation of geo-structures, whilst ensuring their safety.

We use various numerical modelling programs to simulate different loading and flow conditions and those aspects that could affect a structure over time. Technology and software have improved so much that we can do what was almost impossible or very time-consuming in the past.

Have you worked in this area before?

I gained experience developing two and three-dimensional numerical modellings at university using ABAQUS software. So, I knew the principles of coding and the stages required. During my Masters of Geotechnical Engineering, I worked in a Geotech lab. I then worked as a structural designer and project engineer in Iran for twelve years before moving to Australia.

Why did you decide to live and work in Australia?

My partner Ali and I are both engineers, and fortunately, we were able to move to Australia through the skilled nominated program together. We chose Australia as a well-developed first-world country to make a prosperous future and a better quality of life for ourselves. Although I knew it would be a challenge, creating a better situation was worth the move.

We moved here in January 2020, unaware that the pandemic was about to unfold. It was a hard time to be so far from family. However, everyone at ATC Williams was very welcoming and understanding. I have adapted quickly to learning about a new city and different culture. Two and a half years later, I can see it was the right decision to make, and I would say that I am a better version of myself now.

What do you enjoy about working in engineering?

Engineering is all about problem-solving, and I enjoy that. Even as a kid, I enjoyed fixing and constructing things. I started in engineering in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry.

Since moving to Australia, I have worked in a different industry. Geotechnical engineering for the mining sector is more challenging since soil and rock are less predictable than most other materials. Part of my work involves seismic analyses, which are very complicated and highly unpredictable. For me, accepting that some things are unknown and then trying to overcome them is beautiful work to do.

At ATC Williams, there is always the opportunity to experience different areas such as design, modelling, site investigations and lab work. So every day, I learn something new. I also love the culture of teamwork here because we all share skills across the company and support each other. I recently chose to manage a tailings storage project and enjoyed the challenge. I believe if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

What would you say are your career highlights so far?

When I was a junior structural engineer, I worked on a nine-storey hotel apartment complex that covers an area of 4,000 square metres with about 2,000 tonnes of steel structure. I was involved in that project from basic design to detail design, fabrication, and construction supervision. Which, at age 26, was a great experience to have so young. My partner was my colleague back then, and we spent two years working together on this and became good friends, so it has significance for us. We used to pass the hotel on the road from Tehran to north Iran and would be proud to know we were the designers.

Most recently, I am proud of my transition from oil and gas to mining. I’m also thankful for my recent promotion to Associate Engineer in such a short time after starting at ATC Williams.

Are there any career aspirations you’d like to share with us?

Now that the lockdowns are behind us, I would like to attend more events and build a wider network of colleagues here. I was a maths teacher in Iran for a short period, and I’d like to mentor University or STEM students.

Mostly I want to continue learning and developing as a geotechnical engineer. Every geostructure has different characteristics and requirements, so I know I will continually be developing my skills in this sector which is perfect for me. It’s like the feeling of climbing a mountain and then looking back to see the path you’ve travelled.

You can follow Meri on Linkedin here