One of our recent Civil Engineering graduates, Louisa King, who spoke at our Women in Engineering event earlier this year, commented that ‘being a civil engineer is a bit like being an invisible superhero – we have the ability to shape lives without even being seen’.
Well today we celebrate the extraordinary achievements of another of our civil engineering graduates who has become a highly visible superhero and ambassador for his profession – Chancellor, I present Steve Burrows for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.
Steve graduated from the Liverpool Polytechnic in 1982, where, like many of his generation and certainly most of the students at the Polytechnic, he was the first in his family to go on to higher education.
A natural curiosity and talent for problem solving has allowed Steve to reach the very top of his profession and after 30 years experience in engineering buildings around the world, he is now based in America where he is Executive Vice President and USA Director of Buildings for San Francisco’s WSP engineering consultancy.
Steve’s roll call of projects reads like a dream list of landmarks with a portfolio including the Birdsnest Olympic Stadium in Bejing, Apple’s new headquarters in California, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and the City of Manchester Stadium. And as well as helping to create some of the world’s most iconic structures, Steve’s knowledge in forensic engineering has been used to help assess the structural damage after catastrophic attacks on buildings in Manchester and Kenya.
Steve’s credentials are evident in the honours and accolades he was been awarded including a CBE in the Queen’s honours list.
This civil engineering superhero has gained a little more visibility through his recent participation in a new IMAX film ‘Dream Big: Engineering Our World’ which is a stimulating documentary looking at the past and the future to discover how engineers have been shaping and improving lives throughout history.
Steve – who is described as a ‘curiosity-driven British structural engineer who is a kind of time traveller’ uses cutting-edge technology to uncover the secrets of the past and how they can help us construct the future. For instance, he has explored the engineering secrets of the Great Wall of China – the largest engineering project in human history – using a 3D laser-scanning drone revealing that it was the sticky rice used in its construction that made the wall so strong and long-lasting.
He has previously made television shows called Engineering the Impossible and Time Scanners exploring ancient wonders with new technology and he regular comments in the media about engineering issues.
Steve is using his public profile for good reason: he is an engineering ambassador, an advocate for his profession, part of an increasingly vocal movement looking to inspire the next generation of girls and boys wanting to become engineers.
The message is clear. Engineering is fun. Today you are graduating in the most fascinating disciplines – only engineers have the chance to turn the wildest ideas into reality.
And you are following in the footsteps of an extraordinary individual who has used his talent for communicating to ensure that engineers are no longer the invisible superheroes, you will be the professionals who find the solutions to make our buildings more sustainable, healthy and of course, safer.
Chancellor, it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome Steve back to Liverpool and to the University and in recognition of his outstanding achievement in engineering I present Steve Burrows for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.