Glass Buildings

Welcome to join
Sustainable and Autonomous Structure Lab
McGill University 

Second only to water, concrete is the world’s most consumed material. Not surprisingly, concrete contributes to around 8% of global carbon emissions. Our group is developing innovative solutions that reduce the carbon footprint of concrete infrastructure while achieving equivalent or better economic and structural performance. Additionally, the construction of concrete structures involves many repetitive, strenuous, and time-consuming processes (e.g., tying rebar cages), which challenge the construction efficiency and the health of field technicians. Our group is developing autonomous construction techniques that minimize on-site labor needs. 

While our lab has a long history of expertise in concrete structures, we are also conducting research on other smart materials, such as shape memory alloys (SMA) and architected meta-materials. 

We always welcome passionate students and researchers to join our team. Our team offers an exciting, inclusive, and interdisciplinary research environment that provides rich opportunities for technology advancement as well as real-world applications of research.

Our team at McGill University is looking for one motivated Ph.D. student and one postdoc scholar to join us from 2023 Fall. All Ph.D. admissions need to follow McGill University policies and processes. Interested applicants are encouraged to read the descriptions below and reach out to the PI at shaoapply@gmail.com

Research opportunities 

If you are interested in Ph.D. opportunities, you are welcome to e-mail me before/after applying. In your email,  please (1) attach your CV, including your GPA and preferably ranking as well as a summary of your past research experience and publications, (2) attach your transcripts, and (3) indicate if you have already applied or which entry semester will you apply for. Note, ALL applications must be submitted through McGill's official processes and satisfy all McGill requirements, including langurage tests. We are looking for one Ph.D. student to join us for 2023 Fall.

Minimum requirements for PhD applicants:

1. GPA should be above 3.4/4.0 during both undergrad and master education. 

2. Master degree in Structural Engineering or relevant fields. For current graduate students, you should be able to obtain your master's degree before the intended PhD program starts.  Exceptional ungrad student (with GPA above 3.6) may be considered for PhD fast-track. 

3. (Preferred) One journal publication in relevant fields. The journal should be SCI-E indexed and in JCR Q1 division. 

These minimum requirements may be waived if you can use other means to demonstrate your research potential/capacity. 

If you are a current undergraduate student at McGill, I always welcome passionate undergrad students who share our mission. Interested students are welcome to contact me with your transcript and a short cover letter that briefly introduces your background, availability, and interests. 

If you are interested in visiting McGill as part of your research, I always welcome exchange students or visiting scholars who share our mission. Typically, I expect your visit to be three months or longer so we can produce meaningful results together. Interested students/scholars are welcome to contact me with your CV and a short cover letter that briefly introduces your research topics, intended duration of visit, and expected funding resources. 

If you are interested in postdoctoral opportunities, keep in mind that I am only looking for postdocs with previous experience in a topic related to my research areas. If you think you would be a productive contributor to my group, please e-mail me with the subject "Postdoc inquiry – in response to your website," explain how you would contribute to my group, and describe your prior research. If you do not provide these items, I am not able to respond to your e-mail. We are looking for one postdoc scholar to join us from 2023 winter (January or later). Interested scholars are encouraged to contact me and co-apply for postdoc fellowships (there are a lot of postdoc fellowship opportunities! See application guidance). 

I hope this guide will help you facilitate your application process. I hope that you will have a variety of exciting opportunities to consider for the next stage of your education (including possibly McGill), and I wish you the best of luck in identifying a good situation.

Application Guidance 

The core research activities in our group are developing innovative structural designs and accompanying autonomous construction methods for a sustainable built environment. Typically, developing new designs will involve three parts: (1) experimental investigation, (2) developing robust simulation tools, and (3) developing design guidance. We perform experiments and simulations to make sure that compared to existing structural designs, the new designs show better performance under service loadings and extreme events, e.g., earthquakes. Because we invent new structural designs that often involve new materials and structural topology, existing simulation and design methods are not capable of predicting their behavior. Therefore, experiments are usually the first and key part of our research.

 

Our research activities involve an interdisciplinary approach, which mainly includes the development and application of:

  • High-performance materials: ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC), shape memory alloys (SMA), or architected materials. 

  • Numerical simulation tools: DIANA, LS-DYNA, ABAQUS, or OpenSees

  • Advanced design tools: topology optimization, origami engineering, or bio-inspired designs

  • Autonomous methods: robotics, control theory, motion planning, computer vision, or machine learning

Depending on the research topics, your expected attributes include one or several of the followings:

  • (Required) Strong passion for our research activities and excitement about our mission. 

  • (Required) Solid background in mathematics and mechanics. 

  • (Optional) Deep knowledge in concrete material and/or structural behavior, preferably with UHPC or fiber-reinforced concrete. 

  • (Optional) Strong background or interest in experiments of structural concrete. 

  • (Optional) Good understanding of finite element methods, preferably experience with LS-DYNA, OpenSees, or ABAQUS.

  • (Optional) Good programming skills using Python and knowledge of robotics, computer vision, or machine learning. 

  • (Optional) Other valued experiences include durability/corrosion/fire/life-cycle analysis. 

  • (Required) Commitment to communicating your research findings through clear writing and presentations. 

  • (Required) Commitment to an inclusive and equal environment. 

Funding:

All Ph.D. students and postdocs are funded as long as they are making satisfactory progress. Funding includes all tuition plus a stipend for living expenses. The good news is that Ph.D. students and postdocs can pursue their academic goals without a significant financial burden. The challenge is that your prospective advisor must secure adequate funding (over $100k for tuition and stipend over the life of a Ph.D. ) in order to make an admission offer. If you have external fellowship funding or are planning to apply for one, please make that clear in your application as it makes it SIGNIFICANTLY easier for an advisor to commit to admitting you. You are encouraged to explore possible external fundings (for both Ph.D. and Postdoc), for example, from:

Group Expectation 

The following key principles are provided to help applicants know the expected mentorship style in my group. They are constantly improved to create the best research experience for my group members. 

1. Support. I will provide in-time and adequate support for my group members. I will fully support them not only for their research but also for their career development and emotional needs. I will create opportunities to help them best realize their professional goals. 
2. Uniqueness. I respect the fact that each student is unique. Therefore, I will adapt to the uniqueness of my students and find their passion. While satisfying my overall research plan and funding requirements, I will let my students’ passion drive their projects. This way, they can best enjoy the research journey. 
3. Independence. While ensuring sufficient support, I will let my students conduct research as independently as possible. The purpose is to help them become confident experts in their field, so they can lead their own successful careers after graduation.
4. Communication and collaboration skills. Since the teamwork aspect of research is fundamental to lifelong success in both academia and industry, I will emphasize communication and collaboration with my students, just as I do with my mentees at Stanford and Berkeley. 

5. Exposure to cutting-edge techniques. We are committed to bringing a future where robotics build optimized infrastructure that has minimal carbon footprints and survives hundreds of years. To achieve this goal, we will innovate existing structural designs and embrace many cutting-edge techniques, e.g., ultra-high performance concrete, topology optimization, robotics and computer vision. 

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I am committed to fostering a diverse, equal, and inclusive environment in our group. I strongly encourage all passionate students/researchers to apply, especially those self-identy as female or from underrepresented/ disadvantaged groups. There will NOT be any discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, marital status, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or veteran status in my evaluations.

(A list of former students)

past students.jpg

CONTACT

Please send all application-related conversations to shaoapply@gmail.com. My official email address is occupied by numerous other businesses, keeping a separate email for application helps me reply to application inquiries in a timely manner. It is also an indicator that you have read this page and are indeed interested in my group.