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My Impression of Eurasian National University (ENU): True blend of International and Industrial exposure for geotechnical engineering students

IGS Kazakhstan has been an active chapter of the IGS since 2012. Recently, Chapter President Askar Zhussupbekov and other chapter members met a visiting professor from China at Eurasian National University. In this story, Dr.Ankit Garg, Associate Professor of Shantou University, recounts his time spent with the chapter and his impressions of the University’s geotechnical program:

In the midst of the Pandemic, it was my first visit to a foreign university. I visited ENU in the first week of August 2021. ENU is located in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), a city that is known for a number of unique buildings with incredible architecture (such as EXPO 2017, Abu-Dhabi Plaza Complex, LRT Project, New Railway station, Khan Shatyr and others).

During my visit, I found two key features of ENU, i.e., Internationalization and Industrial interaction. Some well-known experts (Professors/Industrialists) in geotechnical engineering from USA, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Greece, Poland, Turkey, India, South Korea, Malaysia, China, Taiwan and Russia have previously joined ENU as long-term Visiting Professors. They have been involved in joint supervision of PhD students and in research consultancy work for infrastructure projects in Kazakhstan. Further, students were also able to spend considerable time at the foreign universities/companies relating to Visiting Professors during their PhD. During my participation in PhD Defense, I witnessed more than 6 international experts from foreign universities and industry. The comments and suggestions by experts were insightful and will be useful in further improving research of PhD candidates, which included research topics related to soil improvement.

Another important observation was that most of the students in the geotechnical engineering group had worked together with industry on some of the most challenging infrastructure projects in Kazakhstan. For example, one PhD student of Prof Askar Zhussupbekov (Professor at ENU and President of Kazakhstan Geosynthetic Society) is involved in monitoring the foundation system (including the reinforcement soil ground area) of the upcoming tallest building in Central Asia (i.e., Abu Dhabi Plaza). I also learnt from the “Proceedings of the 8th Asian Young Geotechnical Engineers Conference, Astana, Kazakhstan, 2016” of other projects carried out by geotechnical group of ENU. Those included advanced testing of piles of the US Embassy and a new railway station and plate-load testing of the geosynthetic soil-improvement area of a highway project. The group is actively involved in improving design standards for pile foundations, for soil improvement geotechnology in Kazakhstan.

In this perspective, I was honoured to witness the launch of new monograph “Geotechnical Specificity of International requirements and traditional standards in geotechnical testing” written by Associate Professor Assel Tulebekova – General secretary Kazakhstan Geosynthetic Society (KazGS) and Prof.Askar Zhussupbekov – President of Kazakhstan Geosynthetic Society (KazGS)”.  Though our schedule was very tight, we also managed to visit the office, including the laboratory, and construction site of a well-known geotechnical company, KGS – Astana LLP. The laboratory hosts some of the most advanced geotechnical instrumentation (automated) for conducting direct shear strength, consolidation, triaxial and geosynthetic testing. PhD students of ENU were involved in laboratory testing to ensure quality testing of soil samples collected from field sites, including those of soil reinforcement projects.

The above integration of world class foreign faculty with industry exposure provides a very rigorous training for students and prepares them for more practical research problems with a significant impact on society.

I was also glad to meet the Rector of Eurasian National University Prof. Yerlan Sydykov, Dean of Faculty Prof. Temirhan Tolkynbayev and Head of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering Department Dr. Zhanbolat Shahmov who were very supportive of further developing international cooperation with China. Rector Yerlan Sydykov shared his idea on the importance of research related to geo-ecology with respect to Kazakhstan and also countries from Central Asia. The Rector also thanked the Indian Government for providing a supercomputing facility to ENU as a gift.

Finally, a sincere thank you is due to the efforts of the administration of ENU: Vice–Rector N.G.Aydargalieva, Head of the Department of Attestation of Scientific Personnel and Postdoctoral Studies Dr. M.A. Buribayeva, Prof Askar Zhussupbekov – President of KazGS, to representatives from International Department of ENU: Ms. Altyn , Ms. Aigerim. Special thanks to Ph.Dr.Students : Mr.Askar, Mr. Sultan, Mrs. Ainur, Mr Illyas, Ms.Bibigul,  Mrs Aigerim for their constant help during my visit. This visit would not have been possible without their support, especially in the midst of numerous COVID restrictions.

This article prepared by Dr.Ankit Garg (Associate Professor of Shantou University, China)