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Jamilur Reza Choudhury: Exit of a shining star

  • Published at 01:24 pm April 28th, 2020
National Professor Jamilur Reza
National Professor Jamilur Reza Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Professor Choudhury played a vital role in development of the infrastructure system of the country

The demise of Jamilur Reza Choudhury, who achieved a lot of titles before his name in his lifetime, has left the people of the country in grief. He is being remembered for his great contributions to the country. 

The national professor was an internationally recognized civil engineer, educationist, researcher, administrator and a leader.

Professor Choudhury, the most eminent personality in the engineering community of Bangladesh, played a vital role in the development of the infrastructure system of the country.

The distinguished personality passed away in Dhaka on Tuesday at the age of 77. 

He was born to Hayatun Nessa Choudhury (1922-2010) and Engineer Abid Reza Choudhury (1905-1991) in Sylhet on November 15, 1943.

Dr Choudhury is survived by his wife Selina Choudhury, daughter Charisma Farheen Choudhury and son Kaashif Reza Choudhury.

Shifting Dhaka from Mymensingh 

Jamilur Reza Choudhury received his early education in Mymensingh Zila School, and later moved to Dhaka where he attended Nawabpur Government High School and St Gregory's High School and completed his matriculation (Secondary School Certificate) in 1957. He completed his intermediate (Higher Secondary School Certificate) education from Dhaka College in 1959.

Becoming teacher from student at the same institution

He earned his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) (then EPUET) in 1963 (first class first with honours) and joined the Civil Engineering Department as a lecturer the same year. 

PhD from UK university

Jamilur Reza went to the University of Southampton in 1964, UK on a scholarship and earned his master's degree in Advanced Structural Engineering in 1965. The topic of his MSc (Master of Science) thesis was Cracks in Concrete Beam using Computer Aided Design. He continued his study there and earned a PhD in 1968. His PhD research was on Shear Wall and Structural Analysis of High Rise Building.

As a part of his research, Prof Choudhury developed a simplified method for analysis of shear walls in tall buildings (commonly known as Coull and Choudhury's Method) which has been widely used all over the world. The method is now a part of many text books in the field and taught to designers in different countries.

Teaching profession

After returning home, he continued to serve as a teacher in Buet and became a full professor in 1976.

In 1975, he was offered the Commonwealth Staff Fellowship to pursue his post-doctoral studies at the University of Surrey, UK, where he spent a year as a visiting associate professor.

He served as the head of the Department of Civil Engineering, Buet for the periods of 1978-79 and 1981-83. He also served as the dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering during the period of 1983-85. 

Dr Choudhury also held the position of the director of Computer Centre for about 10 years (1982-1992) which later grew into the Institute of Information and Communication Technology (IICT) in Buet. 

After retirement from Buet in 2001, Prof Choudhury was appointed as the vice chancellor of the Brac University in Dhaka, where he served till 2010. Since 2010, he held the position of the vice chancellor of the University of Asia Pacific in the capital.

1st Bangladeshi awarded Honoris Causa from a British University

He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa) degree by Manchester University on October 20, 2010, the first person of Bangladeshi origin to receive this honour from a British University.

Journals and publications

The works and contributions of Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury to engineering science and technology were reflected in the various publications authored by him. He published about 70 papers in international journals and conference proceedings related to tall buildings, low-cost housing, earthquake resistant design, cyclones and storm surges, retrofitting of structures, IT applications and policy issues. His brilliant works continued to inspire young civil engineers at home and abroad.

Momentous contribution to country's development 

Practically, no important development project in Bangladesh was implemented without the involvement of Prof Choudhury. He acted as an expert consultant to a large number of national and international agencies on projects related to expressways, bridges, tall buildings, industrial buildings, transmission towers, aircraft hangars, stadiums, ports and jetties, computerization of public and private sector organizations etc. 

He was the team leader for the Multipurpose Cyclone Shelter Program and prepared the master plan for cyclone shelters in the coastal areas of Bangladesh in the early 90s. 

He was a key member of the steering committee on the Bangladesh National Building Code (1993) and played a vital role in formulating the first design wind speed map and seismic zoning map of Bangladesh. 

He was a chairman of the Panel of Experts (advising the government, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and OECF, Japan) for the Bangabandhu (Jamuna) Bridge. He was heading the International Panel of Experts for Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project. 

Besides, he was also acting as the chairman of the panel of experts in many other mega projects such as First Dhaka Elevated Expressway PPP Project (21 km), Karnaphuli Tunnel, Dhaka Subway, Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway Project (24 km) and many others.

Significant contributions to IT sector

Although Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury was a civil engineer, his contribution to the information technology (IT) sector in Bangladesh was significant as well. 

He was appointed the chairman of the task force for developing Software Export and IT Infrastructure in Bangladesh from 1997 to 2000 under the Ministry of Commerce. He was convener of the committee on Export of Software and Data Processing Services (1997), convener, committee for Formulation of IT Policy for Bangladesh (1999 and 2008), and convener, ICT in Higher Education Group formed by the Ministry of Education (2005). He was also a member of the IT Task Force (2001–09). 

In 2007, he was the convener, committee for Preparing Voter List with Photographs. He was a ranking member of the Prime Minister's Task Force on developing Digital Bangladesh.

Chairmanship and Fellowship

Prof Choudhury served as the chairman or head of many other government and non-government committees and organizations. He was the chairman of Board of Directors of Bangladesh Shilpa Bank (1996 – 1998), chairman of the Board of Governors of Bangladesh Institute of Technology, Chittagong (1997-2004), vice president of the Bangladesh Computer Society, founder president of Bangladesh Earthquake Society. He was the chairman of the Board of Accreditation for Engineering and Technical Education (BAETE), Bangladesh. 

He was a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB) and was its president in 1992-93. He was a Fellow of Institution of Civil Engineers (UK) and is a Chartered Engineer, UK. He was elected a Fellow of the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences in 1999. 

As the president of Bangladesh Mathematical Olympiad Committee, he was leading a movement to develop awareness of mathematics among the school and college students of Bangladesh.

Adviser to the caretaker govt 

Owing to his popular personality and neutral public image, Dr Choudhury was appointed adviser in the caretaker government in April 1996 and was in charge of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the Ministry of Water Resources.

Prestigious state award 

In 2017, he received the prestigious national award Ekuskey Padak for his contribution to science and technology.

National professor

In recognition to his contribution to the society, the government declared Jamilur Reza Choudhury as a national professor in June 2018. 

In the same year, he was also adorned with the Order of the Rising Sun: Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon,7 a highly prestigious honour conferred by the Japanese government.

Other awards and recognitions

Prof Choudhury received a number of awards in his busy career. He received Jica (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Recognition Award in 2013 for his outstanding contribution to Bangladesh's high-profile development schemes. 

Dr Choudhury was also the recipient of numerous other awards and medals such as Dr MA Rashid Memorial Gold Medal (1997), IEB Gold Medal (1998), Rotary Club Foundation SEED award (2000), Bangladesh Computer Society Gold Medal (2005), Lions International (District-315) Gold Medal (2007), ICT Champion Award by Bangladesh Association for Software and IT Services (BASIS, 2009), Sheltech Award 2011, Qazi Azhar Ali Foundation Gold Medal 2011, Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah Gold Medal (2012), BDI Lifetime Achievement Award (2017) and many more.

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