Faculty: Mostafa Namian
The large book with small print totals 718 pages of complex safety regulations that cover all kinds of scenarios.
“Obviously I don’t know all of it, and even if I knew it all, I could not teach the whole book in one semester,” said Dr. Mostafa Namian, assistant professor in East Carolina University’s Department of Construction Management.
That’s just one reason Namian incorporates research, experiential learning and even videos from online philanthropist and content creator MrBeast into his classroom teaching.
“My goal is to make (safety) an interesting topic to make them curious,” Namian said.
Construction is consistently ranked among the most dangerous occupations. Namian said he has an obligation to create a culture of safety in his students.
“I teach safety. There might be some other courses where if the students fail, you feel bad because they didn’t make a good grade,” Namian said. “But in my class, I don’t feel good if my students don’t learn because if they go to the job site, they might be more prone to have an accident, so it’s very important.”
As for MrBeast, Namian said he shows his students a few seconds of a video in which the last person to remove a hand from a Lamborghini wins it. By the end of the video, one person’s hand is shaking violently from the stress of keeping it in one position for so long.
“A lot of times we think lifting heavy items can injure us, but that’s not the only thing,” said Namian, pointing out the importance of ergonomics.
He said the video keeps students engaged in class. He also uses research and technology to get through to students, just one of the reasons he was selected as the recipient of the College of Engineering and Technology 2024 Scholar-Teacher Award.
“At the end of the journey, hopefully you’re more equipped with the knowledge and the skills so that the job site is a lot safer and your coworkers are safer,” he said.
Namian said he gravitated toward teaching when he worked as a teaching assistant when he was a doctoral student.
“I realized teaching is a process that you learn mutually,” he said. “Your students learn from you, but you can also learn from them. You exchange knowledge. At ECU, a substantial number of students have experience in industry. They have taken internships. I hear from them that they work for their father or a relative who has a construction company, where some of them are still employed, so we learn from them while we teach them.”
Having grown up in an era where video chats and wireless communication were the dreams of movies — he’s a fan of the 1980s movie “RoboCop” — Namian embraces the use of technology in class and in research, such as exploring the use of drones in construction. He believes technology is crucial to the construction industry.
“Compared to some other industries, construction is lagging in adopting new technologies,” he said. “That inspires us to do more research to facilitate more use of technology in construction. With new vision and new technology, we can build projects faster, safer, with lower cost and also higher quality.”
Beyond teaching, Namian enjoys cooking. A native of Iran, he began missing the food of his youth while attending college in the United States, dishes that he said weren’t readily available in restaurants.
“I really, really wanted that food,” he said. “I watched some YouTube videos and tried a couple of times with other friends, and we learned from trial and error to learn some recipes. I developed that interest and passion to cook.”
His cooking skills have grown beyond Persian food.
“One of the other things that friends and family say is so delicious is my cheesecake,” he said.
Speaking of family, Namian said he owes much to his parents for their sacrifices and for inspiring him to earn his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, calling them “my first teachers.” He especially thanks his wife for her support.
“Without her company, I would have not been able to make any accomplishments,” said Namian, who received the Jimmie Hinze Best Paper Award at an international conference in 2021 for his work on the safety implications of using drones in construction.
He has been an authorized construction safety trainer for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2019, the same year he accepted a job teaching at ECU.
“I chose ECU because I liked the program, and the faculty are great and very collaborative,” he said. “Being a part of the UNC system and a good location, these are the things I like about ECU. I’m glad that ECU chose me.”
Name: Dr. Mostafa Namian
Title: Assistant professor
Hometown: I grew up in Iran
Colleges attended and degrees: Bu-Ali Sina University, bachelor’s in civil engineering; Amirkabir University, master’s in construction engineering and management; N.C. State University, Ph.D. in civil engineering – construction management
Years working at ECU: Five
What I do at ECU: I have taught construction surveying, construction project safety management (undergrad) and construction safety management.
What I love about ECU: The vibrant and diverse faculty members
Research interests: Human behavior in construction safety, hazard recognition and safety risk perception, AI in construction and use of technology in construction
What advice do you give to students? The future is bright! You become similar to the people you spend the most time with.
Favorite class to teach? Safety, structure, BIM (building information modeling)
What do you like to do when not working? Cooking, watching movies
Last thing I watched on TV: A Persian singing reality show
First job: I worked for my dad, but the first paycheck I received was as a teaching assistant. I taught AutoCAD.
Favorite Meal: Kabob and Ghormeh sabzi
One thing most people don’t know about me:
Fall 2022, I emailed MrBeast and asked him if he could show up to my class and surprise my students because I show one of his videos (Last To Take Hand Off Lamborghini, Keeps It) in the ergonomic class to show how devastating it could be if you keep your hands up for an extended period of time. I thought it would be a very unique experience for the students and maybe also a good video idea. He never responded.