Connecting with: Pedram Mortazavi

While the U of T campus is closed to the public, in-person classes and non-essential lab work, an attempt is being made to connect with individuals continuing to work from home. This is part of a regular series to help bring us together as we remain apart during this public health crisis.


CivE PhD candidate Pedram Mortazavi at his home office in Toronto.

Pedram Mortazavi, CivE PhD candidate

Pedram Mortazavi is a civil engineering PhD candidate, working on the development and performance assessment of cast steel energy dissipative components in building structures  under supervisors Professors Constantin Christopoulos and Oh-Sung Kwon.

He shares his perspective as a graduate student now working from home.


General statement about the current situation:
These are, indeed, unprecedented and challenging times that we are all experiencing. It is quite crazy to observe how fragile modern societies can be. That being said, I think we are very fortunate to live in an era where technological advancements have made it possible to quickly adapt to the current situation and take the right measures.

We can spend time with family and friends while respecting the social distancing requirements through video calls. For me personally, other than video calls with my family members, I frequently have group or individual video calls with my friends from the office; just to check up on each other and sometimes to run ideas about our research by each other.

Most of us are also able to work remotely (this was not something that was possible even a few decades ago). I regularly have meetings with my research advisors and fellow graduate students who are working with me on the same topic. All that being said, I think we have all grown a new level of appreciation for our daily routines and underappreciated freedom, which under normal circumstances may have felt mundane and dull.

How do you cope?
I think it is very important to keep a positive attitude during these times and understand this is a crisis that goes well beyond borders, cultures, profession, etc. Currently, almost everyone in the world is directly, or indirectly, affected by this unparalleled emergency. I think we should all do our best to remain productive, but at the same time remember what we are experiencing is described by some authorities as the “worst world crisis since the second world war”. Try to work hard and remain productive, but also try to be physically and mentally healthy; I think this is more important now than it has ever been.

I have learned how to do handstands

I try to go for early morning runs every other day and do calisthenic home workouts, given that gyms are currently inaccessible. I have learned how to do handstands to continue to physically challenge myself. Given the time I have been saving on commuting and going out in general, I have had the chance to pick up my guitars again (after six years or so) and spend some time playing every day.

I’ve been forced to cook for myself a lot more; this has encouraged me to look up and try new recipes to keep things interesting. I even made brownies the other day for the first time, which to my pleasant surprise turned out to be edible!

How has this situation affected your research?
Working with Professors Constantin Christopoulos and Oh-Sung Kwon, my research project is focused on the development and performance assessment of cast steel energy dissipative components in building structures. One aspect through which the current situation has affected my research is just losing the ability to go to the office everyday and have my routine. Also, like many graduate students, my research project has several experimental components in the structural labs. We were, in fact, between tests and were going to start several new experiments after much anticipation, when the structural testing facilities had to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This could be frustrating and stressful for graduate students, given some of us work for years to bring these experiments close to fruition.

Again, I think we should all remind ourselves that everyone is going through the same thing, and almost all businesses and professions are affected by this pandemic. Also, as graduate students we can focus on a lot of office tasks that complement our experimental studies, like writing reports, papers, post-processing experimental results, and doing numerical studies.

I try to focus on these tasks, while keeping healthy and positive, to have a head start when the university re-opens.

by Pedram Mortazavi