Dr Samia Guirguis was the first woman in Australia to be awarded a PhD in Civil Engineering and was one of the country’s leading engineering experts on concrete design and construction. In addition, she was a passionate and articulate long-time contributor to standards development.
Dr Guirguis and her husband, Hosny Guirguis, moved to Australia from Egypt in 1973. In 1980, Dr Guirguis built on her impressive scholastic achievements by completing her PhD at the University of New South Wales, publishing her thesis, The effect of surface texture of aggregates on concrete properties.
“Samia was brilliant and dedicated. When she put her mind to something, she would do it,” Mr Guirguis said.
“At the time it was unusual for a lady to be an engineer and completing their PhD in the field, but she never complained. Instead, she worked hard to prove herself,” he continued.
Dr Guirguis worked for Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA) for the majority of her professional career. In her role as Director, Research and Technical Services she led research projects and kept industry professionals informed on a range of issues.
“When she got the job at CCAA she was obviously qualified, but she was also a mother and a woman, so there was a perception she wouldn’t work for more than a year or two, but she stayed with them for over 35 years,” Mr Guirguis said.
CCAA went on to nominate Dr Guirguis as a representative for a number of Standards Australia committees. For over thirty years, Dr Guirguis participated as a committee member and Chair on all concrete-related committees such as BD-002, Concrete Structures.
Since her passing, Mr Guirguis worked as a consultant with CCAA across a number of committees.
The couple had a shared interest in engineering and Mr Guirguis spoke fondly of supporting Dr Guirguis throughout her career. “She received a lot of resistance because she was a woman, but I was happy to support her so she could achieve her studies and her career.”
In 2012, Dr Guirguis won the John Connell Medal, Engineers Australia’s highest honor for structural engineering.
“When Samia won the award, she didn’t go to pick it up, because she was ill at the time and she was also very quiet about her achievements,” Mr Guirguis said.
Mr Guirguis picked up the award on her behalf and was surprised to learn that she had contributed to over 140 technical publications which helped shape Australian Codes and are still used in industry today.
Dr Guirguis was a champion of standards, often commenting on their needs and uses. In an interview with Architecture and Design she stated, “Standards have an important bearing on all aspects of concrete construction.”
“The work Samia did throughout her time with Standards Australia continues to positively impact standards and technical publications. She was an invaluable member of every committee she worked with,” said Adam Stingemore, General Manager, Engagement and Communications at Standards Australia.
Dr Guirguis’ reputation lives on in the work she contributed to, notably the many standards that continue to keep Australians safe.