Extracts from talk by Peter MartiΒΆ

Tags: work

I attended a small symposium on thursday and friday. The keynote speech was given by professor Peter Marti from ETZ in Zürich.

I've compiled some nice quotes from his talk. If there's an error in here it's probably my error in writing it down. Properties of an engineer

A list of properties a well-rounded engineer should posess:

  • Imagination
  • Reason
  • Common sense

Very helpful are the following two:

  • Intuition
  • Memory

Omitted or disregarded by many, but considered essential by Peter:


If you posess all six of them you are really balanced as an engineer.

On being a good engineer

A proof of a good engineer is a functioning result. (!!!)

Design targets for structural engineering

(In my opinion also mostly valid for other engineering tasks, including software engineering).

When you design something it should be:

  • Robust
  • Reliable
  • Durable

You can also imagine a design to be like the circular scoring board in archery contests. You should at least hit the outer rings, but the more towards the center, the better.

Outer ring
3th ring
2th ring
Inner ring


We should concentrate on the basics, otherwise we lose the core of civil engineering. (Remark made when talking about course subjects, the basic stuff has to be taught well and should not be neglegted in favour of more detailed fields).

On building codes

Building codes should be simple. They should be clear and not too restrictive in order to allow innovation. They should expect a high level of competence in its users. (The level of competence is gradualy decreasing due to lack of education. This was pointed out in the questions, which Peter agreed to. The only answer to this problem, according to him, is to raise our political voice).

On writing and reading

We should not write so much (papers), we should read much more. And we should track things to their source instead of heaping quote upon quote, without really understanding what is quoted and without checking its source.

On PhD time

Use your PhD time to read and to travel. To meet the best people in your field.

As a PhD you are getting a unique opportunity, it opens up a lot of extra possibilities!

Doing a PhD is like learning to navigate on sea. You need good mentors, good equipment and good reference points (=symposia, congresses).

vanrees.org logo

About me

My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

Weblog feeds

Most of my website content is in my weblog. You can keep up to date by subscribing to the automatic feeds (for instance with Google reader):