Dr Daiquan Yang: Academic accolades and industry insight

Dr Daiquan Yang: Academic accolades and industry insight
Daiquan working on the Circle Line project in Singapore back in 2008.

Dr Daiquan Yang is what you might call the epitome of a consummate expert. His discipline leadership has been crucial for the success of many high-profile projects and has resulted in more technical excellence awards than you can poke a stick at, to say nothing of his many other achievements.

His exceptional talent for geotechnical engineering already shone brightly when he was still an undergraduate student at Hohai University in Nanjing, China. But it was his doctoral thesis on unsaturated soils that raised eyebrows for its inspired independent thinking. It was the by-product of doing academic research in the mid-1980s when there was a dearth of international information accessible inside China.

What followed was global academic interest in his work. It culminated in post-doctoral research fellowships which took him to Spain where he studied with distinguished academic leaders and then to Singapore.

Had it been up to Daiquan, he would have continued his research. “I wanted to go back to China to continue my academic work” he recalls, “but my family desperately wanted to stay overseas.”

And so it came to be, that Daiquan’s wife and son unwittingly determined the course of his career, inadvertently encouraging his transition to industry.

This was a blessing for a great many infrastructure projects because he applied the same philosophy that advanced his academic thinking, in the field. It’s based around his exceptional ability to accurately interpret ground conditions and his quest to find “the truth in the ground,” as he puts it.

This has been responsible for a raft of innovative solutions such as the multi-award winning SH16 Causeway Upgrade Project in Auckland. His solution made best use of the existing ground conditions, was cost-effective and low-risk.

Aside from technical excellence, he has also proven his team leadership skills under extreme crisis pressure. After the much publicised Nicoll Highway collapse (as part of the Circle Line construction) in Singapore, Daiquan was brought on board to manage the geotechnical redesign for an adjacent contract before leading the detailed geotechnical design for a newly awarded Circle Line contract. He found that grave mistakes had been made by others in the tender design, however, he managed to steer the project out of its quagmire and provided the possibility of resolving a highly adversarial matter out of court.

Ask any of his many clients across the Asia Pacific region, and you’ll hear a resounding endorsement of his work.

What is his secret? “I just like to find a solution that works best,” he retorts. “Besides, it’s more rewarding to find an alternative approach that’s superior.” You can’t argue with that!