Engineering student selected as 'future leader' by national building society

November 8, 2023

By Mariah R. Lucas

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Zahra Ghorbani, a doctoral candidate in architectural engineering at Penn State, was selected to receive the 2023 Future Leaders Award from the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS).

The award recognizes an individual under the age of 35 whose innovative talent is “driving the architecture, engineering, construction and operations industry into the future,” according to NIBS. Ghorbani accepted the award in September at the NIBS Building Innovation Conference.

Ghorbani was recognized for her contributions to national building information management (BIM) and digital twin standards and real-world implementation. Supported by various tools and software, BIM and digital twins in the building industry comprise the digital representation of buildings and infrastructure used by engineers and construction experts to efficiently manage their physical and functional characteristics.

“Zahra has been a strong advocate for digital transformation by leveraging digital information throughout the entire building lifecycle, especially focused on the operation phases of a facility,” said John Messner, the Charles and Elinor Matts Professor of Architectural Engineering, who nominated Ghorbani for the award. “She has performed an extensive review of background information on digital twins from across multiple industries and compiled a unique approach to defining and categorizing digital twin uses in the operations phase. I am excited to see how her work progresses, and I’m confident that her foundational research will lead to a lasting impact in the development and adoption of digital twins in operations.”

In addition to studying as a doctoral student, Ghorbani is the BIM manager for Penn State’s Office of the Physical Plant, where she oversees and administers the BIM requirements for construction projects on all Penn State campuses.

Ghorbani serves as the BIM execution planning workgroup secretary and a project committee member for the National BIM Standard-United States, where she develops and reviews standards content and performs test implementations of the workgroup products. She also serves as a vice chair of the digital twin integration subcommittee of the NIBS BIM Council, where she leads the effort to establish the relationship between BIM and digital twins. She is a member of the visualization and information modeling committee and data sensing and analysis committee for the computing division at the American Society of Civil Engineers. Previously, she served on the Asset Management for Hospitals workgroup for the Open BIM and FM project at buildingSMART International.

Ghorbani received a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering from Shahid Beheshti University, Iran, and a master’s degree in construction management from Texas A&M University. She came to Penn State in 2020 and joined the Computer Integrated Construction research group, under the direction and supervision of Messner.


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