People & Places

My SAHC scientific journey

11 January, 2024 4 min reading
Arezu Feizolahbeigi, Iran

My SAHC scientific journey

It was first in 2010 that I found the SAHC Masters on the internet when searching about masonry structures. I was really astonished because what I wanted had been all noted on a one-page leaflet. Therefore, I decided to plan for applying in the upcoming year. Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, I couldn’t attend the course although my application was accepted. As a civil engineer during these years, I continued my education at the master’s and Ph.D. levels in Iran, in the field of heritage restoration. But still, I had attending the SAHC course on my to-do list. Finally, in 2022 I joined the course.


It was very difficult to make the decision to leave behind my family, job, and friends. But now, I am proud of myself for catching the opportunity.


After reaching the University of Minho, I met 23 people from different countries all over the world with different backgrounds (Civil engineers, Architects, Conservationists, etc.). It was very interesting talking with these people about scientific issues and their experiences. We also had lots of enjoyable and happy moments together. Every day we dealt with scientific works and at night we had gatherings having fun, watching movies, and enjoying the time to get energy for upcoming days.

Site visit, Batalha monastery



I really enjoyed the course materials and the way the course was being coordinated. The course is not just about complicated theoretical scientific and engineering subjects. It deals with the architectural, structural, and methodological principles used in historic constructions considering a wide range of values in them, and reveals these aspects using up-to-date scientific methods. Each day theoretical lessons became sensible and tangible through using software, lab work, and in-situ work.


The program exposed me to the real scientific and practical situation of working on masonry buildings, where I could study a historic construction, model it, do in-situ tests, perform numerical analysis, and discuss the results. The course covers a very wide range of aspects related to cultural heritage including historical survey, damage survey, health monitoring, modeling, different numerical analysis, materials knowledge, retrofitting and restoration techniques, heritage management, etc.


Fieldwork during SA4                         Lab work during SA5                Lab work during SA6



In my opinion, the most interesting part of the SAHC course is the SA7 Integrated Project. It starts almost from the beginning of the program and continues in alignment with the other course units and ends up as the closing of the program. During this unit we practiced everything we were learning during the whole course step by step on a real monument. It was an end to the SAHC group works and permitted us to continue our SAHC journey with the dissertation.


In-situ works in Sao Bento da Vitoria church during SA7, Porto



For the dissertation, a wide range of interesting topics was proposed by the SAHC committee in addition to the feasibility of proposing a new topic by students. I had the chance to submit my own proposal and work on a world heritage monument in Iran. I worked on the seismic assessment of dome structures with secondary structure elements such as minarets. For my work, I had access to different advanced software and scientific materials, in addition to the full support of my supervisor. Working on a very complex monument improved my modeling capabilities and enriched my understanding of the structural behavior of masonry constructions. The work was fantastic, now I am working on my scientific papers to publish my dissertation outcomes.


As a person working in the field of cultural heritage including national monuments and world heritage sites for several years, I found this course very useful. During this program, I could experience in practice everything that I learned and improve my past experiences. This course shows all aspects related to cultural heritage and monuments and how to face them in terms of study, intervention, and conservation with respect to values and authenticity. I really appreciate the efforts of the SAHC committee to improve this fantastic course every year and develop the application of up-to-date methodologies in the area of cultural heritage studies and works.


Additionally, SAHC has created a worldwide network of specialists who transfer their knowledge to their home countries on arrival. With this knowledge, they can help improve the status of their cultural heritage. To work in my country, with a large number of monuments, having the knowledge of SAHC is a great achievement. I strongly recommend all people interested in the course subject try to join it and take the benefit.


SAHC was my lifelong passion which came true.


See you soon…


SEE ALSO: What is like to be a SAHC student?