People & Places

The impact of SAHC in my life

18 May, 2022 3 min reading
Lucy Davis

The impact of SAHC in my life

Deciding to complete a master’s degree in a new country during a pandemic was certainly an interesting choice, yet I could not be happier with my experience as a SAHC student. The SAHC program profoundly impacted my life and gave me the chance to grow as a student and a person. The year was filled with tough yet intellectually stimulating courses, the opportunity to make incredible friends, as well as many chances to go exploring and get to learn more about new cultures. 


What drew me to apply to the SAHC program was not only the courses that focused on the preservation of existing and historic buildings and monuments, but also the integrated project completed throughout the coursework period. The ability to apply what is being taught in class to meaningful projects is something I truly value in education, and it is an aspect of SAHC that lets it stand out from other master’s programs to truly prepare you to solve complex problems.


SAHC students in the Douro valley


From reading past SAHC blogs, I applied to SAHC knowing I wanted to work on the large-scale vulnerability assessment of at-risk buildings, and I was able to do just that through the integrated project of SA7. Working with a small team, I travelled to Tomar, Portugal to do site analysis of the 500+ buildings in its historic city center. For the rest of the term, we applied flood and seismic vulnerability analyses to truly understand the potential impact of these natural hazards in terms of both physical and economic damage.


Results from case study of Tomar, SA7, Seismic vulnerability index


Case studies and applications were not found in SAHC just through the integrated project, but also through course assignments, field trips, and our dissertations. In the coursework, my favorite projects were the damage analysis of Paço dos Duques de Bragança in Guimarães and the study of the rehabilitation of the Stadium 1º de Maio, in Braga. Complex examples solved throughout the coursework kept the classes interesting and challenging, creating skills that could go much further than just finishing an assignment.


Damage analysis of the chimneys on the Ducal Palace, Guimarães


Finally, the knowledge and skills developed over the course of the master’s were able to be put to test during the dissertation period. I had the opportunity to complete my dissertation at the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU) working with two supervisors. My project consisted of the analysis of a masonry arch bridge with a dual purpose: to determine the safety of the Ponikla bridge, and to differentiate the accuracy of three-dimensional finite element analysis (FEA) versus two-dimensional FEA in masonry bridge evaluation. During my dissertation I developed skills working with numerical models, non-destructive testing, as well as valuable research and writing skills that are helping me succeed today.


Ponikla bridge, case study for dissertation in the Czech Republic


This fall I started as a PhD student at McGill University, working on the seismic assessment of old unreinforced masonry buildings in Canada. SAHC helped me prepare for this position by allowing me to realize my goals and ambitions as well as to prepare me to apply concepts and strategies in a new context. I love living in Montréal and exploring the city and surrounding area. 


Without my experience living in Portugal and Prague, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to pick up and start over again somewhere new. Without SAHC, I wouldn’t have the skills to dive into a new project and start actively researching, participating in technical committees and organizations, or being a teaching assistant. SAHC is more than an excellent master’s program for those interested in the conservation and preservation field, it’s also a place to grow into who you’re meant to be.


So, if you are thinking about applying to SAHC, this is a sign that you definitely should.



SEE ALSO: What SAHC has meant to me