Best Thesis Award “Excellence in Research”

Award, Eligibility and its Privileges

The IAFSS Best Thesis Award “Excellence in Research” recognises the best research thesis at PhD and Masters levels, in all the fields related to fire safety science and engineering. There are three such Awards for the three IAFSS regions, Europe and Africa, Americas, as well as Asia and Oceania.

To be eligible for nomination, the nominee’s thesis must have been officially submitted to the university granting the degree for examination and nominated for the Award by the nominee’s supervisor, as described below.

Each recipient must deliver, at the Symposium, a paper drawn from his/her thesis. While not required, the recipient will be strongly encouraged to prepare a paper, as per submission guidelines of the Symposium, based on the material included in the thesis and not published in the Symposium or other peer reviewed archival publication. The Award consists of a plaque, a grant of US $2,000 to cover travel and sustenance related to the recipient’s attendance at the Symposium and free registration for the Symposium.

Nomination Process

The following documents need to be submitted:

  • A letter of recommendation by the nominee’s supervisor not to exceed 2 pages;
  • A pdf copy of the thesis (preferably in English; if not available, in its original language);
  • An abstract of the thesis in English (no longer than three pages);
  • A list of publications. The list should comprise journal articles (including those that have been submitted for publication, whether accepted or not), and conference publications (indicating the form of review; no review, by Abstract, by full paper). Publications in preparation or draft should not be listed;
  • Pdf preprints or reprints of up to three best papers derived from the nominee’s thesis (conference papers can be included) can be submitted but are not compulsory.
  • If the thesis is not written in English, at least one paper in English shall be submitted.
  • Submission subject to confidentiality requirements should be accompanied by an explanation from the supervisor indicating which sections of the thesis cannot be made public or submitted for review. The requirement for the recipient to deliver a presentation at the 13thSymposium cannot be waived; therefore, this explanation has to include a clear indication of which sections will be presented at the Symposium.

Selection Considerations

Selection of the awardees will be driven by four criteria: the pertinence, quality, significance, and impact of the work. Only one thesis can be submitted for award from a given University or Institution. When more than one thesis is of sufficient quality for submission for the Award, a preliminary selection must be carried out locally and the nominee’s supervisor needs to explicitly describe in the letter of recommendation the local selection process. If more than one thesis is submitted by a single institution the nominators will be asked to withdraw the submissions voluntarily and explain the reasoning behind the selection. If more than one thesis remains by the submission date then none of the submissions from that institution will be considered.

The four criteria used to select the best thesis include:

  • Pertinence: Is the thesis’ subject matter within the scope of the field of fire science and/or engineering?
  • Quality: Are the methodologies applied in the thesis sound and correct? Is the thesis well written?
  • Significance: Do the results of the thesis add to our present knowledge? Are the results new, accurate, useful and important?
  • Impact: Do the results of the thesis have a broad impact in the fields of fire science and/or engineering?

Selection Body

The recipients of the IAFSS Best Thesis Award “Excellence in Research” will be selected by the IAFSS Awards Committee.

Past Recipients

IAFSS Best Thesis Award “Excellence in Research” was first presented at the 8th IAFSS Symposium at Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2005. Its past recipients are listed below:


  • (Europe and Africa) Susan Lamont, The University of Edinburgh, UK, PhD Thesis
  • (Americas) Amnon Bar-Ilan, University of California, Berkeley, USA, PhD Thesis
  • (Asia and Oceania) Weng Wenguo, Waseda University, Japan, PhD Thesis


  • (Europe and Africa) Markus Knobloch ETH, Zurich, Switzerland, PhD Thesis
  • (Americas) Ali S. Rangwala, University of California, San Diego, USA, PhD Thesis
  • (Asia and Oceania) Johannes A.W. Dimyadi, The University of Canterbury, NZ, Masters Thesis


  • (Europe and Africa)  Angus Law, for the thesis titled “The Assessment and Response of Concrete Structures Subject to Fire”, The University of Edinburgh, UK (2010)
  • (Americas) Christopher Lautenberger, for the thesis titled “Generalized Pyrolysis Model for Combustible Solids”, University of California, Berkeley, USA (2007)
  • (Asia and Oceania) Kai Chen, for the thesis titled “Formation of Toxic Pollutants in the Thermal Decomposition of the Sulfenimide Fungicides”, The University of Newcastle, Australia (2011)


  • (Europe and Africa) Dr Thomas Gernay, for the thesis titled “A multiaxial constitutive model for concrete in the fire situation including transient creep and cooling down phases,” Université de Liège, Belgium (2012)
  • (Americas) Dr Kristopher James Overholt, for the thesis titled “Forward and Inverse Modeling of Fire Physics Towards Fire Scene Reconstructions,” The University of Texas at Austin, USA (2013)
  • (Asia and Oceania) Dr Chao Zhang for the thesis titled “Reliability of Steel Columns Protected by Intumescent Coatings Subjected to Natural Fires,” Tongji University, China (2012)

2014 Honorable Mentions:

  • Dr John Gales, for the thesis titled “Unbonded Post Tensioned Concrete Structures in Fire,” University of Edinburgh, UK (2013)
  • Dr Mélanie Rochoux for the thesis titled “Towards a more comprehensive monitoring of wildfire spread Contributions of model evaluation and data assimilation strategies (Vers une meilleure prévision de la propagation d’incendies de forêt: Evaluation de modèles et Assimilation de données),” CNRS et École Centrale Paris, France (2014)
  • Dr Steven Verstockt for the thesis “Multi-modal Video Analysis for Early Fire Detection (Analyse van multimodale video voor vroegtijdige branddetectie),” Universiteit Gent, Belgium (2012).


  • (Americas) Ali Tohidi for the thesis, “Experimental and Numerical Modeling of Wildfire Spread via Fire Spotting” conferred by Clemson University, USA
  • (Europe and Africa) Cristian Maluk for the thesis, “Development and Application of a Novel Test Method for Studying the Fire Behaviour of CFRP Prestressed Concrete Structural Element” conferred by the University of Edinburgh, UK
  • (Asia and Oceania) Zihe Gao for the thesis “Studies on Characteristics of Confined Fire Plumes and Mechanism of Natural Smoke Exhaust by Shaft in Tunnel Fires” conferred by the University of Science and Technology of China in collaboration with Ghent University, Belgium


  • Americas: Joshua D. Swann for the thesis, “A comprehensive characterization of pyrolysis and combustion of intumescent and charring polymers using two-dimensional modeling: a relationship between thermal transport and the physical structure of the intumescent char” conferred by the University of Maryland, College Park, USA, advised by Prof. Stanislav Stoliarov
  • Europe and Africa: Eric V. Mueller for the thesis, “Examination of the underlying physics in a detailed wildland fire behavior model through field-scale experimentation” conferred by the University of Edinburgh, UK, advised by Dr. Rory Hadden and Prof. Albert Simeoni
  • Asia and Oceania: Yongzheng Yao for the thesis “Fire Behaviors and smoke transportation law of tunnel fires under confined portal boundaries” conferred by the University of Science and Technology of China, in collaboration with RISE Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), advised by Prof. Heping Zhang and A/Prof.Xudong Cheng at USTC and Prof. Haukur Ingason and Dr. Ying Zhen Li at RISE

2021 Honorable mentions:

  • James L. Urban for the thesis “Spot ignition of natural fuels by hot metal particles” conferred by the University of California, Berkeley, USA, advised by Prof. Carlos Fernandez-Pello
  • Francesco Restuccia for the thesis “Self-heating ignition of natural reactive porous media” conferred by Imperial College, London, UK, advised by Prof. Guillermo Rein