Position: Research Leader at Olsson Fire & Risk.
Field: Fire engineering.
When we first interviewed Mike he was Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering at the University of Canterbury.
Mike’s interest in fire engineering developed during his first job. He had completed a physics degree and was working in the United Kingdom in an organisation that does research into all aspects of buildings, which included fire safety.
Mike then completed a master’s in fire protection engineering in the United States. Mike continued to work in the UK during the semester breaks and spent quite a bit of time going backwards and forwards between countries. Once he had finished the master’s, Mike was able to get a 5-year position at the University of Canterbury that was partially funded by the New Zealand Fire Service. During that time, Mike completed his PhD and then obtained a permanent position at the university.
Mike says he never had any intention of working in fire safety or as a university lecturer or moving to New Zealand.
Life just leads you down paths you never knew you would take.Mike Spearpoint
What his university position involves
Mike’s position at the university involves teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in fire engineering. He also supervises a number of master’s and PhD students who are doing their research into a wide range of fire engineering topics. Some of his time is spent doing general administration of the fire programme. The rest of his time is used to prepare research papers and conduct his own research.
He worked on developing fire evacuation modelling software, which involves writing the program and then testing it. Mike hopes this software will have commercial applications in the future although it’s still too early to say whether that will happen. More information can be found here.
His research interests include fire detection, fire and human behaviour modelling, and database and online information exchange.
When asked in 2009 about his personal interests, Mike says, “We’re not all workaholics and geeks – but some of us are! I try to play some social tennis when the weather allows. I’m keen on listening to my music collection, and I’m also involved in online strategic games with a group of people based all around the world – so, yes, that makes me a geek.”
In 2017, after 17 years at the University of Canterbury, Mike took up the position of Research Leader at OFR Consultants in the UK, providing the link between the worlds of research and the fire safety construction industry.
Over Mike's career he has authored more than 180 papers in international journals, conference proceedings and industry publications on a wide range of fire science and engineering topics.
This article is based on information current in 2009 and updated in 2020.