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Re: Wind vs. Seismic Research for future job growth

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Mr. Hess put it very well.  I still consider myself "younger" with only having 13 yrs experience.  I am constantly learning new things, and trying to impart some of my knowledge with younger engineers, fresh out of school.  Some of the younger folk will rely too much on an analysis model, and will treat its results as gospel.  They see numbers, but don't really know where they come from. 
As for your prof saying all firms have at least one specialist in wind, I don' think that comment holds much water.  In the end, most structural engineering firms, like most A/E/C firms "specialize" in a few areas, and don't stray too much into unfamiliar territory.  Your small office that designs residential and 2-story commercial Type-V structures won't bother getting into something more than 5 stories.  Similarly, the big boys (and girls) who do landmark skyscrapers in Taipei, Dubai, etc won't get into designing a failed backyard retaining wall. If you are good at wind design/dynamics, and you enjoy it, you'll find yourself in a place that does that.
I agree with Mr. Hess that you need some practical experience to see how something goes together.  Ultimately, someone specialized in designing structures, who has a BS, MS or PhD, must break down the theory behind the design to its elementary level so that an apprentice level carpenter/welder/ironworker can put it together with minimal confusion. 
Good luck in your endeavors.  You'll find out soon where it'll lead you.

On Wed, May 28, 2008 at 10:52 AM, Richard L. Hess <RLHess(--nospam--at)> wrote:
I admire your enthusiasm and look forward to welcoming you into our profession. There is nothing wrong with staying where you are to be the best in a particular field.  You have to decide what you think is best for you in the long run.
However if you plan to actually design those buildings and be responsible for the construction documents from which they are built, I recommend that you get some practical experience between your MS and the PhD in a design firm, but with as much field observation and construction involvement as possible.  Unfortunately, before you have as many years as I, (BS MIT "57 & MS Stanford '58) I believe that you may see some colossal failures because so many younger engineers believe that reality exists on their computer screen rather than what gets built at the site; and all problems are not going to be magically resolved by the IT people with BIM. Before I put my SE stamp on a drawing I have to visualize how it will go together in the field at the hands of contractors who do not have any idea about "load path" or other considerations.
This problem with making construction drawings that are complete and constructible is exasperated by the fact that the people teaching our students no longer seem to have the practical experience that they did when I went to school; not to mention the effect that engineers from academia now have on our building codes.
There is a big need for research and analysis but it is not the only thing that gets a good structure built.
Good luck.  If you come to Los Angeles give me a call.
Richard Hess S.E.
-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Stone []
Sent: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 6:12 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Wind vs. Seismic Research for future job growth

Hello all,

I am a masters-level student at a growing Southeastern state school that has a rapidly expanding wind research program (primarily hurricane, but also wind in general). I intend to pursue my PhD, but really envision myself living on the west coast for the long term. Considering my interests are mainly tall buildings and perhaps ultimately academia, would it make more sense to move west ASAP, or to continue study here with research into aeroelasticity / dynamic aspects of structures?

The main reason I ask is that my thesis advisor (whom is trying to keep me here to study with him) keeps saying to me that almost all major structural firms have at least one engineer who has a wind-based background to help with structural aspects of tall buildings--I want some outside perspective on this, especially from those on the west coast!

Many thanks,

Michael Stone

David Topete, SE