Lee Shoemaker: Structural steel engineer heads research for the metal building industryProgressive Engineer: Profile - Lee Shoemaker
...Lee Shoemaker: Structural steel engineer heads research for the metal building industry
...When Lee Shoemaker grew wary of his career path in the cyclical shipbuilding industry, he sat down and wrote a letter to a former professor at Duke University.
That missive would eventually change his
career path and focus as a professional engineer, not to mention his
title.He now goes by Dr. Lee Shoemaker and serves as the director of research and engineering for the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA).
An interesting journey brought him to such a position. Upon receiving his first degree from Duke University, Shoemaker went to work for Avondale Shipyards in New Orleans, Louisiana.
engineering acumen and finite element analysis skills in structural steel design."It was very interesting work to do finite element analysis and then go out in the shipyard and see the fabrication and construction of my designs take shape," he
says. While at Avondale, Shoemaker attended graduate school in engineering at Tulane University.
"It tied a lot together for me," he
explains."I'd study advanced steel design at night and apply that knowledge at work the next day.It also was good preparation for the P.E. exam I was planning to take."It was during this time that Shoemaker wrote to a former professor at Duke University.The professor convinced him to return to Duke, matriculate for his doctorate in civil engineering, and teach while he studied.
Upon completing the program at Duke
and attaining his
received offers from several universities to teach civil engineering.He
chose Auburn University
, deep in the rolling hills of eastern Alabama.He
enjoyed teaching and eagerly volunteered to teach new courses where he
could develop the curriculum as he
taught.It fulfilled his
quest to continually learn and research.His
civil engineering students enjoyed it as well, as they voted for him to receive a teaching award.In addition to teaching structural design, he conducted research that included work on the Hubble Telescope for NASA and other structural projects for the Alabama Department of Transportation.
But after achieving tenure at Auburn, Shoemaker
, yearned to apply his
theoretical knowledge to the practical kind and made yet another career move, again back to the world of structural design and engineering.This time, he became the chief engineer and vice president of manufacturing at Cornell Crane Manufacturing in Woodbury, New Jersey, a firm that developed complex tower cranes for high-rise construction.
"It was a very challenging job that was so different from my previous experience," he
sees part of his
role as improving the image of the metal building systems industry as a whole and MBMA
in particular.The association's focus includes defining and promoting the common interests of metal building system manufacturers.They do this by facilitating and consolidating resources to meet the current challenges and opportunities the industry faces.
Meeting these means maintaining a professional image of trust and respect by structural engineering peers."My biggest satisfaction is helping to change the image," Shoemaker
says."Some engineers don't appreciate the engineering expertise of our members.
says that is changing.
"We give them a tour, have members show them their software, discuss structural design issues, and describe how we've tackled challenges," explains Shoemaker
."Each time we have done this, the engineers are amazed - they didn't know how sophisticated metal building system design has become.We need to do more of that; there are a lot of audiences to impress." Shoemaker
believes the research undertaken by MBMA
has far greater reach and purpose than many understand.To date, he has taken 30 research projects under his cognizance, covering interesting topics such as Wind Effects of Parapets on Low Buildings; Snow Drifts on Low-Sloped Gable Roofs; and Composite Roof Uplift Test . While MBMA contracts research effort to prestigious universities, Shoemaker serves as principal-in-charge, providing direction and oversight for all aspects of the research.
Finding the right engineers to take on industry challenges is another satisfying endeavor for Shoemaker
."Whatever the topic - wind loads, snow loads, purlin or tapered member design - we hire research teams that represent the best engineering resources in North America," he
Throughout the research process, Shoemaker
visits the research facilities, observes testing carried out on each project, and works with graduate students.Many students become so fascinated by the metal building system research that they move into engineering roles with MBMA member firms.
Looking back on his
11 years with this professional association, Shoemaker
has learned it's important to be patient in carrying out research impacting codes to guide the industry.He
also advocates a participative role in the association's research and standards development by member engineers.Says Shoemaker
, "They are more aware of what's going on in the building codes and standards and have more time to prepare for changes that can have a significant impact on design.They aren't just ahead of the curve, they are intimately involved in setting the direction for building systems design, and their companies are at a real technical advantage. "Shoemaker
practices the same enthusiasm he
invites."It's something I really like doing," he