James Mason (second from right) describes his research to members of MCEER's Strategic Partnerships Network.
James A. Mason is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University. His advisor is Professor Thomas O'Rourke. James came to Cornell from Caltrans in 1996 after utilizing work by Professors O'Rourke and Hamada (of Waseda University, Japan) in the retrofit of a long span bridge. The bridge was completely founded in liquefiable soils in northern California, two miles from the San Andreas fault. This brought him into contact with the Cornell engineering community, and motivated his journey to Ithaca. He came to Cornell with over 15 years experience as a civil and structural engineer, and expects to graduate in the summer of 2002.
His research focuses on developing and verifying the retrofit techniques and materials used to strengthen the city of Los Angeles water system. Entitled "Earthquake Response and Seismic Strengthening of Welded Steel Pipelines," the project has directly included private industry. First, three companies donated time and materials to the project: Master Builders, Fyfe Co., and RJ Watson, Inc. Then, all of the large diameter pipe testing was performed at facilities located at Taylor Devices, Inc., a flagship member of MCEER's Strategic Partnerships Network, with a donation of time and staff. Some testing was performed at Cornell, but more capacity was needed, which was available at Taylor Devices. Finally, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) donated all of the pipe specimens to the project, including shipping costs.
When asked how he became interested in earthquake engineering, James said, "I have been interested in bridges and historic structures (especially the California missions) since I was a young man. I have been intrigued by the seismic performance of these structures over time. And, as for the engineering aspect, my father is a civil and structural engineer with his own company. I worked for him designing small bridges, subdivisions, and doing survey work. My passion for earthquake engineering was really motivated while I worked for Caltrans. This is when I realized that earthquake engineering must be performed as a complete system, i.e., the integration of the substructure (foundation) with the superstructure (bridge or building). I utilized this methodology for the retrofit of a 32-span bridge near Berkeley, one mile from the Hayward fault. Also, working on the retrofit design for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge brought home all of the seismic concepts that I had been working on."
After graduation, James will be working with a consortium of other consulting engineers through his company, Integrated Structural Earthquake Engineering (iSEE). James said, "I will work on bridges and historic structures and pipeline design for both static and dynamic loading conditions. I am also bringing a technology developed by Dr. Fernando Lizzi (Naples, Italy) for the retrofit of non-reinforced masonry and stone bridges and buildings to the U.S., the Internal Reinforced Method (IRM). This work integrates the geotechnical and structural retrofit of structures with a technology that I have been utilizing and investigating for approximately ten years."
When not busy with his studies, James enjoys hiking, skiing, canoeing and kayaking with his wife, Stephanie and 13 year-old son, Sam.