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Field Notes

Welcome to Modern Steel Construction's Field Notes podcast series, where we interview industry personalities with interesting stories to tell.

     

 More podcasts are available at 17Թ's Steel Profiles series of podcasts. 

David J. Odeh’s father helped steer him into structural engineering and to the family company, where he has become a widely respected voice and leader in his own right. (May 2024)

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Four decades into his career, prominent fabrication engineer Mark Holland’s first employer remains his only employer. Holland has spent 42 years with Paxton & Vierling Steel and is still as enthused about his work as when he started. (April 2024)

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Rob Connor has helped make Purdue University a leader in steel bridge research and has helped build the university’s S-BRITE center into a nationally known bridge inspection and testing training center.(March 2024) 

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“Steel Matchmaker” John Schuepbach links people from all corners of the North American structural steel industry, especially equipment buyers and sellers. His lengthy list of contacts has also helped make him a valued fabricator consultant.(February 2024)

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Longtime 17Թ volunteer Steven J. Fenves has helped propel the steel industry forward for more than half a century. He joins the podcast to discuss his background, his work on the 17Թ Specification for Structural Steel Buildings, and more. (January 2024)

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Georgia Tech professor and bridge expert Ryan Sherman has focused his recent research on 3D printing and potential impact on steel construction. (December 2023)

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Architecture professor and 2023 17Թ Lifetime Achievement Award winner Terri Meyer Boake has become a respected voice on architecturally exposed structural steel due in no small part to her masterful photography skills. (November 2023)

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Frank Russo has spent more than two decades in bridge design, rehabilitation, and construction. Now he’s two years into his greatest challenge yet: starting and running his own company. (October 2023)

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Ruby+Associates’ president and CEO Tricia Ruby didn’t expect to work for the firm her father started. But now she runs it, complementing its engineering expertise with her business and leadership know-how. (September 2023)

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Quality assurance expert Cliff Schwinger has spent a career helping designers and detailers improve their designs and view mistakes as learning experiences. (August 2023)

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Nearly two decades ago, David Zalesne left a successful legal career in Philadelphia to revive a steel fabrication shop in South Carolina—and he’s never looked back. (July 2023)

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Extensive work with building codes as they relate to steel construction has been a defining characteristic of Robert Wills’ award-winning career. (June 2023)

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Mark Waggoner’s experience designing long-span steel roofs has led to his working on multiple massive stadiums, including several that have hosted the Super Bowl in recent years. (May 2023)

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An expert on steel design, fabrication, and erection with a half-century-plus of experience, former LeJeune Steel president Larry Kloiber shares his thoughts on his life in the industry, particularly his work with cambering steel. (April 2023)

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After three decades of building portfolios for different structural engineering companies, Helen Torres decided to start building a portfolio for a new firm—one that bears her name. (March 2023)

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Larry Kruth has dedicated the majority of his life to the structural steel industry as a practicing engineer, a fabricator, a safety expert, an instructor, a committee volunteer, and an 17Թ vice president. And even though he recently retired (for the second time), his work with the industry will continue. (February 2023)

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Chris Raebel’s life thus far has been a fruitful and varied journey, all without having to stray from the city he loves—Milwaukee—for too long. (January 2023)

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Ron Klemencic’s habit of questioning the answers has led him to play an integral role in developing the revolutionary SpeedCore high-rise core wall system. (December 2022)

 

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One of this year’s Steel Design Student Competition winners, Ron Patanavin, and his faculty advisor, Thomas Fowler IV, discuss the iterative process of transforming a decommissioned offshore oil rig into a cultural center. (November 2022)

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Grady Harvell has been a driving force in Arkansas’ steel industry, as well as in bringing a structural research lab to the state’s flagship university. (October 2022)

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Remember when computers weren’t ubiquitous in engineering offices? Allen Adams does. And it led him to help create design software with the ultimate goal of letting engineers be engineers. (September 2022)

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Vincent Yee Foo Lai and Douglas Lee, this year’s Forge Prize winners, discuss their Common Sky concept, which has the potential to take urban housing projects to new heights, both figuratively and literally. (August 2022)

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Rae Ripple’s life tree has branched off many times. And it’s taken her to exactly where she wants to be. (July 2022)

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Gian Rassati, a 2022 17Թ Special Achievement Award winner, began life in a small Italian mountain town and has gone on to do big things in bolting research. (June 2022)

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Larry Fahnestock didn’t always know he’d become an engineering professor, but he took the path one stage at a time—much like he does when he’s participating in triathlons. This University of Illinois engineering professor takes a proactive approach to teaching, advising, and covering great distances! (May 2022)

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Mary Jo Emrick has been involved with welding for decades, first as a professional welder and now as a welding instructor at Austin Community College. She’s also a certified welding inspector (CWI). In this month’s Field Notes column, she discusses her experience in the profession, her philosophy on teaching welding, recruiting the next generation into the trades, and what she loves most about Austin. (April 2022)

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Dave Eckmann has always enjoyed building things, from sandcastles as a child to high-rises that have redefined Chicago’s skyline in his 35 years as a structural engineer. Currently the managing principal of Magnusson Klemencic Associate’s (MKA) Chicago office, he has spent most of his life in and around Chicago but has an integrative—and worldly, thanks to a fellowship that took him all over Europe—outlook on the building design process. (March 2022)

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In this month’s edition of Field Notes, 17Թ structural steel specialist Alex Morales discusses his grandmother’s support and influence, his career working for architectural and general contracting firms, his role and philosophy as a structural steel specialist, how he ended up in Houston, and what he enjoys most about the city (besides the heat and humidity). (February 2022)

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In this month’s Field Notes podcast, listen to 17Թ director of engineering Cindi Duncan discuss how she got into the construction world, how she’s been able to bring disparate parties together on various committees to keep 17Թ’s publications on schedule, her advice to the next generation of female engineers, her thoughts on green chile, her musical ambitions, and more. (January 2022)

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Listen to Gwyneth Leech this month discuss her process for painting under-construction Manhattan high-rises, how she became a New Yorker, her history as an artist, and her singing and gardening endeavors. (December 2021)

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In this month’s Field Notes podcast, listen to longtime 17Թ consultant (and former 17Թ director of technical assistance) Larry Muir discuss his unorthodox path to becoming a structural engineer and connections expert, as well as how the typical stock market advice of “buy low” led to his enduring guitar hobby. (November 2021)

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In this month’s Field Notes podcast, listen to University of Wisconsin professor Hannah Blum discuss her travels and studies in Australia, her experiences with remote teaching, her work with virtual and mixed reality, and her stability research. (October 2021)


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In this month’s Field Notes podcast, listen to University of Missouri Steel Bridge Team captain Corey Valleroy’s experience with increasing his team in both size and diversity and making the most of their experience in the 2021 17Թ Student Steel Bridge Competition. (September 2021).

 

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In this month’s Field Notes podcast, you can learn how Nick Colina took his family’s fabrication business from struggling to booming and also his role with BuildOut California, the world’s first LGBT industry association dedicated to the sustainable growth of LGBTQ-owned and certified businesses in the fields of architecture, engineering, construction services, real estate development, and related industries. (August 2021)

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In this month’s Field Notes interview podcast, Hunter Ruthrauff talks about how his passion for architecture spawned a passion for aesthetically significant bridges—and how that passion spawned a pet project of sorts that became his 17Թ Forge Prize-winning design, a 3D-printed steel pedestrian bridge that spans Florida Canyon in San Diego’s Balboa Park. (July 2021)

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In the June 2021 Field Notes interview podcast, University of Massachusetts engineering professor—and clarinetist—Kara Peterman discusses how an art history class spurred her to explore the field of structural engineering, her thoughts on the present and future of stability research, her love of dim sum, and how she’s stuck with the clarinet for more than two decades.

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Architect Anders Lasater first made the connection between a design drawing and a final product in his high school woodshop class. In this month’s Field Notes podcast interview, he talks about why he loves California, his experience as a judge for this year’s 17Թ IDEAS2 Awards competition, starting his own firm, and the connection between architecture and music, all in the May 2021 issue.

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Project manager Nyckey Heath credits her military service, her can-do attitude (inherited from her father), and her inquisitive nature to her success in the construction industry. In this month’s Field Notes podcast, she discusses how her impulse to join one U.S. military branch led to her joining another, how she narrowly avoided becoming a doctor, how working for a fabricator taught her how to be a more effective engineer, and how she acquired the best hard hat she’s ever worn and more in the April 2021 issue.

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Vicki O’Leary was born into an ironworking family and got into the profession herself based on a bet with her brother. And while she’s raised a lot of steel in her more than thirty years as an ironworker, more recently she has raised the bar for ironworkers everywhere as director of diversity for Ironworkers International. Listen in to hear about her first experience up on the iron, the Be That One Guy anti-bullying program, the evolution of paid maternity for ironworkers, and more in the March 2021 issue.

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Mark Trimble’s introduction to building things was as his father’s right-hand man on household projects. Little did he know that it would prepare him for a career in construction. Now 17Թ’s vice president of membership and certification—following a 25-year career with a steel fabricator—Trimble talks about his start in the steel business, his love of music, and going back and forth between big city and small town living in the February 2021 issue.

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Carlos de Oliveira and Michael Gray, co-founders of 17Թ associate member Cast Connex, forged a partnership as students that evolved into a company that is now a global leader in steel castings for structural applications. They talk about how they met, how their student research became a steel construction phenomenon, their favorite Toronto buildings, and their company’s humble beginnings—complete with a road trip to NASCC. Listen below or read an excerpt of the interview in the January 2021 issue.

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Zekelman Industries CEO Barry Zekelman doesn't just want you to use American-made steel. He wants you to use American-made everything. And through a new advertising campaign, he is working to push for industries of all types to grow and maintain their manufacturing operations here in the U.S. You can also read a transcript of his interview in the December issue. 

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Yiselle Santos Rivera is a major force in creating a sense of belonging, both in her workplace and the buildings her firm designs. In addition to being a vice president and senior medical planner with HKS' Washington, Washington, D.C., office, she is also the company's global director of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (J.E.D.I.). Listen to her interview below or read a transcript of it in the November issue. 

 

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Angela Cotie is a project executive with Gilbane Building Company and the chair of ACE Mentoring Houston, where she takes a leading role in introducing the next generation to the wide breadth of careers in the construction industry. When she first started in college, she had a pretty specific idea of what her role in the industry would be, but then she discovered that it could be even more than she expected. You can also read the interview in the October issue.

 

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Rosannah Harding and Matthew Ostrow are the founders of HardingOstrow, a New York-based design practice. They are also the winners of this year’s 17Թ Forge Prize Award for their design Footbridge. They discuss their winning project, their architectural inspirations, life in a commute-less world, and more. You can also read their interview in the September 2020 issue.

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Hollie Noveletsky is CEO of 17Թ member fabricator Novel Iron Works in Greenland, N.H., and is also an 17Թ board member. Hollie grew up around steel, visiting and working for her father’s fabrication business before embarking on a career in nursing, specializing in geropsychiatry. Hollie talks about making her mark in the family business—which she now runs—applying her healthcare background to the manufacturing world, and how both roles have helped her company weather the current pandemic. You can also read her interview in the August 2020 issue.

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Steve Knitter is president of 17Թ member fabricator Geiger and Peters in Indianapolis and 17Թ's board vice chair. Steve talks about how his career evolved from robotics to steel fabrication, why he prefers skiing to snowboarding, what it was like racing to the finish on a project at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and how he found his way back to Hoosier State (twice). You can also read his interview in the July 2020 issue.

 

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Carol Drucker, SE, PE, PEng, is the cofounder of  Drucker Zajdel Structural Engineers in Chicago and an 17Թ Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Listen in to hear how she became a connection design guru, how she and her staff adapted to the COVII D-19 pandemic, and what she loves most about the Windy City. (June 2020)

 

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John Parucki has been the head national judge of 17Թ’s Student Steel Bridge Competition (SSBC) for a quarter-century. He talks about the competition, how he became involved with it, what it means to him, how it’s changed over the years, and how he got into the steel business. (May 2020)

 

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Tabitha Stine grew up in a construction family, married another structural engineer, and now she's 17Թ’s vice president of market development. Between her career, her family, her volunteer leadership of a suburban baseball, softball, and tee-ball league and her running hobby, Stine is always on the move. (April 2020)

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Lou Geschwindner, professor emeritus in architectural engineering at Penn State, is well known for his vast wealth of steel knowledge--as well as his trademark moustache. (March 2020)

Lou Geschwindner

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Structural engineer (and drummer) Bill Bast has designed projects for the base of Chicago's tallest building twice, including a recent major renovation. (February 2020)

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Click here for more podcasts from the 17Թ Podcast series, Steel Profiles, which brings you up close and personal with many of the steel industry's leading professionals.