During his master’s studies at Lehigh, Mathū Davis ’14 M.Eng. built foundational skills in structural design and project management that he’s leveraged in his career—and community service efforts—ever since

As a project manager for O’Donnell & Naccarato, a structural engineering firm that frequently tackles large, complicated jobs, Mathū Davis pays close attention to details.

“After we’re awarded a project, our team starts to dial in on intricacies that we need to coordinate with the architect and the contractor,” says Davis, whose experience includes working onthe Rowan Boulevard redevelopment project, a mixed-use complex in Glassboro, N.J., with more than 1,000,000 square feet of apartments, restaurants, medical offices, and other spaces.

Also on his resume: a Master’s of Engineering degree in Structural Engineering, which he earned from Lehigh University in 2014.

Lehigh’s M.Eng. in Structural Engineering program is a 10-month, 30-credit graduate track that prepares students for careers in the professional practice of structural engineering. The curriculum balances the theoretical with the practical, combining coursework with a group project focusing on the design of a real-world structure.

Students typically begin classes in July and graduate the following May prepared to address the myriad performance, cost, and public welfare decisions involved in large-scale structural engineering projects.

“My experience at Lehigh, particularly program’s group design project, helped me develop an approach to managing multiple personalities on a design team—one that scales up for managing a project team for a new building structure,” Davis says.

While an undergraduate studying civil engineering at Howard University, Davis participated in a National Science Foundation undergraduate research program, through which he visited Lehigh and other top-notch U.S. universities. Not only did the experience allow him to conduct research in their facilities, it also gave Davis a chance to research potential schools for his graduate studies.

“Seeing the facilities and starting to work with some of the Lehigh professors on their research projects, all the things they had going on at the time, really put it on my list to apply there,” he recalls.

Davis applied for the Master of Science and Master of Engineering programs at Lehigh. He ultimately chose the M.Eng. program because “it was more project-based than research-based.”

“You’re working with peers on an actual project—a hospital, a residential structure—and that was attractive to me,” he adds.

For his group design project, Davis and his team worked on a residential structure in Fort Lee, N.J. Along the way, they encountered unexpected issues with software they were using. “To uncover a flaw in the computational output of the center of rigidity in the program versus our hand-calculated coordinates validated the limitations of relying solely on the program,” he says.

The assignment found him collaborating with others, “throwing ideas back and forth” and developing camaraderie, says Davis. He’s experienced a similar working environment at O&N in Philadelphia, where he’s climbed the ladder, advancing from project designer to his most recent promotion as project manager.

Davis says working in the RAM Structural System while at Lehigh paid off a few years ago when he was assigned River House at Odette’s, a luxury hotel in New Hope, Penn., along the Delaware River.

“For that project, the M.Eng. program supplied the foundational tools to simulate the structural analysis model so we could produce an accurate depiction of how the structure would behave adjacent to a river with combined wind loads and flood loads in a worst-case condition,” he says.

Since September 2015, Davis has been part of the ACE Mentor Program of America, an initiative to attract high school students into pursuing architecture, construction, and engineering careers. His responsibilities have included organizing field trips and leading teams through the curriculum.

It’s all part of giving back, Davis says, after getting so much out of his own education from standout instructors, among them an engineering mentor during his high school years in Ohio and Professor Jennifer H. Gross, the director of Lehigh’s M.Eng. program in Structural Engineering.

Davis views his ACE activities as time well spent.

“I stopped counting hours long ago because no matter the number, it is never enough,” Davis says. “It should be every industry professional’s obligation to empower the next generation of industry leaders.”

—Chris M. Junior is a freelance contributor for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science

Mathū Davis

Mathū Davis, a project manager for O’Donnell & Naccarato, project holds an M.Eng. in Structural Engineering from Lehigh University.

M.Eng. in Structural Engineering

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