The office of the Vice President for Research recognizes Matthew Eatherton, an assistant professor in the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, for his work to make people and buildings safe from natural threats.
Eatherton seeks to develop resilient and sustainable structural systems. His group focuses on high performance seismic lateral force resisting systems, understanding structural response due to earthquakes, and analysis and design of steel structures.
Eatherton has used a National Science Foundation grant to develop a structural building component called a self-centering beam. The self-centering beam would serve several purposes: protect lives, limit or eliminate structural repair costs, and reduce business downtime due to earthquakes.
Traditionally, designing buildings to withstand earthquakes has focused on protecting the lives of building occupants, without explicitly limiting the amount of structural damage.
But the self-centering beam concentrates damage in replaceable elements of the building.
Eatherton, who worked as a structural engineer from 2001 until 2006 in earthquake-prone California, also has teamed with faculty within the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies to explore the use of exposed geometrically-cut steel plates in building interior designs to serve both structural purposes and architectural form in terms of screening and aesthetics.
Steel plates with carefully designed geometric patterns – or voids – can better withstand everyday loads and extreme events such as high winds, blast or shock from an earthquake than the standard solid steel plates.
Eatherton received his doctoral degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Missouri at Columbia.