Spence says structures have always been fascinating to him.
“My particular fascination with tall buildings was propelled during my first visit to Chicago back in 2006 at the very beginning of my PhD. Their sheer size and engineering poignancy truly struck me. They seem to represent a modern incarnation of ancient cathedrals, something I grew up immersed in having spent much of my formative years in Italy.”
What interests Spence the most is learning how to define a new generation of tall building systems that are truly optimum from both an environmental and reliability prospective.
“I see these structures as a means for efficiently and reliably meeting in a sustainable fashion the ever growing needs of modern, urban habitats. In particular, by embracing the technological revolution of the last decades, unprecedented possibilities – from data-driven analysis to web-based system-level optimization – are available for reaching this goal. This is a very exciting time to be a researcher in the field of civil engineering as we have the opportunity to revolutionize the current practice therefore actively promoting a better infrastructure for tomorrow.”
Spence works towards optimization by embracing the uncertain and probabilistic nature of models and the parameters that calibrate them. For example, one of his studies researched the sources of uncertainties produced when using high frequency force balance (HFFB) tests for the estimation of the wind-induced response of tall buildings.
As previously mentioned, Spence spent many of his formative years in Italy. He also lived in France and the United Kingdom while growing up. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Italy and his PhD in Germany. The well-traveled Spence says he enjoys adapting to new cultures.
“If I had to identify the single most important cultural lesson learnt during my PhD experience, I would say it was probably the understanding that while we may have differences in the way we plan our days and the things we eat or the way we dress, in many ways we are extremely similar in our goals, fears and joys. I think this knowledge truly helps me adapt to the inevitable differences that exist between cultures. In fact, in all honesty, I would go as far as saying that I actually cherish the culture challenges that moving to different countries, or working with colleagues from around the world, brings.”
Spence joins CEE from the University of Notre Dame where he was a research assistant professor. Spence appreciated working in an environment “where the enthusiasm and passion of each member was truly palpable.” He looks forward to multidisciplinary opportunities at U-M.
“I am greatly looking forward to the possibility of collaborating with people both within my department as well as from other disciplines which will allow me to explore some of my more multidisciplinary ideas.”