Christine Moore Shoemaker

Profile Updated: September 10, 2023
Tell us about your life since HS graduation

Update August, 2023. My husband and I have returned to Cornell University after 8 years in Singapore. I was fortunate to have recently won major international career award prizes from 3 different professional societies (SIAM (applied mathematics) , ASCE (Civil Engineering) and INFORMS (operations research) in addition to being a member of National Academy of Engineering. The core of my research is to use mathematics and computation to develop effective ways to resolve environmental problems in a cost effective way. My husband and I were professors at Cornell University in Engineering in New York for over 40 years.

Entry in 2012: No one in my extended family had attended college.I was fortunate to attend UC Davis on a generous scholarship where I majored in mathematics. In retrospect, I probably should have majored in engineering, but there were almost no women studying engineering so I didn't really consider it since I knew little about it.

During my junior year I spent a year in Germany studying mathematics at Univ. of Goettingen. This year changed my attitude towards life a lot, including making me become much more interested in social issues and subsequently in protesting against the Vietnam war. It also stimulated me to do a lot of international scientific work later in my life.

I entered graduate school in Mathematics at USC and continued my political activities, helping to organize large protest marches in Los Angeles.

Because of my interest in politics and social issues , I decided I did not want to become a pure mathematician and I sought a topic that would utilize my mathematical background and help address a socially important topic, so during and after my PhD I began to work on environmental modeling and computer analysis supported by mathematical analysis. .

I was a faculty member at Cornell University since 1972 in Civil and Environmental Engineering and I have PhD students in applied math and OR as well. I think I am remarkable lucky to have such a job! I get to learn new things all the time and work with wonderful students. It is also wonderful to live in a small college town like Ithaca that has a very large lake and 3 large waterfalls. My husband Phil Liu and I spend lots of time walking in various beautiful places.

During the early years as a faculty member, I was about the only woman faculty member in Engineering, which was very difficult. The article in the next text box talks about that and a major award I won recently.

One of the things I was proud of having done was to lead an international project, 1986-1996 (while still doing regular professor duties) on Groundwater Contamination. We were trying to get scientific information to developing countries to help them prevent contamination and protect water supplies. I lead a project to have workshops in Eastern Europe, Latin America, California, Australia, Thailand and China funded in part by United Nations.


Where do you live now, and what are your favorite activities at present?

I'll use this box to insert an article about me and an award. It tells a lot about my professional life and the fact that for about 15 years I was almost the only woman faculty member in Engineering at Cornell University. This is excerpted from an article that appeared in the Cornell Chronicle Feb. 2012 about Christine Moore ( Shoemaker), El Camino High, 1962

Title: Shoemaker elected to National Academy of Engineering

Christine (Moore) Shoemaker, Cornell’s Joseph P. Ripley Professor of Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinctions for an engineer.

Shoemaker, a Professor in the Cornell School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, was cited “for development of decision-making optimization algorithms for environmental and water resources problems.”

Her research focuses on cost-effective, robust solutions for environmental problems by using optimization, modeling and statistical analyses. This includes development of general purpose, numerically efficient nonlinear and global optimization algorithms utilizing high performance computing and applications to data from complex, nonlinear environmental systems. Shoemaker received her Ph.D. in mathematics under the supervision of Richard Bellman in optimal control, and she chose to focus on environmental applications.

Shoemaker’s research is interdisciplinary; she has supervised PhD students from a number of fields including Operations Research and Information Engineering and Applied Mathematics, in addition to students from her home field CEE. She has had NSF funding from four different Directorates. Her projects are often in collaboration with other faculty and include physical and biological groundwater remediation, pesticide management, ecology, climate modeling, carbon sequestration, and surface water pollutant transport in large watersheds.

Professor Shoemaker is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE). She has been elected a Fellow in the following professional societies: American Geophysical Union (Hydrology section), ASCE, and INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and Management Science). She also won a Humboldt Research Prize from Germany. She initiated and led a 9-year multidisciplinary international project (sponsored by SCOPE and United Nations Environment Program) that brought information and workshops about groundwater contamination to developing countries at a time (1987-1996) when those regions were doing little to prevent contamination from industrial chemicals. Such contamination is often irreversible or extremely expensive to remove because it is in groundwater, so prevention is the best strategy.

Prof. Shoemaker was the first woman faculty member in the Cornell College of Engineering to be promoted to tenure. In 1985 she was the first woman to be a Cornell Engineering Department Chairperson. She received a national award from the Society of Women Engineers in 1991 for her scholarship and efforts to encourage women engineers during years when there were very few woman students or faculty in engineering.

Membership in the National Academy of Engineering honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature,” and to the “pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”

Any favorite memories from High School?

I am grateful to have attended a school like El Camino. It was a safe, protected place with good to excellent academics (depending on the teacher). Although it had its share of teenage angst, I remember it as being overall a benign place. Maybe that was partially because of the times. I think high school has become a more hazardous place for many young people now. I was afraid for most of my children and stepchildren during their high school years.

Can you share any remembrances of favorite teachers/coaches/administrators at ECHS?

I remember a number of my teachers. I especially remember Mr. Sowers, who inspired me to love physics. I am very grateful to Mr. Pardee who gave me an excellent background in math. I remember very much the Latin teacher Mr. Smith, who managed to teach us a lot more than Latin. In retrospect I wished I had studied something more practical like Spanish or German in high school, but I'm very pleased with the experience with Mr. Smith including when we were auctioned off as Roman slaves. Mr. Oliver was fun and a great biology teacher. Mrs. Davidson was very admirable.

Tell us about your family--children, grandchildren?

My husband Phil Liu is also a professor and he has expertise in coast engineering and tsunamis. We get to travel together quite a bit both in Europe and Asia ,and we lived in Germany. We will spend 3 months in a Taiwan university this winter.

Erica-is an M.D. child psychiatrist on faculty at USC Medical School and is married with 14 year old son Gabriel

Greg- works in customer service and lives in Ithaca

Katherine-is an editor for Cornell University Press in Ithaca, NY

David- is an IT Vice President working in Salt Lake City, who has three children

Betsy-is retired

Christine's Latest Interactions

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Sep 10, 2023 at 9:50 PM
Sep 10, 2023 at 6:26 PM
Christine Moore Shoemaker posted a message. New comment added.
Sep 10, 2023 at 8:26 PM

Posted on: Sep 10, 2023 at 5:32 PM

Carl you have had had a tremendously productive life, both in your scientific achievements and in the success of your children, It is wonderful that you have been able to achieve so much!

Jun 03, 2017 at 2:51 PM
Christine Moore Shoemaker added a photo to profile gallery.
Jul 31, 2016 at 10:31 PM
At daughter Erica's wedding 2004
Jul 31, 2016 at 10:25 PM
Jul 29, 2014 at 12:53 PM
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Posted: Dec 17, 2013 at 1:28 AM
Chris Moore in high school around 1959.
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 at 1:28 AM
Chris Moore Shoemaker as new assistant professor at Cornell University 1971 and almost only woman professor in engineering & physical sciences.
Posted: Jul 31, 2016 at 10:31 PM
At daughter Erica's wedding 2004