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Mechanical Engineering Major Embraces Educating the Whole Person

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Nicolas Breceda, senior mechanical engineering major

A believer in Loyola Marymount University’s Jesuit approach to educating the whole person, Nicolas Breceda came to campus intent on taking advantage of every opportunity available to him. And he did, starting before the first semester began by getting to know fellow students, professors and the dean of his college through the ACCESS—A Community Committed to Excellence in Scientific Scholarship—program.

“I really identify with the idea of educating the whole person,” says Breceda, who will graduate this May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in applied mathematics. “If I just concentrated on academics, I’d feel like I cheated myself out of so much. Besides, I’m at my best when I’m busy and when I’m pressured.”

Breceda credits ACCESS with giving him the confidence to get the most out of college. He’s served as a role model to interest kids from disadvantaged backgrounds like his own to pursue STEM careers. He’s a first-generation Hispanic American from Santa Monica, and will be the first in his family to graduate college.

During his years at LMU, Breceda has helped out with many fundraising events, served as treasurer for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, worked as a supervisor for the Burns Recreation Center, was one of the founding leaders and treasurer for the fraternity Phi Delta Theta, while also managing to row for LMU during his first two years and become a confirmed Catholic. Breceda also served as a teaching assistant for both the ACCESS program and the “Machine Design” course.

He conducted research on how geomagnetic storms affect earth and worked on recalibrating LMU’s wind tunnel. Breceda studied engineering in Bonn, Germany, and went on two service trips will fellow Lions to Puerto Rico and Kingston, Jamaica.

One of the only students accepted as a McNair Scholar after his freshman rather than sophomore year, Breceda credits the program with enabling him to attend conferences and make 13 presentations of his research. He also says that without the program, he wouldn’t have known about graduate school or the right way to apply. In the fall, he’ll begin studying toward a master’s in astronautical engineering at USC.

The months after graduation will be his only chance to rest before he’s right back at it. Breceda will visit his brother at California State University Fresno, and travel in the United States and Europe, before he begins working at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. He interned at the industry giant’s location in Melbourne, Florida, working as a cost engineer on classified projects for 10 weeks over the summer.