Professor Has a Hand in Expanding Student-Centered Focus

DrSaez - Professor Has a Hand in Expanding Student-Centered Focus

Jose Saez, associate professor of civil engineering, is used to wearing many hats. In addition to being an educator, he is an adviser, mentor, tutor, researcher, friend, and a husband and father. But his latest big role has been as co-project faculty lead on the renovation of Pereira Hall of Engineering at the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering. “We wanted to maintain and borrow the good ideas from the past, yet embrace technology and new ways of doing things,” Saez said. Saez and Matthew Siniawski, associate professor of mechanical engineering, are serving as faculty liaisons to the project manager and contractor, helping the designs meet the needs of students and faculty. Phase I of construction comprised the building’s upper wing, which includes the Collaborative Learning Center, a large multipurpose space that can be used as a classroom, lecture hall or study area; a large classroom; two multipurpose rooms; a computer lab with more than 20 computers; and an office for an on-site Information Technology Services staff member. It serves mostly mechanical and civil engineering students, but is also open to other disciplines. It was completed in January 2011. “We’re really happy with the new space even though we’re still learning about it,” Saez said. “It was exciting and we were all very busy, but it really paid off when we got to see the final product.”

State-of-the-Art Laboratory

Phase II includes construction of the James E. Foxworthy, Ph.D., Fluid Mechanics Laboratory and will be completed in April 2011. The main area will be a combination of several labs and lecture area, and will include pumps, pipelines and other structures that will allow students to test fluid experiments on a large scale. It will also feature a panel that automatically controls valves, pumps and flow meters. In addition, there will be smaller labs for tribology, rapid prototyping, material science, thermodynamics, and hydrology for both research and laboratory courses. “The lab is the right fit for our students,” Saez said. “They will get the basics and a better understanding of the different processes so they can succeed in their future careers. Foxworthy was well beyond his time and his teaching and mentoring were essential in the careers of many of us who graduated from LMU.” In addition to the Pereira renovation, Saez works hard to help students succeed in the engineering program. As an adviser to freshmen, he collaborates with other faculty members to create projects and lab experiments to help first-year students develop a passion for science and engineering. He is also faculty adviser for the Programming for Engineering Education Community, a living-learning community for first-year engineering students. “The first year can be tough,” Saez said. “Engineering majors are struggling not only with their studies but with learning how to take responsibility and to manage their time. It’s best to help them early on.”

Great Experience for the Students

Saez works extensively with LMU’s Descartes Scholars Program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, to help underrepresented students from Southern California who want to study math, science or engineering. He also regularly involves students in faculty-directed research projects. “I’m here for the students. My whole career is about the students,” Saez said. “It’s incredible to watch them blossom each year and continue to excel. That makes it all worth it.” Saez earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from LMU, and a doctorate from UCLA. He spent 15 years working as an engineer at the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and taught engineering part time. “I’m the product of a Jesuit education and that tradition is what makes our students strong, well rounded and marketable,” Saez said. “I hope to teach to my students what my professors taught me.”