For civil engineering major Manuel Perez, Loyola Marymount University has meant “the opportunity to do it all.” In February, Perez got the heady experience of dining at a table with the head of a major structural engineering company and the incoming president of the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC).
Perez was one of 10 recipients of a scholarship at the annual SEAOSC career fair and awards presentation, which honors outstanding engineering students nominated by civil and structural engineering faculty at Southern California colleges and universities. Perez, who was nominated by Sunai Kim, assistant professor of civil engineering, earned a $2,000 SEAOSC scholarship.
Perez’s interest in structural engineering was piqued in high school, when he designed and built set pieces and structures as part of the theater tech program. “That inspired me to go into structural engineering and do that on a larger scale — making actual buildings or bridges,” said Perez.
Having attended a Jesuit high school in San Jose, California, Perez saw LMU as the ideal venue to pursue his interest.
“The campus environment reminded me of my high school — larger, but still homey,” said Perez. “And LMU’s values, teaching to the overall person, are really important to me, because I know I can’t just be smart; I need to be balanced.”
It did not take long for Perez to seize the opportunities at LMU. In the summer before his freshman year he participated in the ACCESS program (A Community Committed to Excellence in Scientific Scholarship). This first year learning community is a three-week residential program that focuses on academics and critical thinking in the sciences.
In October 2018 he began assisting Kim, his instructor for Engineering 100, on her structural engineering research and modeling.
Perez wrote in his SEAOSC application about “being able to work with real steel beam dimensions, connections and floor plans has taught me more than I could have ever imagined.”
His love for structural engineering was further cemented with a summer internship at Whiting-Turner, a Pleasanton, California-based general contracting firm.
Perez has set his sights on obtaining a master’s degree and then beginning a career working as part of a team that designs non-standard structures. He enters that future confident in his undergraduate preparation.
“The one-on-one time and mentorship I’ve received from Dr. Kim is something I don’t think I would have gotten at any other school,” said Perez. “I have that with many of my teachers, and it’s helped me to get the best advice and pursue some amazing opportunities.”