Editors Note: This is the third in a series of occasional profiles of UCSB’s teachers’ lives, personalities, and careers and, we hope, aloow students to see their teachers as more than just faces at the front of the crowd in class.
Do you know how to cook a frog? Gene Lucas does.
“Well, you can’t just throw the frog into a pot of boiling water because it will jump out. So, if you want to cook a frog, you put it into a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the heat. That is how I became part of the administration.”
Gene Lucas is the UCSB executive vice chancellor. He spends his days overseeing committee meetings and smoothing out disagreements with people dealing with the university.
“I think what makes Gene so good at his job is his respect for his colleagues and staff, his loyalty to our campus, and his genuine concern for people, combined with his knowledge and experience of the campus,” Chancellor Henry Yang said.
The committees he oversees make decisions on some of UCSB’s most important and controversial issues, from parking to budget cuts. In the time between meetings, he answers phone calls and e-mails. He said it is very important to get a lot of input from administrators, committees, students and staff on campus, and community members before the university makes any major decision. It’s his job to bring the warring factions to some kind of compromise that benefits everyone involved.
“He brings to the job a good sense of humor. When you talk to Gene, you see he has spent much of his life at UCSB, so he is very much part of the community,” Lucas’ executive assistant Toby Lazarowitz said. “He is concerned. He is a caring-type of concerned for the people and the institution of UCSB.”
Trying to make everyone content often keeps him in his office beyond the normal working day. An average day for Lucas begins at 8 a.m. and lasts late into the night. He often has to return on weekends and holidays as well.
But paper pushing wasn’t what he originally planned to do with his life. He trained as an engineer.
“Gene has a long and distinguished career in teaching, research and service at UCSB,” Yang said. “He is an outstanding teacher and researcher.”
In addition to his administrative duties Lucas is continuing his research on composite materials, fusion reactor materials and radiation embrittlement of light water reactor steels.
Lucas’ research involves making sure things are structurally sound and that they do not break while in use. He has researched materials that range from pieces of power plant equipment to aircraft parts. He said he feels that his research is important for public safety.
Lucas started teaching at UCSB in 1978 and has taught chemical engineering, material science engineering and mechanical engineering classes.
“I enjoy teaching the introductory courses the most because I like to introduce ideas to students that may have never encountered the ideas before,” he said.
Lucas was born and raised in suburban Downey, Calif. and did his undergraduate work at UCSB beginning in 1969. His older sister and younger brother also attended UCSB.
He spent most of his undergraduate tenure attending classes and labs, doing homework and playing intramural sports. He graduated in 1973 with a degree in nuclear engineering. In his junior year in 1972, he married his wife Susan who was studying English at UCSB. They moved into what is now UCSB Family Student Housing and worked at Ortega Dining Commons, his wife serving food and Lucas washing dishes.
“It was gross but it paid the bills,” Lucas said of the experience.
Lucas and his wife then moved to Boston so he could attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.
Lucas said he enjoyed his time at MIT but said he was happy he went to UCSB for his undergraduate work because he encountered a wider range of people at UCSB than he would have at MIT. After graduating from MIT, he was offered a faculty position with their institution but at the suggestion of UCSB Professor Bob Odette, he decided to come back to UCSB, where he has been ever since.
Lucas has three sons: Kelly, Ryan and Shannon. Kelly, 26, is an emergency medical technician in Escondido, Calif. and graduated from UC San Diego with a biochemistry degree. Ryan is 24 years old and is an environmental studies major at UCSB and Shannon, 21, is a senior drama major at UC Irvine.