Mark Gauthier, a technician in the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department is the 2021 recipient of the College of Engineering Dean's Outstanding Service Award. As the committee that made this decision said about Gauthier, his breadth of knowledge, along with his attention to safety issues and effective training of students on equipment use, “has transformed what the faculty can do in the teaching and research laboratories.”
According to CEE Professor Scott Civjan, who nominated Gauthier for the award, “Mark is the manager of both the Brack Structural Test Facility and Gunness Structural Laboratory and is essential to the work conducted in both laboratories. The Brack Facility was constructed, but not outfitted with equipment, when Mark was hired. He was critical in getting the facility up and running during his first two years at UMass, resulting in the first full-scale testing of structural elements ever completed at UMass.”
Civjan added that Gauthier “is the interface between projects and contractors, suppliers, and manufacturers needed to make research proceed. He coordinates the scheduling (time and space) of all research and classes in both laboratories, somehow keeping everyone happy.”
Civjan also explained that Gauthier makes all the students feel special. As Gauthier recently said when staying late to complete a student’s test that was taking longer than anticipated: “It wouldn’t make sense to tell them to shut it down and start over the next day. I just want to do what I can to make sure all the students have what they need to get their work done well and graduate on time.”
Gauthier also enthusiastically assists undergraduate competition groups such as the steel bridge, earthquake balsa tower, and concrete canoe teams with their testing and fabrication.
Another nominator, CEE doctoral student Hernan Castaneda, said about Gauthier: “He is a person that wants to see the students succeed in their careers and achieve all the proposed research goals on time, in a safe manner, and with attention to quality of results.”
According to the nomination material of CEE Professor Kara Peterman, “Mark and I have collaborated on several research projects, involving the Gunness and Brack Labs. While Mark has been critical in the success of these experimental projects, he was instrumental in the creation and inception of the Brack Lab [itself].
Peterman said the Brack Lab “was a shell when we both started at UMass: it had walls, a crane, and a strong floor, but no hydraulic equipment necessary to conduct structural experiments at full scale. We had another significant challenge: the electrical system needed to be replaced to accommodate the new system. This represented about 18 months of effort, to purchase and install the equipment, with the necessary upgrades.”
Peterman said that “Mark dove into this and immediately became the point-person for the project managers, hydraulic systems crews, construction, and the impatient client (myself).”
CEE Professor Sergio Breña, who also nominated Gauthier, said that “He ensures that laboratory equipment is calibrated, that supplies are restocked, and all that is necessary to run the laboratories is ready to go. He also takes an active role training teaching assistants with running certain equipment and provides supervision in all laboratory activities.”
As Breña continued, “Many of our students do not have the experience necessary to safely perform research activities in a structural engineering laboratory environment. Mark’s experience and positive attitude with students provided much needed help in our department, particularly in the structural engineering group.”
Finally, as Breña said, the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges to maintain the research and teaching laboratories running.
“Mark has stepped up to the challenge by establishing protocols and following safety measures that ensured the continued research and teaching operations of our laboratories,” said Breña. “In my mind, I do not believe that our laboratories could have continued operating without Mark’s presence this last year.” (April 2021)