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Biographies - 2019

35 Years

Maria Cossio started working at Caltech in the area of South Pasadena, thereafter at Catalinas. After working for some years in Catalinas, she transferred to the gardening department, which she enjoys very much. Maria is now working in Avery. "I thank God for allowing me to work at Caltech," says Maria, who is married with four children and five grandchildren.

David Flores is associate general counsel in the Office of the General Counsel. He is the group lead for business transactions practice specializing in contract law. He is also a contract negotiator and contract review analyst. David enjoys his work at Caltech. "I get to practice law in a way that is never ethically challenging," he says, "because Caltech always does the right thing." His most memorable work moment: a difficult and brutal 2002 negotiation at NASA headquarters that resulted in a 10-year JPL prime contract. From 1981 to 1984, David developed an expertise in federal government contract law in Washington D.C., then he paused his legal career to learn the challenges of JPL flight project contracts. David was hired by OGC at Caltech in 1990 and has negotiated five JPL prime contracts. All contract disputes at campus and JPL under David's counsel have been resolved without either financial loss or any Caltech employee needing to engage in contract litigation. His approach is simple: "Apply Caltech's culture of creativity and innovation to resolve contract disputes in a way that keeps our people in the labs and out of the courtroom." David's hobbies include traveling with his wife, Terry, hiking, and ballroom dancing.

Haick Issaian has enjoyed working at Caltech from the first day he arrived here from Oklahoma, where he attended the University of Oklahoma and received graduate degrees in physics and radiological sciences. Although Haick's initial plan was to use Caltech work experience as a stepping stone in his career, his positive interaction with students, postdocs, faculty, and staff completely derailed that plan. "I am exceedingly grateful to each of them for that," Haick says. He started his Caltech career as a radiation safety specialist in September 1984, and, in 1991, he was appointed as the Institute radiation safety officer. He has also served as the Institute laser safety officer for the past 20 years. To carry out his duties, Haick has received the utmost support from the radiation safety committee, which establishes policies and procedures in compliance with state radiation control regulations while keeping the unique flavor of Caltech's distinguished research. "I am also blessed to work in an office with amazing professionals, not the least of which is my radiation safety staff, past and present. Their unflinching passion for providing the best service to our community makes me entirely grateful. If I can provide another 35 years of service to the Institute, I am at the ready!" Haick also enjoys traveling with his wife, daughter, and their dog, Lulu.

Leona Kershaw first came to Caltech as a technical typist in the radio astronomy department in 1984. After a few years, she transferred to Planetary Sciences as an administrative assistant, where she monitored accounts and performed technical typing. A few years later, in 1995, Leona transferred to the Kellogg Radiation Laboratory, where she provides administrative assistance to the group. She coordinates travel for members of the lab and visitors, maintains the Kellogg website, and orders needed equipment and supplies. She also provides travel support to the mathematics department and helps with transcription needs for the EAS Communications Office. For a time, she also did double duty in the Provost's Office assisting in scanning and administrative help. When not at work, Kershaw and her husband of 40 years, Allan, like to travel, volunteer at the RailGiants Train Museum at the Fairplex in Pomona, and spend time with their four grandchildren. The highlight of their travels was a 24-day trip to Antarctica, South Georgia Islands, and the Falkland Islands. Other trips in the future will include Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, Western Australia, and the Columbia River Gorge.

Gaylene Ursua began working at Caltech in 1984 in a temporary position in financial gifts, endowments, and investments. She accepted a permanent position a year later as an accountant for gifts and endowments then later moved into another position within the department as an accountant for investments. In 1990, she became an administrative assistant to the director of the Office of Sponsored Research. She handled the grueling review process, packing, and submitting of all hard copy research proposals to the funding agencies and processed awards received from federal agencies for the entire campus. She currently serves as a senior contract and grant officer, handling more complex award negotiations and supervising individuals on her team. Gaylene enjoys working with her OSR "family" and especially values the relationships she has built over the years with the campus offices, divisions, and faculty. Her interests outside of work include spending time with her son, dog, family, and friends. She enjoys working on dog obedience training, working alongside her sister at animal rescue organizations, and volunteering to provide support for women with breast cancer.

30 Years

Martin De La Cruz is a captain at the Athenaeum. He has been with Caltech for 30 years. His role as captain has many responsibilities, including setting up for dining events and coordinating service with the kitchen and all the servers to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Martin started as a busboy and a server, and was promoted to captain 12 years ago. His favorite part about working at Caltech is the interaction with all the interesting people. His favorite memory of Caltech is when he witnessed the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in 2012. Born and raised in Mexico, Martin came to the United States at a young age. One of his favorite hobbies is watching soccer, especially his favorite team—the Puma UNAM from Mexico City. Martin loves visiting his family in Mexico once a year and visiting all the towns in Mexico.

Cynthia Estrada started working at Caltech to pay for her daughter's braces. Never could she have imagined that her temporary job would evolve into a full-time lifelong career, since she grew up in a military family where she constantly moved across the country. Her work-study job in the library at UC Berkeley helped her get her first position at Caltech as a department aide in what was then Millikan Library. As her life transitioned, she moved to the world of development, starting as an administrative assistant in Stewardship and Donor Events. Three years later, she took the opportunity to become the administrative assistant to the director of the Alumni Fund. After 15 years and eight directors, she moved to the Office of Gift Planning and has been their coordinator for the last three years. Cynthia has made many friends throughout the years, both on and off campus. She frequently uses the gym, especially when training for half marathons! When not at work, she loves spending time with her children and grandchildren. Over the years, Cynthia has most enjoyed running, bowling, playing golf, and helping in her community as a member of the Tournament of Roses.

Rene Velado is the senior cook in the Athenaeum's kitchen and has been with Caltech for 30 years. He lends support to a variety of events and venues at the club, including dining, banquets, the Rathskeller, and the Rath al Fresco. He says that one of his favorite memories is when he assisted in preparing the dinner for Ahmed Zewail's Nobel Prize celebration. Working at the Athenaeum, Rene says, is where all the action is! Rene is from Sonsonate, El Salvador, and enjoys spending time with his family outside of work.

Jose G. Bermudes, a sous chef, started working at the Athenaeum in February 1989. Jose works hard at his job and wants to ensure the Athenaeum serves only the best food, he says, and the challenges he faces every day are what he likes most about working at Caltech. Jose also has a talent for ice sculpting, and his creations often adorn the banquet tables at special events, drawing much admiration from members. Jose says it feels most rewarding when he sees members enjoy themselves at the Athenaeum. Outside of work, Jose enjoys spending time with his wife and two children.

25 Years

Guy DeRose joined Caltech in January 1994 as the instructor for the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy's Advanced Physics Laboratory course. After working in several additional academic labs in physics, he moved to the Division of Engineering and Applied Science in 2000 to manage a research lab in electrical engineering and applied physics and to coordinate the division's teaching labs. That experience opened up the world of nanoscience and cleanroom operations, and since 2008, Guy has been the associate director of technical operations for the Kavli Nanoscience Institute. One of the highlights of working in this research environment is learning about and participating in the many diverse projects that are being done on campus. Those experiences have given Guy the opportunity to publish scientific papers as well as write funding proposals with Caltech faculty members. Guy earned his BS from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and MS and PhD degrees from Case Western Reserve University, all in physics. Guy, his wife, Michelle, and their two children live in Palmdale, where he has been involved as a scout leader for many years. When he is not pursuing the frontiers of nanotechnology, Guy likes to travel, make wine and beer, and build model rockets.

Dexter Jeremiah 
is the banquet manager at the Athenaeum and has been with Caltech for 25 years. He is responsible for staffing and coordinating the delivery of all food and beverage for functions held at the Athenaeum. Dexter has been the banquet manager for four years, and prior to this position, he was a busser, a head busser, a server, a dining room captain, and dining manager. When asked what he likes most about working at Caltech, Dexter says, "I love the environment, meeting our members' expectations, and the holiday benefits." His most memorable moments include the gratitude of members when he has flawlessly executed their visions for an event, and making the event successful and special. Dexter came to California from Grenada 31 years ago and currently lives in Baldwin Park with his wife and three sons. He loves fixing cars, and he is always interested in the theory of how things work. His favorite pastime is spending time with his family and barbequing in his backyard.

Ever de la Torre works on the purchasing and inventory side of the Athenaeum and has been with Caltech for 25 years. He began at the Athenaeum as a busboy and server in the dining room. Asked what he enjoys most about working at Caltech, Ever says, "Everything! I'm very happy with my job." His favorite memories of working at Caltech are the organized sports teams he used to play on with the Athenaeum—namely the soccer team he was a part of for three years. During that time, the team played in leagues on and off campus, and even won a championship! Outside of work, Ever enjoys watching sports and spending time with his wife of 25 years and his three children, ages 24, 16, and 12.

20 Years

Christina M. Aguilar joined Caltech in April 1999 as the disbursements lead. A few years later, she became the manager of disbursements and travel services. Currently she serves as the manager of disbursements and records retention, directing the activities of the disbursement function to assure that all payments are processed in a timely and accurate manner; monitoring and implementing process, procedures, and contingency plans within the department to facilitate efficient and accurate processing of all non-payroll payments, such as supplier invoices and employee expense reimbursements. Christina also acts as the point of contact for Audit & Compliance and has been in this same position for 20 years. Christina believes the best part of working at Caltech is the people. She had only planned to stay for five years but found that Caltech makes a huge impact on society, especially medical research, as well people's lives and the world. "There are too many high points or memories to name," she says. Christina grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. In her freshman year, she attended Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra. Her parents divorced, and, thankfully, Christina had wonderful grandparents who took her and her family in. Christina finished high school at San Gabriel High School, graduating early in January. She attended the commencement ceremony in June. Her single mother did the best she could raising five children alone. Having no financial help made it extremely difficult to send her children to college. Christina went on to further her education by attending various colleges such as Cal State Fullerton, Citrus College, and Pasadena City College, and finishing her BA core program at the University of Redlands. Currently, she is finishing her elective courses, which will earn her a bachelor's degree in business management, and she will be the first of her siblings to receive a degree. Christina is married to her high school sweetheart, Richard, and they will celebrate 40 years of marriage this July. They have three grown sons—Rick, Christopher, and Paul Aguilar. She also has a niece, Vanessa, who she and Richard have raised since she was 6 years old. They also have seven grandchildren—Dominic, Nathan, Alayna, Justin, Sophia, Mateo, Abel (Vanessa's son), and a new grandson coming this August: a baby boy, Michael. Christina and her husband are very active in all their children's and grandchildren's lives with Little League, football, and T-ball. Christina volunteers with the teams whenever she can. They enjoy camping, barbequing, family outings, and going to the beach, and their favorite vacation spot is Mammoth for fishing.

Jose Miguel Bejar is the Athenaeum's food and beverage captain and has been with Caltech for 20 years. He has also served as a busser, server, and bartender. Jose's responsibilities include supervising the servers and bussers and making sure the needs of the members are met. One of his fondest memories of working at Caltech is being taught how to swim by Caltech's water polo coach. Asked what he likes most about working at Caltech, Jose says, "This is a nice environment with friendly staff and members." Jose lives in Los Angeles with his family, and his interests are many, including computer science, basketball, running, and martial arts.

Salvador Galvez works as a server in the dining room at the Athenaeum. He has been with Caltech for 30 years. Asked what his favorite part of his job is, Salvador says, "I love the interaction with our guests." His favorite memories include working during special holidays at the Athenaeum. He lives in Reseda with his wife, Maria, and son, Marco Antonio. Outside of work, Salvador enjoys going to the movies, dining out, and hiking with his family.

Leslie Maxfield's first jobs at Caltech were in the 1990s as an undergrad. She was a barista at the Red Door Café, an usher at Beckman and Ramo auditoriums, a campus tour guide, a house waiter, a teaching assistant for physics labs, and a research assistant in astronomy. She returned to campus in 1999 in two part-time staff positions: as an undergraduate admissions counselor and as a new media developer with Information Technology Services, now IMSS. During the first decade, she worked with faculty to create videos, animations, and illustrations to explain research and discoveries. In 2009, she became the director of Academic Media Technologies, a new group formed to showcase Caltech through award-winning videos, live broadcasts, and online courses and to provide technical event and audiovisual support. Leslie helped launch Caltech's presence on YouTube, iTunes U, Ustream, Coursera, and edX channels. Projects that stand out as favorites include: designing graphics for Ahmed Zewail's Nobel thesis and creating videos for the celebration of his 40 years at Caltech (1999, 2016); serving on the brain trust and filming TEDxCaltech (2011, 2013); creating videos for the LIGO gravitational-wave detection and Planet 9 announcements (2016); working with faculty, students, and staff on the Giving Voice project led by Melany Hunt (2018–present), and broadcasting every commencement ceremony. Other highlights include guest lecturing for the global narratives and storytelling courses, and serving on the SURF board. Leslie feels honored to support this incredible place of science, research, and people, to communicate Caltech's stories and achievements with excellence, and to work with such talented and dedicated colleagues. Leslie lives in Altadena with her husband, George, and will be an empty nester starting this fall, as both her children will be at UCLA. Can't find her in Pasadena? Look for her at rocket launches or on the bluffs and beaches of Carpinteria hiking with her beagle.

Modesto E. McQueen has worked for Caltech as an HVAC technician for the past 20 years. Before coming to the United States, Modesto worked as a crane operator on the Panama Canal. He came to California in 1985 eager to start a career and started working at Caltech in 1999. In his early years at Caltech, Modesto says he was embraced by his co-workers, which has led to great friendships. Modesto thanks Caltech for "allowing me to work in a scientific environment with professors and scientists." He also enjoys traveling and mentoring young men, and looks forward to many more great years at Caltech.