How this alumnus's father inspired him to take teaching seriously

An assistant teaching professor in mechanical engineering, Eleazar Marquez graduated from Rice University in 2016.

Eleazar Marquez

The entry on Eleazar Marquez’s mechanical engineering faculty page is heartfelt and thoroughly unconventional:

“Dr. Marquez’s primary focus at Rice is teaching and mentoring undergraduate students. He is the product of his father being a theologian and educator in pedagogy for more than forty years.”

Expressions of gratitude to one’s father are not unusual; singling out his training in theology and pedagogy is. Marquez, an assistant teaching professor in mechanical engineering (MECH), was born in Houston. His parents are natives of Mexico.

“My father is a pastor in an evangelical church in Rio Bravo, in the state of Tamaulipas in Mexico. My Dad is old school. He leads by example. He can be stern but he believes in treating all people with respect,” said Marquez, 34.

His family has lived the classic immigrants’ story: near-poverty, hard work and sacrifice, success for the next generation. Marquez, his brother and two sisters have all earned college degrees and have well-established American lives.

“Our father taught us discipline and to work hard for everything we have. He also taught us to be of service to other people. This is why I take teaching so seriously and why I became a resident associate at Brown College,” he said.

Marquez earned his B.S. and M.S. in MECH from the University of Texas Pan-American, in 2008 and 2010, respectively. A friend suggested he pursue a Ph.D., but Marquez was uncertain. Was he academically prepared? Could he secure the funding? He applied to Rice with few contacts or expectations.

In December 2010 he received an email from Pol Spanos, the Lewis B. Ryon Professor in Mechanical and Civil Engineering at Rice. Could Marquez stop by his office?

“Dr. Spanos took me on. I have no idea what he saw in me, but he knew exactly my academic condition. He is a famous professor who knows a lot of intelligent people, but he took me on and became my mentor,” said Marquez, who then received a National Science Foundation-AGEP (Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate) Fellowship.

Marquez entered the doctoral program in MECH in 2011. The first two years he spent enrolled in classes, doing little research but following a reading list prepared by Spanos. When he needed to find an off-campus garage apartment and didn’t have the money for a security deposit, his parents made financial sacrifices to help him. In 2014, he worked as a research scientist with the Clarkson Aerospace Corp., which collaborated with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“I wanted to pay back my parents,” said Marquez, who earned his Ph.D. in MECH in 2016. His dissertation was titled “Stochastic Dynamics in Rotary and Vibration-Assisted Drilling.” “The job at Clarkson was only for the summer of 2014, but I decided to continue working part-time when the semester began to help my parents and my brother, who was an undergraduate at the time.”

That same year, Marquez was hired as a lecturer in MECH, teaching such classes as Fluid Dynamics, Computer-Aided Design and Engineering Mechanics. He was promoted to assistant teaching professor in July and in August received a $5,000 grant from the Alan Chapman Lectureship Fund.

“I don’t know why so many good things have happened to me. All of these things occurred at specific times. Every situation, every setback, every closed door, has brought me to Rice. To be honest, I don’t know why I’m here or what the future holds. When I came to Rice my mother told me that her desire was for me to be a blessing to my peers and my community. I always pray that God leads my steps,” he said.