Russell Lee's Gavilan Webpage - Gavilan College, Gilroy, CA

Professional Biography


Curriculum Vitae


When I was in high school, and for several years after, my primary focus in life was being a bicycle racer. It soon became apparent that bike racing could only be a hobby and, since it would never pay the bills, I enrolled at Foothill College. My first science class was Meteorology and I quickly became fascinated by being able to look at clouds (they aren't all the same) and know that everything I saw could be explained by someone who knew math and science. I spent three years at Foothill. I had wonderful instructors there who guided me to "learn how to learn". My teaching career really began when I worked in the tutoring center at Foothill. I knew the struggles of learning and I did everything I could to help others in their chemistry, math and physics classes. Russell Lee & son.
Russell Lee and Daughters. I transferred to UC Santa Cruz trying to decide between two majors: Geology and Physics. I love the outdoors and, like my first fascination with meteorology, Geology allows you to describe observations of the physical Earth. Physics allows you to describe the behavior of anything using math (a very useful and valuable tool). The decision was easy: I chose to study Geophysics, the application of physics (and math) to the understanding and description of the physical properties of Earth. The decision was made easier because Geophysics is in the Earth Sciences Department at UCSC. The weekly seminars held by the Physics Department were held on Tuesday afternoon and they served tea and cookies. The weekly seminars held by the Earth Sciences Department were held on Friday afternoon and they served beer and chips. I found Earth Scientists to be highly scholarly and rigorous in their work; they also have a great appreciation for the outdoors, Earth, and for having fun! I really enjoyed taking math and physics and applying them to earth problems. My Senior Thesis was conducted at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park. I spent a year doing experiments that measured the compressive strength of the mineral Topaz at various temperatures. We determined that the strength of Topaz was controlled by the release of hydroxide ions and that the rate of release increased with increasing temperature. Future experiments conducted by myself and others showed that many hydrous silicates exhibit this behavior and that it is a controlling factor in the mechanical behavior of the lower crust, where many earthquakes originate.
After graduating from UCSC, I applied to graduate school to study Materials Science. Materials Science is a field of engineering that applies physics and chemistry to understanding the properties of materials; their mechanical properties, optical properties, electrical properties, magnetic properties, etc. I went to the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, a small, multi-disciplinary engineering school in New Hampshire. My research topic was to determine and describe the factors that control the mechanical properties of polycrystalline fresh-water ice under tensile loading. During my first week on the project a world famous ice mechanics researcher told me that my project was impossible and that we needed to use indirect tests like he did. After a year of procedure development we were able to successfully test polycrystalline ice under direct tension. We conducted many experiments and hypothesized that pile-ups of small defects within the crystal structure of ice were responsible for the decrease in strength that we observed as the grain size of the ice sample increased. Preparing an ice sample for testing.
Thin section of ice. After graduating from Dartmouth I became a Research Engineer in the Ice Research Laboratory at the Thayer School of Engineering. When I began, there was no lab. A year-and-a-half later there was a five-room cold-room complex that housed ice growing facilities to produce fresh-water and saline ice samples. There was a machine-shop (in a cold-room) to prepare natural and laboratory-grown ice for testing and for post-test analysis. And there was a computer-controlled testing machine (in a cold-room) to test the strength of ice under various loading configurations and temperatures. In addition to buying, designing and building much of the lab equipment, I also designed procedures and conducted experiments to determine the tensile strength and fracture toughness of laboratory grown saline ice. It was at this point that my formal teaching career began as I supervised the day-to-day activities of graduate students conducting their research in the lab.
After leaving Dartmouth I became the Director of the Orthopedic Research Lab at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. There we conducted experiments that allowed us to analyze and design artifical knees, hips, wrists, ankles and elbows, and to also study various methods of fracture fixation. We used human cadaver specimens to determine and compare the mechanical behavior of different implant designs. I did lots of crude dissection, did many experiments, and ended up with data with significant error because of the systematic difference between the mechanical properties of male and female cadaver bone, and also because of the random variation in the mechanical properties of one person's bones compared to another even within the same gender. We developed a foam model for bone that allowed us to duplicate the complex variation of the mechanical properties of bone near the articulating surfaces and also eliminated the systematic and random errors due to the bones. We could then focus upon the design variables that led to stable implants. I spent many hours working with Orthopedic surgeons, residents, and medical students teaching them about the properties of materials and the engineering mechanics that were at work when they implanted new joints or surgically fixed fractures. The human body is an amazingly well engineered load-bearing structure that engineers can not yet match. Russell Lee and Robert Volz, M.D.
Crazy leader and her students and/or crazy leaders and their student. In 1991 I began teaching engineering, math, and physics classes as a part-time instructor at Gavilan College. In 1996 I was hired to be a full-time instructor and until 2016 I taught many classes at Gavilan. In addition to teaching, I served the college community as chair of the Natural Sciences Department, as a member of the academic senate, as ACCESS Coordinator, and as the faculty advisor to the SACNAS Club. In 2000 we wrote a grant to bring MESA (Math, Engineering, Science, Achievement) to our campus and I served as Director of that program for one year. I served as the MESA Faculty Sponsor and I was very lucky to have worked with two wonderful MESA directors - Veronica Guajardo and Eduardo Cervantes. From them I constantly learned important ways to support students and help them achieve academic success. The best part of being a teacher was my interactions with students. I have complete respect for students who face a challenge and work hard to achieve success; it was a privilige to work with them.

Last update on July 30, 2016.