John de la Cuesta, an instructional support technician in CSULB's Department of Biological Sciences, has been honored by his coworkers as the campus' Employee of the Month.
As a result, de la Cuesta was recognized in a special ceremony held on Friendship Walk near the University Student Union, and the walk was renamed "John de la Cuesta Lane" for the month.
"It feels terrific to be recognized," said de la Cuesta, who joined the biological sciences staff in 1998 after acquiring both his bachelor's in 1991 and his master's in 1996 from CSULB. "I'm really pleased and honored. There are so many skilled, hard-working people who work in this department and college that it is a special honor to be chosen by them."
President F. King Alexander praised de la Cuesta for his willingness to go the extra mile. "He works hard and has a great attitude," said Alexander. "He is truly an asset to the department through his ability to work well with both faculty and students."
As an instructional support technician, his responsibilities include everything from having classroom responsibility for Biology 211A, a core course in biological sciences, and for a new laboratory course in molecular/cell biology, Biology 440L. He also has responsibility for the department's common use equipment such as autoclaves, centrifuges and a spectrophotometer used to measure the concentrations of compounds in solutions.
"The challenge is keeping such high-use equipment in operation. It is my responsibility to either get the equipment repaired or troubleshoot the problem myself," said de la Cuesta, who also trains students and staff to use some of the department's complex equipment. "I keep an eye on the autoclaves and other equipment to make sure there are no accidents and to minimize down time." De la Cuesta needs people skills as well as scientific expertise to do his job. "I've taught classes in the past and I've gotten used to interacting with students and faculty," he said. "I guess it just comes naturally. I try to listen. I've learned how important it is to find out what people are trying to tell me. Of course, I get my point across, too."
His goals include a growing involvement in core curriculum updates for biological sciences. "I expect that will keep me busy for the next few years," he said. "It even may change my duties and responsibilities. I look forward to the challenge. Another thing I'd like to do is receive training on autoclave and other equipment repair. If staff were given more training, we could save a ton of money fixing things ourselves."
De la Cuesta discovered his scientific bent as a student at Huntington Beach High School. "That was where my scientific curiosity was sparked," he said. "When I went on to take biology courses at a local community college, I did well enough to want to pursue a degree in biological sciences."
When he isn't troubleshooting and setting up lab classes, de la Cuesta surfs with his wife, Judy. "We enjoy surfing mostly in Huntington Beach," he said. "I'm fond of the local breaks. But we also enjoy going down to San Onofre." The couple keeps busy off-road motorcycling as well.
De la Cuesta received several gifts with his recognition including a CSULB sweatshirt, dinner and a tournament for two at Medieval Times, a $25 gift certificate for Taco Beach, four tickets to one CSULB home game and two coupons for Tommy's World Famous Hamburgers.