Dr. Gabriela Espinosa — a Yale-trained biomedical engineer, lifelong Christian and member of The Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod (LCMS) since 2008 — has been hired as CUI’s first director of engineering.
“Gaby’s educational background is phenomenal, but she also has a Lutheran liberal arts foundation,” says Bret Taylor, professor of mathematics and dean of the School of Arts & Sciences at CUI. “She is married to an LCMS pastor and has a deep understanding of the Lutheran approach to life and faith. We really believe God has blessed us with the right person at the right time.”
Espinosa was most recently a postdoctoral fellow at UCI, doing research in the biomedical engineering department on developing tissue engineered cartilage for knee replacements.
She grew up in the Greenwich Village/Chelsea area of Manhattan in New York City, where her father was a building superintendent and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in Applied Physics, a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Saint Louis University, and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Her dissertation examined how blood flow affects development in babies, specifically in terms of congenital heart defects that occur in development and cause conditions that lend themselves to heart disease. She wanted to know how mechanical forces of pressure and flow contribute to the development of these diseases.
Gaby and husband A.J., who have three young children, moved to Irvine in 2018 to be near family. A.J. has taught as an adjunct professor at CUI, as has his father. Gaby and A.J. are members of Saint Paul's Lutheran Church in Irvine where A.J. is assistant pastor.
As a student of biomechanics, working in the field leaves her “in awe” of God’s original designs, Espinosa says. She loves teaching others about it as well. “I have a heart for teaching, and really enjoy it,” she says.
As director of the new program, she wants to provide an excellent engineering education while going beyond that into formation of character.
“There are plenty of places to become a talented engineer, but I want to push for the full package,” she says. “What does it mean to be a Concordia-educated engineer? It has to be more than technical knowledge.”
High on her list is helping students develop excellent communication skills such as writing, speaking and listening, which are important when designing products for customers. She wants CUI engineering graduates also to think creatively to solve problems, and to live out the values of Concordia Irvine in the workplace.
“I want the Concordia Irvine engineer to be a person that employers and co-workers enjoy being around,” she says. “They will be witnesses of what they’ve learned in terms of values at CUI. Yes, they will be engineers, but not just engineers.”
Taylor says engineering “reaches into the needs of others and creates new solutions to existing situations,” which is why CUI has established the new major. “It fits well with our mission. We’re really excited about offering a liberal arts-based general engineering program starting this fall.”
He says Espinosa’s hiring is a “Lord’s hand” kind of blessing.
“We look forward to Gaby joining us this summer and bringing her expertise and faith to us and our students,” he says.