Faculty Spotlight: Arantzazu Alarcon-Fleming

Arantzazu Alarcon-Fleming


Q1, Where were you born and where did you study (undergrad, grad, post-doc) 

I was born in Madrid and I studied civil engineering at the oldest engineering school in Spain: Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Caminos Canales y Puertos at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. After completing my degree, I began the Ph.D. program in Sevilla, Spain, and then came to Northwestern in an exchange programAt Northwestern, I completed my Ph.D. with Professors Rudnicki and Finno, studying the constitutive modeling of direct measures of strain in simulated fault gauge. After completing my Ph.D., I was a post-doc with Prof. Finno for a couple of years. 

Q2, How long have you been at NU?  

I first came to Northwestern in 1994 and was as a Ph.D. student first and then a post-doc. After working in industry for a few years, I came back to Northwestern in January 2015. 

Q3, What courses do you teach? 

I teach undergraduate and graduate courses 

  • Engineering Analysis II (EA2- statics),  

  • Mechanics of Materials (Civ_Env 216/BME271),  

  • Structural Steel Design (Civ_Env 323) 

  • Reinforced Concrete Design (Civ_Env 325)  

  • Matrix Analysis of Structures (Civ_Env 423) and  

  • Prestressed Concrete Design (Civ_Env 421).  

  • Structural Art (Civ_Env 220) (spring 2024) 

Past courses  

  • Engineering Analysis III (EA3- systems analysis) 

  • Design Thinking and Communication (DTCII 

  • Theory of Structures II (Civ_Env 318). 

Q4, Did you always know you would become a professor? What attracted you to an academic career? 

I did not originally plan to become a professor. I had planned to become a design engineer, but after finishing engineering school, one of my mentors, Prof. José Dominguez at the Universidad de Sevilla, convinced me to attend graduate school and the rest is history! At Northwestern, while I was a post-doc, Prof. Schofer, who was the department chair at that time, hired me to teach my first class: Mechanics of Materials. I loved the experience! These days I enjoy working with students, including teaching, mentoring, and advising. 

Q5, What is the most challenging part of your job?  

Teaching fundamental courses in large classrooms while maintaining student engagement. 

Q6, What do you consider your most significant accomplishment thus far? 

I am very proud to have been part of the international team that designed and built Torre Cepsa in Madrid (originally Torre Repsol). It is the tallest building in Madrid (250 m) and its structure was designed here in Chicago. In one of the site visits late in the construction, we were able to climb up the scaffolding to see Madrid from 250 m. As we say in Spain De Madrid al Cielo”! 

Q7, Is there someone or something that has inspired you? 

My parents have been a constant source of inspiration my whole life both in my personal and academic life. I have also  had the privilege to have fantastic academic advisors both in Sevilla and here at NorthwesternNowadays my students are my inspiration every day. 

Q8, What do you do for fun when you are not working? 

I love traveling with my family, enjoying the local gastronomy, and visiting interesting structures wherever I go 

Q9, How do you explain what you do and why it is important to someone who isn’t a scientist or engineer? 

I am shaping the next generation of engineers that will go out into the world and achieve great things 

Q10, What is one thing that has impressed you about living in Chicago? 

I love the history and architecture of Chicago. It provides great material for all my classes! 

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