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Veteran electrical engineer provides behind-the-scenes support to Halligan Hall, students

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 08:02


Enter Halligan Hall and go deep into the maze of classrooms that make up the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and it won’t take long to find Warren Gagosian. If he’s not working on the lifelike model village and train system he’s built there, Gagosian — who graduated from Tufts in 1973 and works as a  labo coorinator for the deprtmen — can be found providing both technical and emotional support to the electrical engineering and computer science students who use the building’s labs. 

After graduating from Tufts in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Gagosian returned to work at Tufts in 1989, maintaining laboratories for the School of Engineering. Over the past 24 years, his has become an indispensable resource for both students and professors in all things electrical engineering. 

Gagosian’s job has changed drastically since his arrival back on the Hill. 

“When I first came here, there were just three old desks and the guy I replaced was a computer nerd,” he said. “I brought a few tools from my industry job and all my parts so I could repair. We had to repair the monitors and the computers. I repaired all the test equipment to get things going.”

He has moved from principally doing lab maintenance and repairs to much more active interactions with students and professors.  

“I help the freshmen, the seniors, the graduate students with their hardware projects . . . and the professors who are starting new labs,” he said. “I’ll build the prototypes . . . so I can figure out what’s practical, what parts we have to order.”

Gagosian helps manage test equipment, a crucial part of the innovative and interactive methodology employed by the Electrical Engineering Department. Students often use the test equipment to build their circuits, robots and other hardware mechanisms outside of classes and laboratory. 

Gagosian says that Tufts is unique in actually allowing students to use equipment on their own — somethimg that has become more widely accepted since his time on the Hill. 

“I think we are the only university to give parts to the students,” Gagosian said. “Tufts has been very generous, letting us get new test equipment. We are now equivalent to [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], [and] we don’t have the grant money those guys [do].” 

Gagosian’s background in electric engineering began at home with his father, who owned a television repair shop. Born in Attleboro, R.I. and raised in both Arlington and Medford Mass., Gagosian learned to repair all kinds of hardware — from televisions to computer parts ---— under his father’s tutelage. 

Gagosian said his father gave him more than just a practical interest in electrical engineering — he also instilled in him a selfless sense of hard work. 

“Just the influence my father had [was] a certain work ethic and to help others as much as you can. He helped me,” Gagosian said.

Gagosian remained strongly committed to his family during his student years, continuing to work at his father’s television repair shop while attending Tufts. After his father suffered a non-fatal stroke, Gagosian took a semester off to support his family. “I had to stay with my father. My brothers came into the store for a while, but we had to pay off the mortgage to the house, so I had to stay working,” he said. 

After resuming his academics at Tufts, he graduated in 1973 and took over his father’s store. Soon after, his father died and his familial responsibilities extended to his two brothers.

“I made a pact with my parents to look after my brothers,” he said.

Although Gagosian never received a formal graduate degree, he took enough summer graduate courses at Northeastern University to add up to a graduate degree. 

Gagosian said he has no regrets, adding that that his post at Tufts was, and is, the only long-term job he’s ever held. He has never explored any non-local job opportunities, he said. 

“A lot of my friends who graduated with me went into engineering for about a year, and then they got a graduate degree in business,” he said. “They didn’t like the engineering, too much work. I just never left. I always had obligations. No California, no international [jobs].”

Gagosian’s interactions with faculty at Tufts during his own time as an engineering student fuelled the ideas he uses today to improve how students learn outside of the lab using various test equipment. 

In a class assignment while he was still a student at Tufts, Gagosian and his classmates were asked to make a radio. “Mine was the only one that worked,” he said. “It was kind of neat to take it home.

It’s little things like that. They would let me take home all these parts. It was great.”

  Over his 24 years working at at Tufts, Gagosian has been able to work within the expansion of the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and has witnessed changes to the facilities, faculty and student body of Tufts. 

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