American University of Beirut

Master of the MSFEA Shops

​​​Staff Spotlight: Joseph Nassif

This article was written by Cogs & Caffeine, the student magazine of MSFEA, and will appear in Issue #3 due to come out in May 2022. You can find out more about C&C's first two issues here. Stay tuned!

If you enter AUB from the Main Gate and walk straight into the corridor that separates the College Hall in half, you will notice, to your left, a series of golden plaques. These plaques honor the recipients of the President's Service Excellence Award, an award designed to recognize the most outstanding people in the AUB community, those who go above and beyond to serve the university and push its mission forward. And if you look at the year 2005, you will notice the name of a man recognized by everyone in MSFEA, a man who has been the beating heart of the MSFEA Shops for the last 43 years: Joseph Nassif.

One of the long-standing members of the AUB community, Mr. Joseph Nassif joined AUB's Physics department in 1979 as a lab technician. Fast forward 43 years, and counting, and he is now the supervisor of the SRB labs and workshops. Managing a team of 6 people, he mainly works with professors and students to help them implement their projects and make them come to life through a variety of machines and stations. “I've been here a long time" he says with a smile on his face, reminiscing all the stories that are coming back to memory after such a rich experience at AUB.

“I started in the Physics department in 1979 and stayed there for a little more than 8 years before moving to the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture in 1988. I originally started in Wing B [a now defunct building that has been replaced by the Irani Oxy Engineering Complex (IOEC)] before moving to SRB, which is where I still am present today. The switch to FEA was definitely a turning point for me. I felt increasingly trapped in a routine in my role at the Physics department with little room for self-improvement but everything changed once I moved over here." Despite not having an engineering degree, Mr. Nassif tre​mendously values education and the importance of continuously learning to improve oneself, something he's been striving to uphold for a long time: “I used to attend courses at AUB like “Manufacturing Processes" as well as training sessions abroad like in the US in order to learn new techniques and new methods that are crucial to help me in my job. Given the nature of what I do, I have to continuously learn to stay up to date and know how to use the newest and most advanced machines." This mentality is also reflected in the progress of the SRB workshops. The constant arrival of new machines over the years not only increased the capabilities and output of the faculty's workshop but also positioned it as the best in the country, a great achievement in which Mr. Nassif takes a lot of pride: “we added a lot of machines over the years: Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines, laser-cutting machines, Electric Discharge Machines (EDM) for wire-cutting, and recently a hot wire foam cutter just to name a few. All of this allowed us to expand our capabilities and output and be the best workshop in the country."

When asked about what he likes about his job, Mr. Nassif's face instantly lights up: “I love what I do. My father was a carpenter and I've worked with him from when I was as young as I can remember. I've always loved machines and I've always been good at math and geometry, which are essential parts of the job especially when it comes to visualization, taking measurements,... It has become a second nature for me." This love and dedication radiate from Mr. Nassif's work. He is the go-to person when it comes to any piece of hands-on work at the SRB workshop: “I help a lot of students implement their projects for certain courses but also work with faculty members. I worked with Dean Alan Shihadeh before he became Dean of MSFEA on a project related to his Aerosol Research Lab as well as with the Mechanical Engineering Department on a water channel project." In addition to that, Mr. Nassif's work does not stop at the faculty and extends to AUB as a whole: “Back during his tenure, President Waterbury brought me authentic cedar wood and asked me to craft rings out of the wood. They were gifts intended for the Board of Trustees.

​All of this stellar work has, of course, not gone unnoticed, with Mr. Nassif winning the President's Service Excellence Award in 2005: “It was a great morale boost and a recognition of my abilities. I was very happy and humbled to win this award." Mr. Nassif also has a lot of admiration for MSFEA and AUB: “My relationship with the university doesn't stop with me. Both my sons are graduates of FAFS. One studied agriculture engineering and the other landscape architecture."​

Mr. Nassif receiving the President's Service Excellence Award from President John Waterbury (2005)

When asked if he would advise young aspiring engineers and architects to join the faculty, his response is unequivocal: “Definitely! The faculty has great professors, great leadership, and great facilities. It has improved a lot since the 1980s and I'm sure that, despite everything that's happening around us, it is still the best place to be at."

Mr. Nassif's work and dedication can only be admired so, on a parting note, we asked him if there is a quote that motivates him to always bring the best out of himself to which he answered: 

“Not particularly but I absolutely do believe in the importance of being a clean and honest person,
​work hard and maintain a good reputation."

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