Lori Bruce may be the lone employee in WSU’s materials science program, but she never gets lonely. In fact, she appreciates the solitude.

“There are no office politics,” said Bruce, principal assistant in the materials science program and assistant to the chair of chemistry. “When things go wrong, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. I hold myself accountable.”

The materials science program is a joint venture between the College of Science and College of Engineering and Architecture. Students in materials science take classes in physics, engineering and chemistry. Faculty members who teach in the program are either engineering faculty or science faculty. Bruce is the only employee working specifically in the materials science program.

Solitary but intense
Bruce works in an office at the end of a long hallway in Fulmer Hall. She sits behind a large desk with a big-screen computer monitor and piles of papers — paperwork for the variety of tasks she accomplishes daily. Some of these include budgeting, filling out personnel action forms, setting up travel for graduate students and faculty, helping graduate students to organize their studies and coordinating events for the materials science program.

“Lori’s a one-woman office,” said K.W. Hipps, chemistry professor and chair of the materials science program. “She winds up having to do everything.”

But perhaps Bruce’s favorite task is working on and submitting grant proposals, which takes her back to her days as a legal assistant.

“When I get the adrenaline going, I work better,” said Bruce, admitting she loves the variety and multitasking that’s required each day. “It never gets boring.”

Grad students’ friend
As the program’s primary employee, Bruce is constantly visited by graduate students and faculty members. She provides them with assistance, encouragement, organization aid and attention. As the first point of contact for most students, she responds to e-mail day or night and even helps new students settle into the area.

“I have gone to Spokane to pick up incoming students from the airport and go with them to buy groceries,” she said.

Grad students know Bruce best, Hipps said. She is the first person they come to with questions, and she is often the last because she seems to know the answer to almost everything. Students are so appreciative they sometimes thank her in their graduate theses.

“It’s nice to know that somebody thought I had a hand in pushing them through in getting a Ph.D.,” she said.

Bruce admits it’s sometimes hard to watch students go. However, new students arrive each semester, so she knows she will never be lonely.