Juan C. Lucena

Professor, Engineering, Design, & Society
Director, Humanitarian Engineering Undergraduate Program

Juan LucenaJuan is the Director of the Humanitarian Engineering Undergraduate Program and Professor of Engineering, Design and Society at the Colorado School of Mines. Juan obtained a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech and two BS in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His books include Defending the Nation: U.S. Policymaking to Create Scientists and Engineers from Sputnik to the ’War Against Terrorism’ (University Press of America, 2005), Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (with Jen Schneider and Jon Leydens, Morgan & Claypool, 2010), Engineering Education for Social Justice: Critical Explorations and Opportunities (Springer, 2013), and Engineering Justice: Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (with Jon Leydens, IEEE-Wiley, 2017).

Raised in a privileged family of engineers, lawyers, and doctors, Juan learned about the social injustices associated with the application of professional expertise, including engineering. Living in Bogota, Colombia, a city of 10 million, he saw how the engineers working for the public utilities managed by his father, Bogota’s mayor, built systems that benefited the wealthy. Now witnessing a new president and administration that propose a science and technology system to eradicate hunger, poverty, discrimination, racism and inequality, he is very excited to contribute to these lofty goals though his scholarship and mentoring of students. As an engineeri ng student in the 1980s, he experienced the engineering curriculum firsthand and how its content was shaped by the politics of the Cold War and economic competitiveness against Japan and China. Later as a PhD student working under the mentorship of cultural anthropologist Gary Downey, he learned that engineers and engineering have culture that can be studied and, if necessary, transformed for the wellbeing of communities, social justice, and sustainability. Transforming engineering and engineering education to promote these goals is what he has been trying to do since becoming an engineering educator in 1996.

What I Do

  • Oversee and plan the growth of the HE program (e.g., courses, projects and activities) into new areas of application such as socially responsible technologies for extractive industries, recycling electronic and construction waste for community empowerment, and water access for unhoused populations.
  • Recruit and mentor HE students through their studies and early careers so they find pathways to be the engineers they want to be with passion and commitment to serve others, especially those less privileged.
  • Network with private and public organizations to leverage the impact of HE projects and students and involve other stakeholders in HE community of learning and practice.
  • Teach and research at the intersections of engineering, social justice and communities.


General Research Lab Annex 222


Courses Taught

  • Engineering Cultures in the Developing World
  • Humanitarian Engineering
  • Engineering and Social Justice
  • Engineering for Sustainable Community Development
  • Community-Based Research for Engineers


Juan has been Principal Investigator in a number of NSF-funded research and curriculum development projects, including Global Engineers: Ethnography of Globalization in Engineering Education, Hiring, Practices, and Designs, aimed at researching the impact of globalization on engineering in three continents, and Enhancing Engineering Education through Humanitarian Ethics, focused on researching and developing curricula at the intersection between ‘humanitarianism’ and ‘engineering ethics. He has been co-PI in a number of research projects aimed at researching and developing the cultural and humanitarian dimensions of engineering education and practice, including Engineers and the Metrics of Progress, a comparative ethnographic and historical research and analysis that explores relationships between engineers and national identity. He is author of Defending the Nation: U.S. Policymaking in Science and Engineering Education from Sputnik to the War against Terrorism (University Press of America 2005) and co-developer of Engineering Cultures® multimedia courseware (with Gary Downey, Virginia Tech), Engineering & Sustainable Community Development (Morgan & Claypool, 2010), Engineering Education for Social Justice: Critical Explorations and Opportunities (Springer, 2013), and Engineering Justice: Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (IEEE-Wiley, 2017).