Cal Poly Pomona continues to mourn the loss of Hector Mireles, department chair forPhysics and Astronomy, a month after his death.
On September 16 Mireles lost his battle with cancer. He was a passionate educator, a father and community member who advocated for all. As department chair for Physics and Astronomy, Mireles worked as the tireless leader for this community.
Professor Alex Small, interim co-chair for the Department of Physics and Astronomy, worked alongside Mireles since he was hired at CPP in 2007, which allowed him to understand Mireles as a friend and colleague.
“He was a true friend, you knew that he had your back and you knew that no matter what was going on he would always have time for his friends,” said Small. “He was never a guy that you would need to be afraid to bother.”
Although not everyone on campus was able to interact with Mireles, Small is sure that Mireles made an impression with everyone he met.
“He was a natural people person,” said Small. “He had this magnetic personality; he could be very intensely passionate about something yet could be very easy-going. Everyone could quickly become his friend.”
Professor and Interim Co-Chair for the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Nina Abramzon was someone who was able to watch Mireles grow in his role as an educator as they both began their careers together in the early 2000’s.
“(He) had a strong desire and need to serve the campus and the department in particular,” said Abramzon. “Becoming a department chair allowed him to serve people, anyone in the campus community.”
In 2021 Mireles served as secretary for the National Society of Hispanic Physicists, a group of physicists who aims to encourage Hispanic youth to study physics.
“He was very supportive of minority groups in physics. The physics field is often thought as not the most diverse field, there are not many women and minorities there,” said Abramzon. “There are several students that he supported in their journey to become physicists.”
Arlo Caine, associate chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, believed that his passion for representation and diversity was what motivated Mireles to stay in such a demanding field.
“In many ways Professor Mireles overcame a lot of barriers in his climb through education and career. He was able to go to UC Irvine due to affirmative action,” said Caine. “He had this fighting spirit; he very much had that kind of drive. He took things by the horns and would tackle difficult issues.”
According to Caine, Mireles felt that it was necessary to advocate for other students from underrepresented backgrounds and demand more equity among the sciences. He was never afraid to proudly be himself and try to break barriers.
“It was definitely a gift to Cal Poly to have him join our faculty and it’s a loss to have him pass away,” said Caine. “He was an excellent role model for setting your sights high, knowing that you can excel and seeing how you can push yourself.”