Logo: University of Southern California

A Life in STEM

After 36 years of mentoring future generations, STEM champion passes the baton
By: Sam Corey
December 15, 2015 —
Larry Lim 580
Larry Lim's career spanned over three decades and impacted the lives of tens of thousands.  Photo/Peter Shin

There are careers and there are callings.

Larry Lim, departing director of pre-college programs has turned his career into a calling to inspire future generations of Americans to pursue careers in STEM. On November 11, USC commemorated the end of Lim’s tenure with a celebration at Ronald Tutor Hall. Dean Yannis Yortsos, along with faculty and staff, were on hand to wish Lim luck and to thank him for his many years of service.

Lim began his career as a high school teacher and has been with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering since 1979.

“USC is a wonderful place to work. It’s a beautiful campus and gives us the opportunity to attend concerts, art exhibits, as well as Trojan athletics,” Lim said. “Everyone is always impressed when they hear that I work at USC.”

Lim has spent countless hours developing the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program to provide an opportunity for students who attend surrounding middle and high schools to prepare them for science and engineering-related majors in university.

“When I look back at my time at USC, I’m most proud of contributing to the expansion of the MESA program and serving these students,” Lim said. “It is giving local students around USC the opportunity to attend a major college. Without these types of programs, their horizons are limited.” 

USC MESA has exposed disadvantaged youths to the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematic, aerospace and robotics for 38 years.

Nearly 25,000 students are USC MESA alumni, with 27 Southern California schools taking part in the program, which includes the participation of 1,100 students at 12 middle schools and 15 high schools in the Los Angeles area.

Lim also supports and co-sponsors the Los Angeles area FIRST Robotics competition, mentors Rossier graduate students interested in K-12 education and donates his time to community events like science fairs.

He has also implemented a statewide webpage design competition for middle school students, supported by Microsoft, and started several summer school programs for high school students.

Lim’s work has received several honors from USC.

In 2011, President C.L. Max Nikias awarded Lim the first President’s Award for Staff Achievement.

Additionally, he received the USC Good Neighbor Faculty/Staff Volunteer Award.

Possessed by a true servant’s heart, Lim remains modest about these achievements.

“I am satisfied with what we’ve accomplished, but we can always do more,” Lim said. “Engineering is a crucial field and will continue to be, but we’ve made good progress at getting more people involved.”

As he enjoys some well-deserved solace after three decades of motivating and serving young students, Lim said he plans to travel for a few months and “play it by ear”

He remains confident that whoever takes his place, USC Viterbi will continue to develop more STEM students in the surrounding Los Angeles community.

“We are facing some of the toughest challenges of our time,” Lim said. “Mathematicians, engineers and scientists will be on the frontlines of solving these. That’s why it is not only important to help young students get in the right mindset, but also to give them the resources and determination to do it. That’s what we at USC are all about.”