Name: Anthony Rodriguez
Year: Fourth year
Major: Materials Science and Engineering
Hometown: Bell, near Los Angeles
What is a memorable project that you worked on during your time at UC Merced?
There are two projects that are very memorable to me during my time at UC Merced. One is a project I worked on while I was an intern at Castle Air Museum, and the second is being a part of the Merced nAnomaterials Center for Energy and Sensing (MACES) program, which allowed me to get involved with an atomic force microscope (AFM) in Professor Mehmet Baykara’s lab. The project at Castle Air Museum involved the panel restoration of an F-100, F-102 and B-58 aircraft. And the second project gave me the chance to install, troubleshoot and conduct research on 2D materials with an AFM.
What did you learn personally and academically by participating in this?
What I learned academically from working in the Castle Air Museum project was being able to apply what I learned in my courses (concept, fundamentals of engineering, etc.) to real-life problems and get hands-on experience. But personally, this gave me more insight and narrowed down my options on what type of career I would like to pursue/grow upon in the aerospace industry. I also met two incredible mentors with tons of experience and wisdom — Navy Dave and Pat.
When it came to working with an AFM, I never thought in college a professor would trust an undergraduate with such an expensive piece of equipment, but this taught me that professors have faith in their students and always want them to grow, no matter the challenge. And has also taught me some of my strengths and weaknesses during my time doing research. It has been time well spent. Academically, this project allowed me to learn more in depth about AFMs, challenge myself to learn a new piece of high-tech machinery, and experience what it is like to conduct research on materials not yet fully understood, uncovering new properties with each experiment.
UC Merced has a lot of opportunities for experiential learning. What would you say to a future student who wants to be involved?
What I would say to future students would be: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and take the initiative. Join a club/organization that interests you as far as your career choices and ask to be a part of a project and/or join a club/organization with similar interests in hobbies because everybody needs an outlet. Being in a club/organization not only opens up more opportunities, but you will also be surrounded by others who have similar goals as you and meet people who could become life-long friends. I joined several engineering groups including the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at UC Merced, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Solar Energy Association, the Materials Research Society and Bobcat Boxing. Also, make sure to ask your professors for recommendations if you ever want to do research or if you need any type of advice — they are always there for you and want the best for you. And lastly, I would definitely recommend setting up an appointment with a career specialist in the career center if you want to kickstart your future or if you don’t know where to start your journey. As a freshman in my first semester, I met my career specialist, Robert Goodman, and I am very thankful for his advice. I have a number of mentors, all of who have enriched my journey at UC Merced — a journey that will continue at the Air Force Research Laboratory in the Rocket Propulsion Division!