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Engineering Postdoctoral Researcher Follows Passion for Space Exploration

Like many kids, Luis Alberto Rodriguez had dreams about space travel and far away planets growing up. Unlike most kids, he chose to pursue an academic path that could get him there.

Rodriguez has made the most of his education to advance his visions of making the next big space discovery. Rodriguez, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Miami College of Engineering (UMCoE) Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), is now heading to the nation’s space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Rodriguez’s research focus is on the multi-physics modeling of magnetic smart materials and shape memory alloys for optical CubeSat systems, a type of miniaturized satellite for space research. He also has designed magnetic field structure models for human colony protection against space radiation and assisted in hybrid rocket propulsion experiments. He assisted with designing and led experimental environmental degradation research of a supersonic aircraft’s radar protecting reinforced composite structure by analyzing its diffusion dynamics, dielectric, viscoelastic and mechanical properties.

Rodriguez will be working as an engineer in the Thermal Energy Conversion Branch at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The branch is responsible for planning, conducting and directing research and development to advance state-of-the-art thermal energy conversion systems for aerospace, as well as non-aerospace applications. The branch also provides subject matter expertise in thermodynamic heat engines, heat source integration and waste heat rejection for radioisotope, fission and solar thermal power system applications from basic research principles to integrated flight systems. Currently, the branch supports programs/projects from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate for the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator, Technology Advancement and Extreme Environments, as well as NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate for the Nuclear Systems Project.

Rodriguez doesn’t know what projects he will be working on but is excited to potentially continue his research efforts in energy conversion for deep space exploration.

Rodriguez previously intern in NASA’s Structural Dynamics and Remote Sensing branches at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. He was a US Air Force Reserve stationed at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Homestead, Fla. In 2013, Rodriquez received his bachelors in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering and his PhD in mechanical engineering, in 2017, from UMCoE.

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