It’s not often that a childhood dream manifests into a grown-up reality. For Christian Vazquez, an aerospace engineering Ph.D. student, that dream did come true in the form of an opportunity at NASA.
Vazquez was recently awarded the NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunity Fellowship. The highly competitive opportunity was awarded to just sixty fellows nationwide, and only two from Florida.
Vazquez is excited and honored to have been selected for the opportunity. “To see that NASA expressed interest in what I’m doing is certainly flattering,” he said.
The experience gives its fellows the chance to apply their research to space technology, conducting their work on their respective college campuses and on-site at NASA. Vazquez’ onsite work will be conducted at Kennedy Space Center.
There, Vazquez will continue his research on magnetorheological (MR) fluids, which he says have many applications that include aiding in shock absorption in automobiles and increasing ride comfort on rough terrain. The work is focused on the viscosity of MR fluids, which serve as dampeners within vibrating systems.
“An MR fluid’s viscosity changes in the presence of a magnetic field, such that the fluid gets thicker as the magnetic field get stronger,” Vazquez said. “MR fluids are incorporated into structures, and as a user controls the adjacent magnetic field, the fluid gets more viscous, creating resistance to motion and damping a structure’s overall motion.”
Vazquez will be working with his assigned research collaborator, Dr. Mark Nurge, who will serve as his technical advisor, connect him with other NASA collaborators and help ensure that his research goals are aligned with NASA’s interests.
The fellowship is the perfect fit for Vazquez, whose ultimate career goal is to work in the space or defense industry.
“My hope is that this fellowship will give me an opportunity to work on my professional development by gaining skills pertinent to analytical and experimental research, making contacts with NASA researchers and learning more of the inner workings at NASA.”
For Vazquez, a childhood fascination with space was the catalyst for an advanced degree as well.
“I was enthralled with all things NASA as a young boy, from visiting the Kennedy Space Center, to watching space shuttle launches on television,” said Vazquez. “This fascination with NASA made me want to pursue aerospace engineering when I got to college and eventually graduate school.”
Like his love of all things space as a child, Vazquez also knew early on that he wanted to become an engineer, something he realized as a kindergartener. By the time he graduated from high school, he said he knew UCF was great school for engineering and other STEM subjects. He received his B.S. and M.S. in aerospace engineering.
Vazquez said it was only a natural that he pursue his doctoral degree in aerospace engineering as someone who enjoys learning.
“Pursuing graduate studies also opens many more doors than it closes, whether Ph.D.s stay in academia, go to the industry, or pursue something else,” he said. “Knowing that UCF is a great learning institution for engineers, the choice to stay here was obvious.”
Written by Bel Huston