LATinE Fellows 2020
Alberto Romn Afanador earned his bachelors degree in mechanical engineering in 2015 from the University of Puerto Rico. At the University of Notre Dame, he received his masters degree (2019) in aerospace engineering and currently is a Ph.D. candidate in aerospace and mechanical engineering. He was an instructor and teaching assistant at Notre Dame from 2015-2017 and completed an internship at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in 2014. His research focus is on multi-scale phenomena that commonly arise due to the nature of multiphase flows, specifically developing simplified models for small scales in the problem. He has developed a multi-scale model for thin films based on mass and momentum conversation principles to provide the capacity to simulate complex flow problems without requiring high resolutions. In the future, he plans to continue his study of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). He was a member of the SAE Aero Design team, serving as aircraft performance and aerodynamics leader, at the University of Puerto Rico, and is a current member of the Latinx Graduate Association (LGAND) at Notre Dame. He plans to use his bilingual education to reach out to future Latinx/Hispanic students and colleagues, addressing the needs and concerns of students with diverse backgrounds and sharing his own experience as an underrepresented minority.
Jhon Jairo Quiones Corts earned his bachelors degree (2012) in mechanical engineering from the Univeridad Industrial de Santander and his masters degree (2017) in mechanical engineering from Universidad de los Andes, both in Colombia. Currently at Purdue, he is pursuing his Ph.D. in microgrid optimization, funded through the Fulbright Fellowship Program in Colombia. From 2012-2017, he worked in industry in Colombia as an engineer. A passion for contributing to the field of renewable energy systems in the most unequal communities of Colombia motivated him to return to school. He gained instructional experience in Colombia as an adjunct professor and teaching assistant before coming to Purdue, where his research currently is focused on developing the analysis of renewable energy power plants to bring electricity and water in Colombia for rural areas and migrants from Venezuela. His future goal is to implement both reliable and affordable renewable energy technologies to solve the energy, water and food crises in the off-grid regions of developing countries. He looks forward to becoming an influential Latin faculty member and researcher who inspires students of different backgrounds to better the world through collaborations with government, industry and professional experts.
Antonio Carlos Freitas dos Santos is a postdoctoral researcher in the Laboratory of Renewable Resource Engineering at Purdue. He earned his Pharm.D. and bachelors degree in biochemistry in 2013 from the University of So Paulo, Brazil, and worked there as a medical affairs analyst before coming to Purdue. He received his masters degree (2016) and Ph.D. (2018) in agricultural and biological engineering. His research focuses on achieving feasible and cost-effective production of bioproducts from processes toward increased efficiency and reduced costs. Through his doctoral research at Purdue, he has addressed reducing enzyme quantities needed to convert biomass to monomers, especially at industrially relevant concentrations of feedstock. As a research associate and bioprocess engineer at Purdue, he was a member of the team awarded a 2019 U.S. Department of Energy $1.3M two-year grant to explore modeling feedstock performance and conversion operations. He has served as a volunteer judge at local events, is a member of Alpha Epsilon Honor Society at Purdue, and has been a panelist, committee member, and session chair for numerous Purdue leadership activities. In his future academic endeavors, he plans to contribute to recruitment and retention of minority students, demonstrating that an effective support system is in place for them.
Lissette Fernandez earned her bachelors degree (2009) in architecture from Higher Polytechnic Institute, Cuba. At Clarkson University, New York, she earned her bachelors degree (2015) in civil engineering and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in structural engineering. At Clarkson, she has served as a teaching assistant and was one of 15 graduate students nationwide awarded an NSF-funded Advanced Studies Institute (ASI) scholarship to participate in a workshop on the Resilience of Aging Infrastructures, held in Costa Rica in February 2019. Her research targets the creation of computational algorithms to efficiently determine optimal harvester properties and installation locations. A second research direction is the investigation of integrated design approaches to seamlessly include the harvesters in the host building or bridge, greatly increasing the likelihood of their adoption in real-world structures. She is the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Student Teaching Award and is a fellow in the George A. Gray Endowed Fellowship, both at Clarkson. Her ultimate goal is to use her architectural and structural engineering backgrounds to develop innovative ideas that will enhance the performance and integrity of the nations infrastructure systems while educating new engineers on the importance of sustainable design.
Matheus Venturyne Xavier Ferreira received his bachelors degree (2016) in computer engineering at Universidade Federal de Itajub, Brazil. He earned a masters degree (2018) in computer science from Princeton University, where he currently is pursuing his Ph.D. in computer science. While studying as a non-degree international student in 2014 at the University of California, San Diego, he worked as a software development engineer at Broadcom Corporation, focusing on Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC) software. His current research project uses game theoretic tools to design incentive compatible cryptocurrencies so that miners are incentivized to follow protocol. He is broadly interested in theoretical computer science, particularly in algorithmic game theory and information security. His research also encompasses policy, and he has been working on the adoption of better security practices that will motivate future decisions. He has served as a teaching assistant, peer mentor and peer educator and is the recipient of the AGT Mentoring Workshop Grant and a First-Year Fellowship, both at Princeton. He finds fulfillment when students with no prior background in economics or computation learning see how economic incentives have a significant impact on computer systems and how algorithms are present in everyday life.
Gonzalo Garcia is a postdoc in the Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, in charge of the design of a control system for an underwater robot with an undulating membrane for propulsion. He also is developing an advanced control design for terrestrial nanorobots in collaboration with researchers in Chile and Spain. He received his bachelors degree (1994) in electrical engineering from the Naval Polytechnic Academy, Chile, and his masters degree (2006) from Federico Santa Maria Technical University UTFSM, Chile. In 2013, he earned his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Kansas. He has been a postdoctoral associate, lecturer, graduate research assistant, chief scientist of control systems, and area director of automatic control at the University of Kansas and a visiting researcher at Microsoft Corporation. He is the recipient of numerous scholarships, including the Ph.D. Fulbright Scholarship from the Comisin Nacional de Investigacin Cientfica y Tecnolgica (CONICYT " Chile). He served as a member of the Chilean Navy from 1989-2008 and has held teaching posts in the Chilean Naval Polytechnic Academy, University of Kansas, Andres Bello University, and Santo Toms University. He is a member of The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Golden Key International Honor Society, and Sigma Gamma Tau. His philosophy is that an instructor should be the first one to enjoy a class, deriving in a spontaneous and motivational effect on students.
Ana Mara Estrada Gmez is an industrial engineering-statistics Ph.D. candidate in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) at Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta), where she also earned her masters degree in statistics in 2018 and worked as a teaching assistant from 2016-2019. She received bachelors degrees in industrial engineering (2013) and mathematics (2015) and a masters degree in industrial engineering (2015) from the Universidad de los Andes, Bogot, Colombia, where she also served as a teaching assistant. Her current research is focused on developing efficient methodologies and algorithms for modeling, monitoring and diagnosing sensor networks with high-dimensional data using statistical and machine learning tools. Her methods have been applied in the manufacturing, service and health care sectors. At Georgia Tech, she has earned several honors, including a graduate teaching fellowship. She is a member of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management of Sciences (INFORMS), Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) and Latino Organization of Graduate Students (LOGRAS). As a professor, she hopes to promote diversity, equity and inclusion inside and outside of the classroom.
Gonzalo J. Martinez earned his bachelors degree (2013) in computer science from Catholic University of Uruguay before transferring to the University of Notre Dame, where he earned his masters degree (2020) in computer science and currently is a Ph.D. student and research assistant in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. He worked professionally as a software developer for eight years before turning his attention full-time to a career in academia. His research lies at the intersection of data science, human-computer interaction and behavioral studies. Using data from ubiquitous sensors like wearables, smartphones, beacons and social media, he combines machine learning with behavioral psychology to improve health and well-being. His current project is the Tesserae study, which uses sensors and social media data to understand the behaviors that support good workplace performance. He recently served as president and vice president of service for the University of Notre Dame Catholic Graduate Community. In 2018, he traveled to Rome, Italy, and delivered a speech to bishops at the Vatican on ways to involve more young people in the Catholic Church. In the future, he strives to spearhead more bilingual education opportunities in computer science education, believing that the language barrier is a large part of what holds some populations back.
Valentina Nino earned her bachelors degree (2001) and masters degree (2009) in industrial engineering from the University of Tachira, Venezuela. In 2017, she received her masters degree in industrial and management engineering from Montana State University (MSU), where she is now a Ph.D. candidate. The overarching goal of her research is to change the way health care services are delivered by making them more efficient, effective, proactive and patient-centered. Her vision is to build a collaborative interdisciplinary and diverse research program in operations and management by developing state-of-the-art analytical models and methodologies that successfully integrate cognitive science, human factors, biomechanics, psychology, decision-making models, and operation research, looking at both patient and health care providers holistically. While in Venezuela, she was an associate professor, quality assurance manager, and process analyst before moving to MSU, where she has served as a graduate teaching assistant, graduate research assistant and instructor. She is second vice president and a founding member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), MSU chapter, and represents the Industrial Engineering Department as a College of Engineering graduate ambassador. Selected memberships include Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), MSU chapter. As a professor, she intends to demonstrate empathy, kindness and understanding for each student while still requiring academic excellence.
Sean T. Peters earned his bachelors degree (2015) in electrical engineering from Rice University and his masters degree (2017) in electrical engineering from Stanford University, where he currently is a Ph.D. candidate. He has extensive teaching, mentoring and outreach experience at Stanford, and is a member of IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, American Geophysical Union, International Glaciological Society and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. He has served as a mentor for Stanfords El Centro Chicano y Latino and is active in the Bay Area Graduate Pathways to STEM. His goal is to become a recognized expert in his field of radar remote sensing and to develop radar systems for diverse applications in Earth and planetary science. His long-term research projects are geared toward recycling a diversity of electromagnetic signals to advance passive sounding for Earth and planetary science in several directions, such as passive array-based tomography and nanosatellite passive radar sensing. Once in a faculty position, he intends to increase accessibility and diversity of academia by leading recruiting efforts for summer undergraduate research programs that prepare underrepresented minorities for graduate school.
Helber Antonio Esquivel-Puentes received his bachelors degree (2015) in mechanical engineering and his masters degree (2017) in materials and process engineering from the National University of Colombia, Bogot. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Purdue, where he is focused on two projects: (1) the design, construction and characterization of a hydraulic wind turbine; and (2) the design and fabrication of a high-performance filter that can be used in masks to protect from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Future research plans will focus on learning and mastering fluid dynamics and fluid power and apply it to renewable energy. His knowledge about anti-viral materials recently led him to a novel design and an invention disclosure and a provisional patent. He has worked as a teaching assistant at the National University of Colombia and at the National Institute for Space Research, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, and as a visiting researcher at Purdues Birck Nanotechnology Center. In the near future, he plans to form his own research group that will apply theory, knowledge, experience and talent to design, simulation, assembly and testing of new technologies that bring clean and sustainable energy to the world.
Jessika Pazol-Ramos is a Ph.D. chemistry student and a research assistant at the Molecular Sciences Research Center at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. She earned her bachelors degree (2004) in chemical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and her masters degree (2010) in civil engineering through the Water Treatment Program at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico at Hato Rey. As an undergraduate, she completed summer internships at Princeton University and the NASA Glenn Research Center. She worked for nearly 10 years in the pharmaceutical industry before making the decision to pursue a career in academia. She has served as a chemistry instructor at the National University at Rio Grande and a teacher assistant in the General Chemistry Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. Her research is focused on inhibiting bacterial endotoxins from pharmaceutical wastewater using embedded enzymes in a new membrane packing-density material. She has earned numerous honors as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. Other memberships include Professional College of Engineers and Land Surveyors of Puerto Rico (CIAPR), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and American Chemical Society (ACS). As a professor, she hopes to serve as a mentor and inspire young girls from underrepresented minority groups.
Rathziel Roncancio Reyes received his bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and entered the Undergraduate Research Experience Purdue-Colombia (UREP-C) in 2016. He is now part of a Ph.D. program for Colombian students supported by the Ministry of Education in partnership with Purdue and is studying the fields of biofuels, biomass and coal gasification. He has been independently responsible for a project involving biomass conversion, including CO2 recycling, with a focus on the types of biomass relevant to his home country. Working in the sugar cane industry in Colombia showed him the magnitude of biomass waste in the agricultural sector and prompted his research about how gasification can potentially solve the issues of agricultural waste disposal and producing energy for the development and security of difficult-to-reach cities. He has been a teaching assistant at Purdue since 2017, and in 2019, he received the Foundations in College Teaching certificate from the Center of Instructional Excellence. He is the website and social media coordinator for the Official Mechanical Engineering Graduate Students Association (OMEGA) and serves as secretary of the Colombian Student Association at Purdue (CSAP). As a future engineering faculty member, he hopes to recruit more underrepresented students into academia.
Walter Gutierrez Rodriguez received his bachelors degree in mechanical engineering in 1986 from Technological University of Havana, Cuba. He earned his masters degree (2016) in data science and his doctorate (2017) in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University. He also earned certificates in wind energy in both the technical and mechanical tracks at Texas Tech. He came to Purdue in 2018 as a visiting scholar and in 2019 became a postdoctoral researcher investigating the relations between energy use, natural resources and social inequality. He has a diverse and extensive work history in a variety of fields, including renewable energies, fossil energies, nuclear energy, information technologies, Big Data and statistical analysis. He taught information technology courses to more than 1,000 students as a Microsoft Certified Trainer. His Purdue research focuses on harnessing renewable energies to help solve pressing problems, ranging from border tensions in the United States to poverty in Latin American countries, to the present COVID-19 pandemic. He is a member of the American Physical Society (APS), Golden Key International Honor Society and the College of Engineers of Peru (CIP). He believes a teachers role is to serve as both instructor and mentor, and the more a teacher sparks challenging exchanges, the better the outcome.
Yareni P Lara-Rodrguez received her bachelors degree (2006) in manufacturing engineering and her masters degree (2010) in systems engineering from Autonomous University of Nuevo Len (UANL), Mexico. In 2013, she earned a masters degree in science mechanical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagez campus (INME-UPRM), where she currently is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering with a specialization in bio/micro scale engineering. She has 10 years of experience teaching in the engineering field and also boasts a long list of volunteer roles, many of which have focused on encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM. Her research addresses wound healing acceleration, and she is performing experiments to observe and characterize the collagen synthesis process in fibroblast cells under external loads, principally using fluorescent microscopy. She is the recipient of several honors, including a 2019 international fellowship with the American Association of University Women. She serves as spokesperson for the Association of International University Community and is the mentoring lead for the Society of Women Engineers in the Latin Affinity Community for FY20. Other memberships include American Association of University Women, American Society for Engineering Education, and Biomedical Engineering Society. As a professor, she plans to teach in the topics of biomedical devices and geometrical design.
Boris Isaac Pealoza Rojas earned his bachelors degree (2007) in electrical and electronic engineering from Universidad Tecnolgica de Panam and his masters degree (2012) in electrical power engineering from RWTH Aachen University, Germany. He currently is pursuing his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering and serving as a teacher assistant at the University of Denver, Colorado. Before entering the Ph.D. program, he was a research scientist for two years and an electrical designer for two years, during which time he designed a 52-story building located in Panama City. His research interest is based in reverse-engineering the brain by using psychophysics, computational neuroscience and imaging techniques. The potential benefits of his research are discovering cognitive biomarkers for mental diseases and image classification or motion detection/tracking. He is one of the founding members of the DU chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), through which he hopes to attract more Hispanic students to graduate school since statistics show that few Hispanic students decide to pursue a degree beyond their bachelors. He also plays a leading role in the student organization Ratio et Fides, which engages students to intellectually discuss pressing societal issues. In his future classroom, he plans to implement four tools: simplicity in concepts; project and real-life applications; multimedia resources; and personal mentoring.
Val Zayden Schull received a bachelors degree (2015) in biological and environmental engineering from Cornell University. They earned a masters degree (2017) in agricultural and biological engineering (ABE) from Purdue, where they are currently a Ph.D. student specializing in environmental and natural resource engineering. Val held mentoring and teaching posts at Cornell and Purdue and has been a water resources and ecohydrological engineering graduate research assistant with ABE since 2016. Val is developing data-driven decision making for water management that integrates a Food-Energy-Water (FEW) nexus framework as well as futuristic climate projections through the 21st century. Val is the diversity officer for Purdue Graduate Student Government (PGSG), representing the organization on the University Senate Equity and Diversity Committee. In addition, Val is an intern with the Latino Cultural Center and has served as president of the Latinx Graduate Student Organization. They won first place in the ABE GSA Symposium What will we drink in 2169? oral presentation session and was a member of the NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program from 2018-2020. As a faculty member, their instruction will be student-centered and foster a community that is supportive and inclusive, and they plan to teach in a manner that is accessible to the widest audience possible.
Luz D. Sotelo earned her bachelors degree (2016) in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She currently is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), where she also has been a graduate teaching assistant, guest lecturer, project mentor and co-instructor/laboratory lead. In 2016 at the Nebraska Transportation Center, she designed, built, and tested a portable system for the in situ vibration and dynamic monitoring of freight trains. At UNL, she is developing in situ and ex situ quantitative ultrasound NDE measurement and calibration and signal processing systems for complex material domains, with an emphasis in metal additive manufacturing. She is the recipient of numerous honors, including Great Minds in STEM Outstanding Graduate Student Leadership Award and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Faculty Development Symposium Travel Award. She is a member of the Acoustical Society of America and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, among others. During the spring 2020 term, in response to the demand for online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she volunteered as a mechanical engineering online tutor. As a faculty member, she hopes to give her students opportunities to translate their conceptual understanding into practical applications.
Carolina Vivas-Valencia is a Ph.D. candidate and graduate research assistant in the Biomedical Analytics Systems Optimization (BASO) Lab at the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue. She received her bachelors degree (2011) in biomedical engineering from the Universidad EIA-Universidad CES, Medelln, Colombia, and her masters degree (2015) in biomedical engineering from Purdue. She also holds certificates from Purdue in mental health first aid and the Foundations in College Teaching through the Center for Instructional Excellence. Her research focuses on building innovative data-driven solutions to improve community-based health problems. Her work has leveraged insurance claims data to develop risk prediction models within vulnerable groups. The objective of the research is to provide early intervention for patients at high risk of dropping out of treatment. Her interdisciplinary approach has led to collaboration with researchers in medicine, computer science, pharmacology and operations. While at Purdue, she has served as a teaching assistant and graduate mentor and has received the 2014 and 2019 Bourland Travel Award, Best Pitch Award, and the 2018 Estus H. and Vashti L. Magoon Award for Excellence in Teaching. She is a member of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management of Sciences (INFORMS) and Biomedical Engineering Graduated Students Association at Purdue. She strives to become a role model who inspires younger Latinas to become successful researchers and educators.