Cesar Garcia worked on research during Spring Break while many of his fellow college students spent time on sandy beaches.
Garcia, a 23-year-old senior at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, committed himself to his electrical engineering research almost every day for several months.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” said Garcia, who is majoring in engineering physics with a specialization in electrical engineering. “I’ve gained so much from the faculty through research and from the great opportunities presented to me.”
Garcia had the opportunity to attend other universities in the United States, but because of affordability, he decided to attend UTB/TSC.
“Even though UTB was not my first choice, I’m 100 percent satisfied with my choice to stay,” he said. “I wouldn’t have gotten this experience anywhere else.”
Through his research in the Applied Microwave and Electromagnetic Laboratory on campus, Garcia was able to present his “Design of Miniature Double-Negative Microstrip Antennas using Electromagnetic Parameter Retrieval” at the International Workshop on Antenna Technology in Santa Monica, Calif.
Once Garcia arrived at the workshop he was surrounded by graduate students and experts in the electrical engineering field.
“They were all very impressed that I knew my stuff and that I was still an undergrad with no degree,” Garcia said. “If I would have gone to a bigger university, I would be one in a million, but here at UTB, I’m one in 10.”
Garcia credits his ability to conduct such extensive research to the mentorship of Dr. Fabio Urbani, an assistant professor of engineering.
“Dr. Urbani’s open door policy has been a great help, whenever anyone needs anything, he is always there,” Garcia said.
In turn, Urbani is glad to see homegrown, dedicated researchers bringing fresh ideas to the university and the field.
“Cesar has done great work,” he said. “No one was exactly able to reproduce the same project as he did. I’m very satisfied with Cesar. He is not concerned with the number of hours he spends in the lab.”
At UTB/TSC, engineering students can focus on a number of areas within two main degree tracks: engineering physics and engineering technology.
During their senior year, students get a more hands-on experience with senior design project courses, which integrate the knowledge acquired in all of their previous courses and allow the students to pursue their own intensive research.
Out of that research, a student built a shock tube facility, which allows researchers and students to generate shock waves that can travel two times the speed of sound. The shock wave facility is now accessible to other mechanical engineering students.
The fluids laboratory, also mostly designed by students, houses several pieces of state-of-the-art testing equipment, including a water tunnel, wind tunnel and a particle image velocimeter, funded from a grant received from the National Science Foundation in summer 2007.
Many of the senior projects help inspire other students to build upon research in places most would not consider a field touched by a trained engineer.
“I want to apply my knowledge into sports and sports engineering,” said Cesar Ernesto Cantu, a mechanical engineering major. “I want to design rackets, helmets, shoes and balls. In order to do that, I have to study the biomechanics of the human body.”
Students can also help the environment by studying how fluid flows around objects and design airplanes and automobiles that consume less fuel, said Sanjay Kumar, an assistant professor of engineering.
“The study of fluid flow is much like looking at how the oil in a car’s engine works to keep everything in sync,” Kumar said.
Speaking from his own experiences at UTB/TSC, Garcia encourages all Rio Grande Valley students interested in engineering to take a look in their own back yard first.
“The facility to do great research is here. We students need to take advantage of that,” Garcia said.
For more on the Engineering Department contact, (956) 882-6639 or visit http://blue.utb.edu/engineering.