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Mechanical Engineering Student Earns Space Grant Scholarship

SOCORRO, N.M. January 18, 2010 -- Phillip Chavez, a mechanical engineering senior, recently was awarded the prestigious New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Scholarship.

Chavez’s research advisor is Dr. Ashok Kumar Ghosh, associate professor in mechanical engineering. Ghosh said Chavez is among the strongest Tech students and a top-notch researcher. Chavez said he was pleased and excited to get the scholarship, which is $2,500 per semester. As a fifth-year student at Tech, he had exhausted his Lottery Scholarships and the new scholarship will help him finish his degree while covering his tuition and expenses.

Phillip Chavez, a mechanical engineering senior from Peralta, N.M., was awarded a Space Grant Scholarship, which he says will help him finish his last semester at Tech. Chavez earned the award based on his research with professor Dr. Ashok Ghosh and funded by the Office of Naval Research.

Chavez earned the scholarship based on his project titled “A Novel Material for an Adaptive and Stealth Naval Platform,” which was funded by the Office of Naval Research. Chavez helped test and select the fiber-reinforced plastics material that serves as the “skin” of adaptive composite materials.

Chavez said Dr. Ghosh has been more than just an advisor; he has been a mentor and an inspiration as well.

“This project would not have been possible without Dr. Ghosh,” Chavez said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with him on a day-to-day basis. His projects provide research opportunities to many Tech students, including me. He encouraged me to apply for the Space Grant Scholarship because he thought I had a really good shot at getting it – and he was right.”

For his project, Chavez evaluated many different types of materials for their characteristics in bonding to the core layer – strength, flexibility, surface finish, puncture resistance and fire resistance. He and Dr. Ghosh visited the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque to perform wide range of acoustic characterization tests to find the composite that absorbs the most noise. Chavez said he searching for a material that would cancel noise and is strong and flexible.

“It’s cutting edge and there’s many unknowns,” he said. “As long as it’s strong and flexible enough, there are so many uses for it.”

Chavez said the research experience at Kirtland Air Force Base was incredible and helped prepare him for a career in research.

“I really enjoyed it because not many people have a chance to do that,” he said. “I was able to work with a lot of really smart people and got to know them.”

Chavez is set to graduate in May and will begin his career at the Puget Sound Naval Yard in Bremerton, Wash., where he will be a field engineer. He completed an internship with PCL in Tempe, Ariz., during the summer of 2009. He worked in the field on a water treatment plant. He said he will prefer the summer weather in Washington to that of Arizona. The internship prepared him for field work, which he said is much different than lab work.

He will continue his research during the spring 2010 semester, performing a number of tests to determine the thermal management characteristics of the composite. Chavez recently wrote an abstract that was accepted for presentation at an international conference.

He will present “Designing and Developing a Fluid-Filled Porous Composite Panel for Naval Platform” at the 2010 Society of Experimental Mechanics Annual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics, in Indianapolis in June 2010.

Chavez enjoys traveling the world and has been to Europe several times, toured the western United States, Canada and Mexico. He is the son of Dennis and Pauline Chavez of Peralta.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech