MAE Student Receives Scholarship to Present Paper at AIAA Conference

David Ramirez headshot

CSULB Aerospace Engineering major David Ramirez learned about the importance of getting involved back when he was a student at Cerritos College. He served as a student senator there, then ran for vice president of the Associated Students of Cerritos College.

“While I was VP, that’s when things really changed,” said Ramirez, who worked on student success and DACA issues and succeeded in getting a funding bill passed to enable 10 noncitizen students to participate in a NASA competition. “That experience opened my eyes to the importance of getting involved—past the books.”

Before Ramirez even arrived at CSULB, he was looking for opportunities. As a transfer student, he applied to the Summer Bridge to the Beach Program after coming across it the day the application was due. Hosted by HSI-STEM and headed by Dr. Eric Marinez, the program helps transfer students get acclimated and develop their research interests.

He became involved in the AIAA chapter while looking for student volunteers to help with a MESA event. Besides serving as the CSULB AIAA chapter’s Industry Relations Rep and chief engineer of the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA), Ramirez is also involved with AIAA on a regional level.

He is also in the Engineering Honors Track, a member of the Dean’s Leadership Institute,  and a McNair Scholar, a program named for the late Ronald E. McNair, who perished in the Challenger disaster, for underrepresented undergraduate students who intend to pursue a doctorate.

Ramirez’ most recent success: being named recipient of the AIAA Diversity Scholarship, which will fund travel and expenses associated with presenting a research paper at AIAA’s SciTech Forum in Orlando in January.

He credits Assistant Professor Joe Kalman for helping him get started on pursuing rocket science. Ramirez works in Dr. Kalman’s lab about 10-15 hours a week studying  the interfacial chemistry of solid rocket propellant ingredients to one day 3D print solid rocket propellants. The subject of his SciTech research paper is how different chemicals in rocket propellant adhere to each other.

“It involves actual physical research,” Ramirez said.

While he enjoys “getting his hands dirty,” he’s also inspired by collaboration. His current project requires him to reach out to Caltech, UC Irvine, and other departments at Cal State Long Beach. Collaboration is also a key aspect of his role as chief engineer of ESRA.

“It’s a lot of fun. You get to work with people who are really passionate about the same thing.”

Ramirez said working with Kalman has “changed his life.” After Ramirez expressed an interest in propulsion, Kalman worked one-on-one with him to hone in on a specialty. Ramirez now works independently, although advice is offered if he gets stuck.

“David works very hard and is extremely motivated,” said Kalman. So when it came to presenting his work, he had the initiative to find a scholarship that would pay for all the expenses. I was excited, but not totally surprised, to hear he was awarded the scholarship.”

“David is a good example of what our students are capable of achieving. This opportunity would not have come about if we didn’t have the ability to do research on campus,” Kalman said. Research opens up opportunities, such as this one, for students that they otherwise would not have.”

“This is a great recognition,” added Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Chair Jalal Torabzadeh.