Graduate student unites his passion for science and enthusiasm for diversity at UAH

Roberto Dextre

Roberto Dextre is fulfilling his dream of conducting aerospace engineering research thanks in part to the CPU2AL project.

Roberto Dextre, a graduate student at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), had humble beginnings in New York City as the only child of a Peruvian hospital café worker and a Dominican sales representative. As a young man, Dextre enjoyed Latin dancing, spending time on the basketball court, and playing video games. He first recognized his connection to science at the High School for Environmental Studies in Manhattan, where he noticed that he easily understood math and science. "I think it was the physics courses that opened my mind to how science plays into all of our lives every day," says Dextre. "It seemed like an obvious choice to pursue engineering, so that I can learn to apply science as needed."

He decided to further pursue this newfound passion at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y., where he received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. While an undergraduate student, Dextre was offered an internship at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, where he was introduced to rocket propulsion and became very interested in its capabilities. During his internship, he heard about UAH’s Graduate School and decided to apply. Dextre was accepted to the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering’s aerospace systems engineering program shortly thereafter.

I would tell students interested in studying plasma sciences or propulsion to understand that there is a lot of information out there, but don’t be intimidated by it. If it is your passion, pursue it.

Roberto Dextre
Graduate student at UAH

While attending UAH, Dextre received his master’s degree in aerospace engineering, and soon he will be receiving his doctorate in the same field. The graduate student’s studies don’t stop him from giving back, though, as Dextre is a devoted advocate for diversity in the field of engineering and at UAH. In addition to being a tutor and mentor for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program, Dextre is involved in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and helps lead the Salsa Club on campus. As a result of his academic diligence and civic-mindedness, he received financial support from the UAH Adriel D. Johnson, Sr. Fellowship and NASA for his graduate studies. Dextre was also awarded a graduate research assistantship through the Central Education, Recruitment, and Impact Fund of the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Connecting the Plasma Universe to Plasma Technology in Alabama (CPU2AL) project.

Dextre’s doctoral research focuses on using concentric split-ring microwave resonators to produce plasma at vacuum-like pressures to better understand the characteristics of the generated plasma. Such plasma could find applications in space propulsion and the plasma treatment of solid-state materials, such as biomaterials, plants, seeds, and agricultural products. He computationally models the electromagnetic behavior of the resonators and compares it to experimental measurements of the plasma density and electron temperature with Langmuir probes.

"As an undergraduate, I learned the basics of plasma and propulsion. As a master’s student, I studied and mastered that knowledge. Now as a doctoral student, I get to give my input and add to the greater body of human knowledge in this area," says Dextre. "I would tell students interested in studying plasma sciences or propulsion to understand that there is a lot of information out there, but don’t be intimidated by it. If it is your passion, pursue it." Dextre also emphasizes the importance of finding the right mentor. "I would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Gabe Xu, who is a member of the UAH CPU2AL EPSCoR project as well, for his continued support throughout my UAH career."

After graduation, Dextre plans to take a short break to travel and spend time with his family, after which he will seek employment in the private sector.


Dana Waller
EPSCoR Outreach Coordinator


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