Student Profile - Carlos Caballero

Engineering, physics guide aerospace research

Carlos CabellaroCarlos Caballero, a Port Neches dual major in mechanical engineering and physics, is exploring his passion for science through unique research opportunities at LU.

“I’ve always been interested in the aerospace field and in designing and developing new things. That’s how I ended up at Lamar’s engineering program. Once I got more involved, I just fell in love with the program,” said the 22-year-old.

Caballero’s first major research project began in 2014 when he was accepted to the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, an organization that helps underrepresented students prepare for graduate studies through research opportunities and faculty mentorships.

“I decided to investigate current research and development in aerospace technologies among others I expanded theoretical research on active flow control, which are ways to save fuel by modifying the surface of aircraft,” he said.

Caballero worked under his faculty mentor, Cristian Bahrim, professor of physics, in 2015 to develop a concept for sensors on the surface of aircrafts that detect physical changes in things such as pressure and vibrations, and then react by altering the shape of the aircraft’s surface. The result is less drag and fuel savings.

“The innovative part is that the technology, unlike current rigid systems which are fixed to the structure or those manually actuated by pilots during take-offs and landings, is autonomous and reacts to real-time data. No one needs to sit there giving it commands,” he said.

Caballero felt motivated to pursue further research on aerospace technologies. After presenting his McNair project at LU’s 16th Annual McNair Scholar Research Symposium, he decided to transition from theoretical to experimental research and spent the following year materializing his concept through the support of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR).

“Thanks to the OUR grant, I was able to buy better equipment and materials to make the experiments more precise and demonstrate that it could really work. What I discovered correlates with my research— that when I modified the surface, there was less drag,” he said.

Outside of his sponsored projects, Caballero works as a research assistant in the chemical engineering department with Rafael Tadmor, professor and Simmons Distinguished Faculty Fellow. His mechanical engineering background often comes in handy as he assists Tadmor with the design and construction of a centrifugal acceleration balance.

Caballero has been involved in other research as a member of STAIRSTEP, or STudents Advancing through Involvement in Research Student Talent Expansion Program, which aims at the retention and advancement of underrepresented groups in the STEM fields.

“We’ve done research, outreach and were mentored by faculty and older students. In turn, we mentored newer students. It was hard work, but it was fun and exciting, and we got paid for contributing,” said Caballero.

Caballero’s accomplishments have been recognized at the national level. After presenting his McNair’s thesis at a conference in Baton Rouge for the National Association of Hispanic and Latino Studies, he was awarded $500 and his work was published in the conference’s 2016 Conference Monograph Series. He was later granted $1000 by the Society of Physics Students, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, to present his research at a physics conference hosted by the American Institute of Physics in San Francisco.

Caballero has also spoken at Lamar University’s Spring 2016 Undergraduate Research Exposition and Fall 2016 STEM Conference as well as the Great Plains Honors Council at John Brown University on behalf of the Reaud Honors College. He plans to present next at the National Council of Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of Memphis in April of 2017.

To balances his academic achievements, Caballero participates in campus organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Physics Students, Rotaract and the Baptist Student Ministry and has held leadership roles in the Honors Student Association, Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity and Kappa Upsilon Chi, a Christian fraternity.

Caballero’s accomplishments have earned him an exclusive graduate opportunity: an all-expenses-paid trip to tour Columbia University’s graduate engineering program in New York. Caballero will meet with faculty, learn about programs, and get tips on the application process. He is eager to visit Columbia University. “Its one of my dream schools,” he said.

Caballero anticipates graduating from Lamar in May 2018. After earning a master’s degree in either materials science or space engineering, he hopes to work on research and design projects across the world.

The Office of Undergraduate Research provides opportunities for undergraduate students from all colleges and programs interested in conducting undergraduate research. The office helps undergraduates make a difference in their fields and form strong mentor relationships with faculty members.

The mission of the McNair Scholars Program is to provide undergraduates with the knowledge to successfully earn a terminal degree through enhancement workshops, advanced research, a mentoring program and a supportive atmosphere.