Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville are redefining how to tackle big problems. The same goes for graduate students like José Nazario, who is developing products for America’s future manufacturing industry. Nazario was drawn to UT’s highly regarded Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering department by a professor who saw his potential and recruited him to join the volunteer family.
A growing talent
Graduate students such as Nazario, a second-year doctoral candidate, work on funded research projects with the supervision and support of world-renowned professors. They often receive full scholarships as well as living allowances, allowing them to graduate debt-free and enter the job market where exciting opportunities abound.
Nazario’s research, conducted under the guidance and mentorship of Tickle College of Engineering Professor Tony Schmitz, focuses on machining dynamics, which uses predictive physics-based algorithms to select operating parameters for increased performance. and uses new sensors to collect process data.
As Nazario explains, his doctoral research at UT’s Machine Tool Research Center provides him with the unique opportunity to combine physics-based theory with tangible results, with the goal of seeing the products he’s helped to develop adopted by the industry.
“Having the chance to work with machine tools on a daily basis is awesome,” Nazario said. “Most of my peers who have been working on their PhDs have only conducted simulated or theoretical results for their projects. The fact that my thesis work is focused on developing products that can be used in industry for the foreseeable future makes the work even more meaningful.
Nazario is from Knoxville. Her parents retired to Chile, her mother’s home country, in 2020, but her aunt and uncle still reside locally and operate the Pela Ice Cream Company, which owns ice cream trucks serving neighborhoods around the world. east of Tennessee.
“I was actually torn between going to music school or going to an engineering program after high school,” Nazario said. “I’ve been playing guitar and singing for about 20 years now. Most of my limited free time is spent recording music in my apartment and collecting guitars. I’m a big blues fan.
Nazario was introduced to mechanical engineering by his high school’s FIRST Robotics team, where his talent was nurtured by mentors Lonnie Love of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Hiro Masuo of DENSO. A first-generation student, he received a full scholarship to Case Western Reserve University, where he also worked as a teaching assistant in manufacturing design labs and methods classes.
After graduating with a BSE in Mechanical Engineering in 2017, he began working in the manufacturing industry and was eventually hired by Paul Reed Smith Guitars in Stevensville, Maryland as a Senior Innovation Engineer.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the guitar factory to shut down, Nazario returned home to Knoxville and became a full-time instructor at Pellissippi State Community College. He has taught several courses, including Computer Numerical Control (often known as CNC) machining, at Pellissippi’s Mechanical Engineering Technology Department.
It was during this time that he crossed paths with Schmitz, who had recently launched a groundbreaking manufacturing workforce development program, America’s Cutting Edge. ACE is part of a U.S. Department of Defense Industrial Base Sustainment and Analysis Program initiative to advance the nation’s machine tool workforce by creating training and education of new generation.
Recognize the potential
“In the summer of 2021, I was asked to help with the first iteration of the ACE program,” Nazario explained. “I co-led a hands-on CNC machining boot camp at PSCC that included a group of local high school students in the Project Grad program and introduced them to the field of fabrication and machining at great speed. After the first week of camp was over, I had the chance to meet Dr. Schmitz and discuss the possibility of continuing my education as a graduate student at his Machine Tool Research Center.
Schmitz immediately recognized Nazario’s potential.
“José has that rare combination of machining experience backed by an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering,” Schmitz said. “I saw him interact with the students at ACE and knew he would be a perfect fit at the Machine Tool Research Center.”
Since joining Schmitz’s research group, Nazario has been able to continue training new manufacturing students through ACE while expanding his network of manufacturing connections and experiences.
“Since arriving at UT, I have had memorable opportunities to work with the ORNL team, help students develop new skills through ACE training programs, and work with members of laboratory from different backgrounds on projects,” he said.
Looking ahead, Schmitz believes Nazario’s current research will have industry-changing applications.
“José is contributing to Industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing, by developing a new approach to measuring cutting force during milling operations,” Schmitz said. “Cutting force is a critical measurement, but it has traditionally been difficult and expensive to measure. José’s research will lead to an inexpensive approach that can be widely distributed to support large and small manufacturers. »
Impact on the future of manufacturing
According to a 2021 Pew Research Center analysis of federal employment and education data, Hispanic adults are less likely to earn science, technology, engineering, or math degrees than in other degree-granting fields. Only 12% of Hispanic college graduates pursue undergraduate studies in STEM. Additionally, Hispanic students accounted for only 9% of master’s degrees and 6% of doctoral degrees earned in STEM in 2018.
“Diversity helps add fresh perspectives to academic and research environments,” Schmitz said. “This is essential if research is to move out of the laboratory and have an impact on everyday life. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for increasing diversity. It’s a decision to work every day to reach new audiences who otherwise might not be aware of 21st century manufacturing.
Nazario says his future will include both advanced manufacturing research as well as education targeting the next generation of advanced makers.
“Since undergrad, I’ve had a desire to teach others about crafting in an accessible way,” Nazario said. “I was a teaching assistant for three professors in machine shops and lectures at Case Western and really loved working with the students. Having the opportunity to teach at the community college level for the past few years at Pellissippi State has given me the opportunity to share my industry experience with students. I hope to continue to develop my research and teaching skills to teach new manufacturing students at the university level.
Schmitz sees a bright future for Nazario.
“I look forward to the impact José will have, not only on future machining technology, but also on those who wish to enter the industry,” Schmitz said. “My goal is to position him to make that difference when he becomes Dr. Nazario. I’m also a maker, but my product is my students. What a great career!”
Make life and lives better
More than 160 UT faculty are dedicated to researching advanced materials and manufacturing, redefining how to solve big problems facing industry to improve lives and lives.
UT’s advanced manufacturing research takes a holistic approach, integrating the strengths of several state-of-the-art colleges and research labs. Faculty specializing in engineering, supply chain, and entrepreneurship, among other fields, help drive innovation and deliver new types of products in cost-effective ways not available with conventional processes.
UT’s investment in the manufacturing community is driving economic growth across the state of Tennessee and creating the workforce of tomorrow.