The College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) is proud of its students’ commitment to research, study, and accomplishments in the classroom and beyond. Meet graduate student, Brandon Alexander Aguiar.

Student, Brandon at NASA.

Materials Science and Engineering is a dynamic field involved in the synthesis, structure, properties, and performance of materials. Advanced materials are the foundation of manufactured products and many of the technological advances of this century were enabled by the development of new materials. The academic program offers specialization in metallurgy, ceramics, electronic materials, nanomaterials, and biomaterials.

Name: Brandon Alexander Aguiar
Hometown: Cooper City, Florida
Degree/major: M.S. Materials and Engineering ’23, commence Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in fall 2023

Why did you choose FIU College of Engineering and Computing (CEC)?

I was born and raised in South Florida. I absolutely love this area. All my family and friends are here. When I decided to choose engineering as a concentration, I knew that FIU was the place for me because they provide a high-quality and affordable education.

Why did you choose your major?

Ever since I was young, I was intrigued by science. I was always fascinated by engineering megaprojects and the latest cutting-edge technologies that were on the market. However, I was also interested in a myriad of random topics like history, finance, psychology, philosophy, entrepreneurship, photography, television production, and martial arts. When I got out of high school, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I wanted to do. I decided to study business. I went to the University of Florida for a semester, and I immediately knew it was not for me. I still felt a bit lost at this point and wasn’t sure what to do next. After I was home for a couple of weeks my mom asked me, “Hey you are always passionately telling everyone about the latest new technology to come out of Tesla and SpaceX, why don’t you go to FIU and study engineering?”. I knew right away that was what I was going to do.

Did you always want to be an engineer?

I wasn’t always sure that I wanted to be an engineer. However, I was around engineering and construction my entire life. My father is an engineer, and he would always play television programs about state-of-the-art construction megaprojects. My parents also took my sister and I to watch a Space Shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center since we were all avid space exploration enthusiasts. I mean, who isn’t? I always had an interest in the field and looking back I was always destined for this industry. However, it wasn’t until my mom asked me about studying engineering at FIU that everything finally clicked.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am not too worried about what will happen after graduation. I think whatever happens I’ll figure it out. I would love to explore the stars. Whether that be as an astronaut on the moon or an engineer designing the hardware. SpaceX sounds like the most intriguing work environment. They are hardcore and work themselves to death. That sounds like a place I would enjoy. If the environment I work in is not fast-paced, self-motivated, and extremely challenging I get really frustrated. Whenever I work with people that are not passionate about what they do, it is really hard for me. SpaceX also has something called Space Ninjas. They are people that dress in all black and help install the astronauts in the capsule before launch. That sounds super neat.

What clubs, student organizations or extracurricular activities do you recommend or are you part of? Internships?

I had the pleasure of founding the Society of Manufacturing Engineers FIU chapter. We facilitate workshops and projects that allow students to learn and practice implementing all sorts of interesting manufacturing processes! Also, I was fortunate enough to do an internship at the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The rolling mountains of the area were extraordinarily beautiful. I was able to meet some great people and have noteworthy experiences.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve experienced as an engineering student (so far)?

By far the most challenging thing I have ever done as an engineering student is to publish a research paper. However, it was possible thanks to the amazing team of Arvind Agarwal, Ambreen Nisar, Tony Thomas, Cheng Zhang, and the rest of the members of the Plasma Forming Laboratory here at FIU. Late nights, long hours, countless experiments, and solving innumerable engineering quandaries made it the most challenging project I have ever attempted in my life.

What has been the most rewarding thing you’ve experienced as an engineering student (so far)?

The most rewarding thing I have ever experienced as an engineering student is publishing my first research paper. The more difficult the challenge, the more rewarding the triumph. The paper was on 3D printing lunar soil simulant. NASA is planning on going back to the moon, but this time to stay. 3D printing bricks, filters, habitats, and other parts out of the lunar soil that is already on the moon can make developing an extraterrestrial colony more feasible and affordable. If you are curious, you can find the research paper called “In-situ resource utilization of lunar highlands regolith via additive manufacturing using digital light processing” here.

Any advice to prospective students thinking of majoring in engineering?

I would advise students thinking about majoring in engineering to do it if they feel passionate about science, technology, or construction. If they decide to study engineering, I would tell them that they need to have a high pain tolerance. They need to remain incredibly calm throughout their time studying. It is almost impossibly difficult. I would advise them to remain stoic through the ups and downs. Never react too much to anything good or bad. Just keep going and eventually you will be triumphant.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a student?

The best piece of advice I have ever heard is that life is 1% what happens to you and 99% how you react to it. Another great piece of advice is that it is better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war. You need to be a monster and then control it.

If you could have lunch/dinner with a famous engineering pioneer, who would it be? Why?

If I could have a meal with an engineering pioneer, I would choose my dad because he is my hero. He taught me everything I know about science, engineering, and technology. He also taught me martial arts and how to be a strong warrior both mentally and physically. He is a modern-day renaissance man as he now owns his own real estate brokerage.

When you’re not being an engineering student, what do you like to do?

Health is wealth. I think the most important thing a human being can do to become a productive, well-adjusted member of society is to prioritize their health. I enjoy lifting weights, doing cardio, and hitting my heavy bag. Socrates said, “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”. On the weekend, I love watching mixed martial arts and Jiu-Jitsu fights with my family. I also love flying my drone!