That’s a wrap: students complete summertime work in Air Force Lab

  • Published
  • By Donna Lindner
  • Air Force Research Laboratory
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Each summer high school and college students apply for jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with hopes of working in a world-class research laboratory. This year was no exception.


Cristian Orozco, graduate student from the University of Texas El Paso is currently wrapping up his work as part of the Minority Leaders Research Collaboration Program in AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. The program provides student opportunities for minority universities or universities with a history of encouraging minority involvement in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics education. ML-RCP is one of many programs available to students each summer.


Orozco discovered this opportunity through his research advisor, Prof. Chintalapalle Ramana, who worked with the lab in previous years and deemed Orozco a top candidate for the position.


Promoting the Hispanic community in the scientific field is one of Orozco’s goals. “I would like more students to look at higher studies to have a bigger impact on the scientific community,” he said.


The goal in pairing a student with a researcher is the assurance that there will be a future workforce to meet forthcoming needs. Nurturing of future generations is also an aspiration.


Orozco’s mentor, Dr. Neil Murphy of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, said that mentoring a summer student is a rewarding experience for both himself and the student. He also said it is a tremendous concept to give students the experience in working for the Air Force and working research tasks.


“Dealing with the program in the past, I knew I would be paired with an intern who I could count on to do high quality research and take care of some of the lab workload. Cristian has done a super job this summer,” said Murphy. “He has been one of the most independent, self-motivated students that I have had the opportunity to mentor.”


Murphy is looking forward to continuing collaboration with Cristian’s research group at the University of Texas El Paso. Technical papers are in the works regarding Cristian’s research exploring thin film coatings for optics with the hope of accomplishing at least one publication on Cristian’s work this summer. 


Orozco commented that his experience far exceeded his expectations. He was introduced to many researchers who were more than willing to answer his questions and was empowered to independently perform hands-on work in the lab.


Additional networking activities were planned for the students during their tenure, including a picnic, aircraft tours, and a science day at a local amusement park. Interns were also invited to attend various lunch time seminars on specific scientific topics.


“Maintaining contact with each other is a great networking opportunity. Making new friends and learning a lot is priceless,” said Orozco.


According to student program manager Asheley Blackford, AFRL has an excellent pool of research candidates that are highly skilled and motivated. Their talents support the Air Force mission to fly, fight and win in air, space, and cyberspace.


“We get students from all over the country with fresh ideas anxious to gain real world experience working alongside topnotch scientists and engineers,” said Blackford.


“The students bring a fresh perspective to [the directorate] each summer stimulating the diversity of thought in the organization.”


The summer program concluded with a poster session with more than 50 students showcasing their research efforts, goals, and learning experiences while working in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.


Orozco hopes to return to the lab next summer. “I felt very relaxed and comfortable from the first day I arrived for work, and the environment is very friendly,” he said. “My mentor introduced me to a slew of people that were always willing and eager to help me learn.”


Full-time work is typically accomplished during the months of May through September, depending on the students’ schedules. Applicants must be at least 16 years old and enrolled in high school, a technical school or other qualifying educational institution.


Applications for several government and contractor student programs can be found at