ECS student Pepe Palafox will study jet engines in research project at Oxford University
ECS student Pepe Palafox will study jet engines in research project at Oxford UniversityMay 06, 2002Jonathan Hayjhay@syr.edu
In an academic career at Syracuse University that has already taken Pepe Palafox (or at least his research) out-of-this world, the senior mechanical engineering student in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) has another great trip coming soon.
Palafox, a native of Manhattan, has been chosen to pursue his graduate studies at Oxford University. He will be part of the master’s/doctoral degree program as a member of St. Catherine’s College-Oxford. At Oxford, Palafox will have his studies fully funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
He is working on a research project that involves a large-scale (100X) experiment studying the air flow around the tips of jet engine turbine blades. This flow is poorly understood and contributes to significant losses in efficiency in jet engine performance.
“Going to Oxford is a really exciting opportunity, I visited the University over spring break and quickly realized that they have the best turbo machinery research facilities you could hope to have access to,” Palafox says. “I definitely didn’t expect this opportunity would be available to me when I first came to SU.”
John LaGraff, chair of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Manufacturing Engineering in ECS, submitted the grant proposal that secured the research funding from the Air Force. He felt Palafox was the best choice to conduct the research at Oxford from a pool of highly qualified students who applied for the position.
“Pepe was selected based on his academic record (he is receiving the BernardWood Award for outstanding academic performance in mechanical engineeringthis year) and from personal recommendations from several faculty testifying to his enthusiasm and dedication to his studies,” says LaGraff.
Palafox, who grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, says he began developing an interest in engineering while in high school. Palafox and his brother were the first college students in his family. His parents immigrated to New York from Pueblo, Mexico, before he was born.
“I felt SU fit my needs the best. I knew a lot of professors were doing interesting research and it seemed like the place to be. I knew it wouldn’t be boring,” Palafox says.
Palafox has made sure his time at SU has been anything but boring. The appointment to Oxford is just the latest of Palafox’s many outstanding academic achievements. During his junior year, Palafox took part in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program (RGSFOP) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. While in Houston, the team of five ECS students got a chance to conduct an experiment in the KC-135, a microgravity jet nicknamed the “Weightless Wonder” which flies in a parabolic flight path, creating 20 seconds of weightlessness on each dive. During the zero-gravity parts of the flight, the SU students cooled liquefied gallium to see if the lack of gravity changed the metal’s microstructural properties.
Along with the RGSFOP experience, Palafox was also a member of the Syracuse University Student Association, a facilitator of the ECS Academic Excellence Workshop and a teaching assistant in associate professor Jacques Lewalle’s dynamics course.
“Pepe has been exactly the kind of student we love to have in ECS,” says Eric Spina, associate dean of ECS. “He’s intelligent, he works doggedly to achieve his goals and is a great person as well. I know he will achieve great things at Oxford and he will definitely be missed around here.”
Palafox credits much of his success at SU to the mentoring of mechanical engineering professors Vadrevu Murthy and Alan Levy. He says his time at SU has helped permanently ingrain his fascination with engineering.
“I have always liked doing work that is hard,” says Palafox, who got his minor in mathematics while majoring in engineering. “I have always had a passion for math, and engineering is just applying math to the real world. Engineering is tough, but when you understand it, it is beautiful.”