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Impact Award, Fall 2018

Nathanael Zuniga

Not every student arrives to college knowing exactly what they want to do, or having identified an area of study they are truly passionate about.

When Nathanael Zuniga started out as a biology major, he knew the course load would fulfill all the prerequisites he’d need to apply to dental school, and he’d be able to go on to pursue a career as a dentist.

Yet as he progressed from one semester to another, Zuniga struggled to find a passion for what he was learning.

Zuniga spent three years studying biology before he realized that his knack for problem solving, making improvements and learning the machinations of how things work were better suited to a degree in engineering.

In the summer before his senior year, he changed his major to mechanical engineering.

“The moment I knew I was on the right path was when I realized I could actually enjoy school,” says Zuniga. “Once I realized that I could find enjoyment in pursuing something difficult, I knew that I was on the right path!”

Zuniga wasted no time getting involved in research and joined the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative program, known as FURI, where he worked under the direction of Associate Professor Liping Wang for two semesters.

Interested in thermal energy harvesting, waste recovery and other energy-producing methods, Zuniga helped design a tip-tilt platform using LabVIEW that will be used to measure near-field radiative heat transfer between two parallel flat surfaces.

“I was able to design the mounting mechanism for the platform that will ultimately aid in achieving micrometer distance between two samples and accurate heat transfer measurements,” he says.  

Zuniga’s hard work has earned him a number of scholarships and awards, including the Academic Success and Professional Development-Motivated Engineering Transfer Students scholarship, the Kenneth R. and Kathryn Geiser Memorial scholarship, and the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Special Scholars Program scholarship to name a few.

Zuniga plans to complete an internship over the summer before continuing his work toward his master’s degree through the 4+1 program in the fall.

“Education is something to be enjoyed and that is what I found in engineering.”

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