The 2021 International Research Experience for Students (IRES) team has been selected! Jillian Gloria, Max Fortin, Rosa Olivera, Samantha DeNicola, Michael Tonarely, Andrew Vigne, Benjamin Latrobe and Vanessa D’Esposito will join a vibrant and growing collaboration among UCF researchers and DLR scientists in advancing the research and education of combustion and materials technologies. They are a cross-disciplinary team of mechanical and aerospace engineers at both undergraduate and graduate levels whose research specialties include combustion, propulsion, materials, computational fluids, aerodynamics, and more. These students will spend the summer conducting research under the mentorship of scientists from UCF and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Vanessa D’Esposito

Vanessa D’Esposito is an undergraduate honors student pursuing a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering and minors in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Music. She joined the Raghavan Research Group in Summer 2020, and works on high temperature coatings. She’s a member of SEDS-UCF, ASME-UCF, a student leader in ELI2, and sousaphone (tuba) player in Marching and Jammin’ Knights. In the past, she has worked at as a software development intern and at PeakActivity as an Innovation Intern, and she currently works as a CWEP at Lockheed Martin under Infrared Search and Track, specializing in algorithm development. Her hobbies include programming, sports, keeping up with space-related news, videogames, practicing and composing music, and painting.


Jillian Gloria

Jillian Gloria is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering. Currently she works at Exolith Lab manufacturing high-fidelity Lunar, Martian, and Asteroid regolith simulants for research purposes. In the past, she’s held internships in the Private Space Industry with a focus on Lunar Robotic Technologies at the Earthrise Space Foundation, Inc., and in the Energy Sector analyzing technical risks for new and existing Gas Turbines at Siemens Energy. Jillian has also conducted NASA funded Surface-Science research on Model-Silicates used to simulate regolith with the goal of better understanding the effects of Space-Weathering on the surface of airless bodies in space (eg. Moon, Mars, and near-Earth asteroids). In her free time, she focuses on inspiring the next generation of STEM through both local and global endeavors! Her ultimate goal is to aid in the advancement of humankind’s sustainable footprint in space.


Benjamin Latrobe

Benjamin Latrobe is an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student with a minor in Computer Science. He is currently working towards a Honors Undergraduate Thesis, with research on the Flow over Cylinders and the effect of Plasma Actuation, in the Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research lab at UCF, under the advisory of Dr. Bhattacharya. He is also a teaching assistant for the Intro to Engineering courses, EGS1006 & EGN1007. In his free time, Benjamin enjoys making music on a marimba and playing video games.


Max Fortin

Max Fortin is currently an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student. He joined the Propulsion and Energy Research Lab, headed by Dr. Kareem Ahmed, in late 2018. He primarily performs combustion and fluid dynamics research focusing on energy and aerospace applications. In his free time, Max likes to ride bikes, read, and hike.

Contact: max.

Rosa Olivera

Rosa Olivera is currently an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering with an interest in combustion research. Transferring from Miami Dade College, where she was President of the Florida Engineering society. Now she serves as the Event Coordinator for AIAA at UCF. On her free time, she spends a great deal of her time designing and cultivating new ideas into projects such as RC planes and Arduino related projects. Her hobbies include reading fiction, playing video games, hiking and heavy lifting. She joined the lab in Spring 2021.


Samantha DeNicola

Samantha DeNicola is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering working on both her bachelor’s and master’s degree. She is a member of Tau Beta Pi and SWE. Formerly she was an operations intern at Shaw Development and is currently a CWEP at Lockheed Martin in Reliability and Sustainment Engineering. Previously in Spring 2020, she travelled to Embraer in Sao Paulo, Brazil to understand contemporary design challenges and synthesis solutions in the aerospace manufacturing industry. She joined the IRES team in Spring 2021. In her free time, she enjoys fitness and travelling.


Michael Tonarely

Michael Tonarely is currently a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace along with a minor in Mathematics in 2020. For several years, Michael has been working at the Propulsion and Energy Research Laboratory at UCF, with a focus on combustion and liquid fuel injection. During this time, he completed his Honors Undergraduate Thesis on the stabilization of bluff body flames with aviation fuels. As a member of UCF AIAA, he took part in several projects designing both rockets and aircraft for club competitions. In his free time, Michael enjoys reading, chess, and playing video games.


Drew Vigne

Drew Vigne is an undergraduate student majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in mathematics. He is working on his Honors in Major thesis for CFAL, where he researches computational fluids and aerodynamics. Currently, he is developing a method to reduce the computational cost of bicycle wheel CFD via Blade Element Momentum techniques. Another research interest of his is composites, a topic he explores within his role as the ergonomics lead for Knights Racing FSAE by building composite race car components like the pedal box, steering wheel, aerodynamic wings, and wheels. When he is not being an engineer, he is probably out racing on his road bike for the Cycling Knights or the Sarasota Cycling Club.