By Jeanne Dailey
Air Force Research Laboratory scientist Oscar Martinez became a scientist because he had always been fascinated with figuring out how things work.
“Eventually it dawned on me that I didn’t have to limit my curiosities to museums, media or just tinkering around, but that I could actually do this sort of stuff for a living — mind blowing!” he said.
After completing his doctorate in physical chemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Martinez began his career with a post-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This led to a postdoctoral associateship from the National Research Council with AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate plasma chemistry group at Kirtland Air Force Base. Martinez then accepted a position as a civil servant with the directorate, and began a new effort to explore advanced manufacturing techniques such as additive manufacturing and intelligent autonomous robotic assembly.
“AFRL is an awe-inspiring world-class research facility,” Martinez said. “I tend to gravitate towards space technologies and so, coupled with my prior Air Force service as an enlisted Airman and my general affinity for the Air Force, working at AFRL was a natural choice for me.”
Recently Martinez took part in a unique 10-day event called AFRL 2016 TECH Warrior, held at the National Center for Medical Readiness and Calamityville Training Laboratory outside of Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. The purpose of the course is to give AFRL scientists and engineers an immersive experience in a full operational field exercise.
Martinez and his 20 or so AFRL civilian and military colleagues underwent intense training in barebase construction conditions, where they were exposed to field operations, combat first aid, combat rescue operations, perimeter defense, land navigation and orienteering, and basic weapons familiarization, among other training venues.
The training culminated with a three-day Capstone Field Training Exercise in which the participants applied the skills they learned.
“Ultimately, the experience should allow S&Es to better understand the conditions faced by true warriors in the field and prompt them to come up with technological solutions that can truly assist the warrior with their mission,” Martinez said.
“It’s truly hard to grasp what warriors actually go through during operational field deployments. Although S&Es may come up with great ideas, an experience such as this one really sets more realistic limitations — a better baseline, if you will — on what may or may not work in the field. It’s a major resource for AFRL and allows researchers to get from behind their desks or out of the lab to really see what the warrior faces.”
After high school he joined the Air Force, where he became a Slavic crypto linguist. On leaving the service, he obtained an undergraduate degree in Russian while getting a bachelor’s of science in chemistry.
Martinez has often been a student mentor by supporting AFRL’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities, and in his new position with AFRL-New Mexico’s Tech Engagement Office, he plans to expand that role.
“We have excellent STEM opportunities at every level,” Martinez said. “These include programs through the AFRL La Luz Academy from elementary through high school, paid internships through the AFRL scholars programs for high school through graduate school, and paid postdoctoral associateships through the National Research Council. Students should look into taking part in these programs as a part of learning, building upon their experience and most importantly, having fun with STEM topics.”
As for the future, he’s curious about it.
“I absolutely will continue to learn and apply the knowledge I’ve gained so far to help overcome any challenges I face throughout my career as an AFRL scientist,” Martinez said. “I’d like to help ensure that kids, including my own, are continuously provided with excellent opportunities to pique their curiosities and explore the world around them.”
To see a video on AFRL 2016 TECH Warrior, visit youtube.com/ watch?v=_wJ8NC7I2zQ.