Nathaly Andrea Castaneda Quintero had a successful career in the oil and gas industry for several years after getting her bachelor's degree from the Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia in 2014, but she knew she wanted to advance further in her career – and the University of Houston and Lone Star Community College have enabled her to thrive in that effort.
“Early in 2018, I decided to improve my English skills and took classes at Lone Star Community College-CyFair,” she said. “By 2019, I applied for the master's program and was admitted to the College of Technology at the University of Houston. I finished my master's in Mechanical Engineering Technology in 2021. I also won the Graduate Student Excellence Award from the College of Technology the same year.”
She is now in her second year of her doctorate program in Materials Science and Engineering, and her hard work is being recognized. She was the winner of the inaugural Poster Prize Competition at CCA 2023, the Coated Conductors for Applications International Workshop, held at UH in April.
Castaneda's research work focuses on the characterization and quality control of rare earth-coated conductors using Raman spectroscopy.
“We can say we are the first group to do 2D-scanning Raman spectroscopy on long areas and plan to extend to long lengths of hundreds of meters,” she said. “We are building a reel-to-reel system for offline and in-line characterization that allows us to have fast feedback on the thin film's quality and better control of the fabrication process.”
Castaneda was proud to receive the honor, and noted the demographics of the field as one reason.
“Receiving this award signifies a lot to me. The superconductivity field is a male-dominated field, and few women take part in it,” she said. “In this workshop, I was the only woman student participating out of 13. I feel very proud of myself for getting this prize and proving that all my hard work and commitment have paid off.”
Castaneda thanked her family for their support and understanding as she's pursued her educational goals, adding that it would have been so much harder with her without it. At UH, she works closely with Francisco C. Robles Hernandez, professor of Engineering Technology; and Goran S. Majkic, research professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department.
“Dr. Majkic has been an important support through my research path in the last couple of years,” she said. “He is the smartest person I have ever met, and I am delighted to work with him. All the knowledge and skills I have acquired in the last few years are because of him. He's the example to be followed not only as a researcher, but also as a person.”
Castaneda is currently planning to defend in Fall 2024.
“Afterward, I would like to continue with a postdoctoral position in the same superconductivity field, and study the possibility of becoming a professor here or back in my country,” she said.