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Cohort 3

From left to right: Rodrigo Gutierrez Lopez, Samuel Leventini, Matthew Metcalf and Justin Couvrette (not pictured: Remi Leano). Cohort 3 began their CONDESA traineeship during the 2023 summer and fall semesters. 

Photo by Zulema Avalos

Rodrigo Gutierrez Lopez 
Mechanical Engineering 
My name is Rodrigo and I earned my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Merced. My ambition to continue exploring applied mechanics and solve real-world problems led me to pursue a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. I am currently investigating the thermal management of a high-power x-ray tube. The CONDESA program is training me in methods including atomic force microscopy (AFM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). I am interested in utilizing these techniques for non-destructive evaluation of mechanical components. 



Samuel Leventini 
Mechanical Engineering
My name is Samuel Leventini, and I am a Mechanical Engineering PhD student studying Tribology, the science of friction and wear. I graduated from UC Merced with my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering before joining Dr. Ashlie Martini's Lab. I currently study friction and wear between various kinds of surfaces and materials. In my free time, I enjoy reading, brewing coffee, cooking and 3D printing. 

Justin Couvrette 

Materials and Biomaterials Science and Engineering 

My name is Justin Couvrette and I am pursuing a PhD in Materials and Biomaterials Science and Engineering. My main reseach interest involves the biomimicry of slime mold for mechanical operations. 

Remi Leano 


My name is Remi Leano and I am a PhD student in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department. I use density functional theory to study excited states in a variety of systems ranging from toy models to magic-sized clusters and 2D materials. 

Matthew Metcalf 

My name is Matthew Metcalf and I am a Physics PhD student. Before joining Dr. Hui Cai’s Lab at UC Merced, I earned a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in Mathematics from CSU Fresno, after which I worked as a manufacturing engineer at Gel-Pak in Hayward, CA. At CSU Fresno, I worked with Dr. Daqing Zhang and successfully synthesized silicon nanocrystals via plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition and imaged with scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. At Gel-Pak, I performed many duties including designing, building, and validating automated systems for use on the production floor; finding and qualifying new equipment and raw materials for use in production; working closely with the Production and R&D Departments to increase the efficiency of manufacturing processes, reduce scrap, improve product quality, and address problems relating to equipment and safety; and more. In Hui Cai’s Lab, I synthesize and characterize 2D materials and magnetic topological insulators using techniques including chemical vapor deposition, Raman spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy. In my free time, I enjoy circuit racing and playing drums.