Yaiza Rodriguez was raised in the small city of Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona. Growing up, she enjoyed participating in sports and specialized in basketball. She was also an avid gamer. Yaiza’s father introduced her to the world of technology through his work in computer repairs. He had an extensive collection of technology magazines that Yaiza spent countless hours exploring. She also watched with curiosity as her father dismantled, repaired, and assembled a variety of computer systems on a daily basis. It is not surprising that Yaiza was interested in continuing her education in a related field where she could use technology to transform the future.
Excellence in Academics and Athletics
With a broad career goal of making the world a better place, Yaiza knew a college degree would contribute significantly to her success. She also knew she wanted to continue playing basketball, a sport in which she excelled. In fact, Basketball was how Yaiza discovered Boise State University. She was a top recruit who had won three gold medals in championship tournaments in Europe. Yaiza was offered a full scholarship to play on the Boise State Women’s Basketball team. Thrilled to accept the basketball scholarship, Yaiza planned to major in chemical engineering but did not find it as an option at Boise State. After meeting with great advisors in the College of Engineering Advising Center, Yaiza found that what she really wanted was a major that combined her interests in chemistry, physics, and math. Materials Science and Engineering was a perfect match. “I decided to try Materials Science and I ended up loving it,” Yaiza reported.
For many student athletes, an engineering curriculum can be challenging. Team obligations are time consuming and engineering requires some advanced concepts in chemistry, physics, and math. To coordinate a challenging athletic schedule and complex field of study, Yaiza strategized. She intentionally got involved in research after she had much of her coursework completed and toward the end of her basketball scholarship. Planning her Boise State experience allowed Yaiza to excel in academics and basketball simultaneously. In fact, through hard work and dedication Yaiza even earned two minors in her other fields of interest: mathematics and physics, all while participating in daily basketball practices, tournaments, and team activities. During her time on the team, Boise State won two Conference Tournaments and appeared twice in the NCAA Tournament playing against Tennessee and UCLA. Yaiza was a solid team asset. She broke the University’s records in single season assists (192 assists) and carrier assists (a total of 616 assists) and received the Academic All-Mountain West award all four years of her Boise State basketball career.
Green Energy Research
Following her dynamic basketball experience and just as she had planned, Yaiza now conducts research in the Advanced Materials Laboratory with Dr. Brian Jaques. She works on a project focused on heat exchangers in collaboration with Hifunda, LLC, who develops and commercializes materials and systems with the goal of bringing better, smarter, safer, environmentally-friendly, and energy-efficient technology solutions to market. The challenge is to develop a joining mechanism to bond ceramic to metal that will withstand multiple heating and cooling cycles. “Being an undergraduate researcher has given me many great opportunities and priceless experience. I love Boise and the culture of the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering,” Yaiza said. “As a student athlete, much of my time was spent with my team and keeping up on coursework. Now that I am able to gain hands-on research experience, I have countless opportunities to challenge myself in different ways and contribute to a field that can change the world.”
Transforming the Future
Yaiza graduated in May, happy to have earned a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering and proud to have been a part of Boise State athletics. She plans to continue her education at Boise State with a graduate degree in materials science and engineering. Her interests include renewable energy solutions and the aerospace industry. She plans to have a challenging career discovering ways to extend the lifespan of energy storage devices or to identify more eco-friendly and cost-effective ways to store energy. She may even work in the aerospace industry where she would like to focus on improving fuel efficiency. Ultimately for Yaiza, it is all about transforming the future and making the world a better place.