Westmont Magazine New Faculty Engineer High-Tech Research

Westmont’s two new faculty members bring international expertise to the engineering department. Tenure-track professors Douglas Hector Fontes, a Brazilian national, and Johan Jair Estrada López, a Mexican national, joined the faculty in the spring.

Doug Fontes teaching

Fontes recently completed postdoctoral research at the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida, which included simulating a rocket jet plume interacting

with lunar soil. He and other researchers have been working with private companies to develop self-assembly landing pads to get astronauts safely on the surface of the moon. “My goal is to continue researching plume surface interactions on extraterrestrial bodies,” he says. “Landings in low gravity and a rarefied atmosphere impose a different dynamic to soil particles submitted to rocket jets.”

Previously, he conducted postdoctoral research in UCF’s Computational Fluid and Aerodynamics Laboratory, investigating virus transmission through sneezes and coughs. “I want to continue research related to spray formation,” he says. “This type of investigation has applications related to fuel combustion, irrigation and airborne viruses. I look forward to involving Westmont students in these projects that are so relevant and current to our society.”

Fontes earned his Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and doctorate from Federal University of Uberlandia in Brazil.

He says he was drawn to Westmont primarily for its Christ- centered environment. “I believe that as Christians we need to be excellent in all we do because it should be done for the Lord,” he says.

Fontes has had a great experience with the students in his online Numerical Methods class. “They have shown a great sense of commitment and interest,” he says. “In my classes, I want to show students that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I need to be as coherent and committed with teaching as I am in my life.”

He and his wife, Bruna, are expecting their first child.

Johan Estrada López teaching

Estrada López was a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán for more than 15 years. His research focuses on applications related to the Internet of Things, a network that allows devices such as kitchen appliances or a thermostat to send and receive information. “As an electrical engineer, I am mostly interested in system design for power management, energy harvesting and achieving a perpetual battery-operated device,” he says. “Imagine you want to measure the structural health of a bridge, so you put sensors over it. If the batteries die every five or six years, it’s going to cost a lot to replace them. We want them to be perpetually operating, ideally, by harvesting energy from different sources: sun, wind, mechanical vibrations, thermal gradients and radio frequency signals.”

Estrada López also experiments with smart wireless sensors developed for agriculture, wearables and environmental monitoring. “My research requires expertise in engineering as well as computer science, chemistry and medicine,” he says. “A diverse and interdisciplinary student research team would provide a great learning experience for any undergraduate student.”

In the spring, he taught Circuits and Electronics, a lab, and Dynamics, which studies the motion of objects. “The students are working hard,” he said during the semester. “I put high expectations on them, and they’re responding.”

Estrada López, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering at Texas A&M University, has worked professionally as a layout engineer for Vidatronic Inc. and a power delivery intern at Intel Corporation.

“I was mainly captivated by Westmont’s vision and mission of integrating faith into research, learning and daily work,” he says. “After working many years at a public university, being able to communicate my faith to students and integrate my faith into my professional life was an interesting and captivating idea. The relationships and dynamics that occur between students and professors is different here than at many institutions.”

He and his wife, Liliana, have two daughters.