Skip to Content
Pioneering Panthers are shaping the future
Clockwise from top left: Brandon Aguiar, Ana Claus, Alexander Rodichkin, Ikechukwu “Ike” Onwuka

Pioneering Panthers are shaping the future

FIU is celebrating the achievements of more than 6,000 Panthers graduating this semester

April 26, 2023 at 2:45pm

This spring FIU will celebrate more than 6,000 graduates during 10 ceremonies April 30 - May 4 at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center. Among the graduates are students working on innovations aimed at shaping the future.

These students will be recognized as Real Triumphs Graduates. The graduates include an interstellar engineer researching the building blocks for sustainable space exploration, a mechanical engineer working on an innovative seawater-fueled battery system, a scientist working on solutions to keep the Everglades from further decline and a researcher laying the groundwork for future treatments of a neurological disease for which there is currently no cure.

“FIU students are brilliant, committed and unstoppable,” said FIU President Kenneth A. Jessell. “These Panthers exemplify the intellect and spirit of FIU students who are looking to make the world a better place from the very beginning of their careers. They make us proud.”

Real Triumphs Graduates include:

  • Brandon Aguiar, 26, uses 3D printing and a material that mimics the moon’s surface, supplied by NASA, to design strong, complex structures that can withstand the harsh lunar environment. The idea is to use the complex structures to eventually construct research bases on the moon for further space exploration. Aguiar’s research has been published in scientific journals and he has applied for a patent for his 3D printing technology. Aguiar, who earned a bachelor’s degree at FIU in 2021, also founded the FIU chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Aguiar’s dream is to one day work for SpaceX or go into space. He will remain at FIU after graduation to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. Aguiar graduates with a master’s degree in materials science and engineering on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m.
  • Ana Claus, 26, began volunteering in the Energy Materials and Biological Sensors Laboratory at FIU, which led to working as an undergraduate research assistant in FIU’s Battery Research Laboratory. Today, the soon-to-be engineer has a patent pending related to her work designing a rechargeable battery system that uses seawater. After graduation, Claus will pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University. She graduates with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m.
  • Ikechukwu “Ike” Onwuka, 31, was an oceanography student in 2010 when the largest marine oil spill in Earth’s history – the Deepwater Horizon spill – occurred. It motivated him to take a more proactive approach in creating solutions. Onwuka’s work is supporting the multibillion-dollar Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Under the guidance of Ph.D. adviser Leonard Scinto, he developed cost-effective, long-term methods to measure the amount of sediment and phosphorus in canals. With these new methods, scientists can now more easily determine when harmful contaminants might enter the Everglades. Among his many honors, Onwuka is one of the first FIU students inducted into the National Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, which recognizes outstanding scholarly achievement and promotes diversity and excellence in doctoral education. Onwuka also is an ambassador of the International Community Engagement Program and a participant in the Male Mentoring Initiative, helping undergraduates adjust to college life. Onwuka graduates with a Ph.D. in earth systems science on Monday, May 1 at 10 a.m.
  • Alexander Rodichkin, 28, dreams of advancing research to understand, prevent and treat neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Rodichkin was inspired by his grandfather’s experience with Parkinson’s and dementia. His research focuses on studying a type of heavy metal called manganese and how high brain concentrations produce a movement disorder called childhood-onset manganese-induced dystonia parkinsonism. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disorder. Under the guidance of Ph.D. adviser Tomás R. Guilarte, Rodichkin discovered a new way of studying the disease and found parts of the brain that were previously thought to be unaffected by the metal were actually affected. Rodichkin‘s research is laying the groundwork to develop therapies for manganese-induced parkinsonism. Rodichkin is the first student to graduate from the Brain, Behavior and the Environment doctoral program. He will stay at FIU after graduation to join the Brain, Behavior and the Environment lab as a post-doctoral associate. Rodichkin will receive a Ph.D. in public health on Tuesday, May 2 at 10 a.m.

All commencement ceremonies will be held at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center, located at MMC, 1180 SW 113th Avenue, Miami.

Media Contact:
Madeline Baró