UCF Physics Alumna Paves Pathway for Future Research
Dr. Clara Rivero-Baleine, ’01, ’03, ’05, was honored as the 2015 Outstanding Physics AlumKnight at the inaugural award ceremony in February.
Her continued commitment to excellence in the industry along with her pioneering efforts in research and development are just some of the reasons the UCF Physics Department nominated her for the award.
Dr. Rivero-Baleine graduated from UCF in 2005 with a doctorate in optics and a joint doctorate in materials science from the University of Bordeaux 1 in France. Prior to that she obtained her master’s degree in optics and her bachelor’s degree in physics from UCF.
Her hard work and dedication lead her to her current position as a mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando. She works in applied research and development, focusing on nanomaterials and metamaterials for optical and photonic applications.
Some of her many awards and recognitions include becoming the recipient of the 2007 Individual Excellence Award, 2009 National Women of Color Technology Star, and 2009 & 2012 Lockheed Martin Innovate the Future Contest team finalist.
Dr. Rivero-Baleine has also served as a National Science Foundation panelist and journal article referee. In addition, she has participated as the Lockheed Martin Principal Investigator on multiple UCF optics and photonics collaborations over the years.
“The education and training I received at UCF provided me with the foundation to work in exciting research areas such as nanotechnology and metamaterials. Today I am honored to be able to collaborate side by side with UCF scientists to provide solutions to complex problems in areas of advanced optical materials,” Dr. Rivero-Baleine said.
Dr. Rivero-Baleine shared more on her time at UCF, her current position, and offered advice to students and alumni.
Why did you choose to attend UCF?
Primarily because of my family. My family members who were able to leave Cuba live here in Orlando, and I am very close to them. UCF is a great university and it’s right here in Orlando, so there was no need for me to go anywhere else.
Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?
Have you stayed involved with UCF since graduation? If so, how?
Because of my work at Lockheed Martin in research and development, I have the pleasure of collaborating with different UCF professors.
What is your best UCF memory?
I have many great memories at UCF. Graduation was the best memory with my family. Working in the physics and CREOL labs are my best memories with my friends. And I also met my husband Erwan at UCF. That was the beginning of our life together and now we have an amazing four year old boy named Alexian.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
The research. I have the privilege to work with very talented people in the applied research group at Lockheed Martin and with the best scientists at universities like UCF and Penn State. We are trying to solve problems and come up with solutions for our next generation’s systems. I love the challenge.
What is your most memorable experience on the job?
My most memorable experience on the job was when I had the opportunity and privilege to have lunch with our former CTO, Dr. Ray Johnson. In 2009, my former Lockheed Martin colleague (also a UCF grad) and I submitted an entry to an internal Lockheed Martin contest called Innovate the Future. I will never forget it because being two young engineers, it was certainly a surprise when we were notified we were selected as finalists in the contest. We presented our project to a panel of Lockheed Martin executives and were delighted to hear afterwards we had won. Consequently, Dr. Johnson handed me a giant check, literally as tall as me, and then I had the honor to sit and very informally discuss with him during lunch.
What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?
Always follow your dreams. The first time I saw the logo, “UCF stands for opportunity” I just loved it. It felt real. UCF gave me the opportunity to follow my dreams. I would encourage all students to take advantage of the opportunities that UCF has to offer.
Dr. Rivero-Baleine answered some fun questions in our 30 second get-to-know-you portion of the spotlight.
Do you play an instrument?
I wish I had that talent, but unfortunately I don’t. I don’t even dance, which is a joke with my family because of my Cuban background. Supposedly, I should be a great dancer, but they say it skipped a generation.
Describe your ideal Saturday night.
A romantic dinner.
What or who inspires you?
Two women have been an inspiration for me. The first is my mother, who came to the U.S. alone, with me, a teenager at the time, and my brother, a nine-month-old baby. She sacrificed for us, so that could have a better future. The other is my former advisor, Dr. Kathleen Richardson, who inspired me professionally. She is an example to other women scientists because of her career accomplishments, dedication to science, and the many opportunities she provides to her students.
Do you have any nicknames?
Not really, although some of my colleagues call me “Little Chica.”