ADELPHI, Md. -- A U.S. Army Research Laboratory materials engineer and United States Marine Corps veteran received his doctorate after spending more than three years working alongside some of the "best researchers in the business."

Dr. Manuel Rivas works on the PiezoMEMS Team within the lab's Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch.

This month, he received his doctorate in materials science and engineering from the University of Connecticut, an achievement made while simultaneously working to develop disruptive technology for the Soldier.

Before receiving his doctorate, Rivas earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Texas Pan American in 2012 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He then obtained a master's degree in materials science and engineering in 2015 also from the University of Connecticut.

Rivas learned of and became interested in ARL while working on his masters, where his thesis involved in situ measurement for micro electro mechanical systems, or MEMS, devices using atomic force microscopy.

The switches he worked on were fabricated by the PiezoMEMS Team at ARL. Rivas's research involves enhancing the devices Soldiers need to safely carry out their missions on the battlefield.

"My first project was to optimize the deposition of iridium oxide as a top electrode for PiezoMEMS devices that have many applications such as sensors, actuators, mechanical relays, integrated switches and filters for radio systems," Rivas said. "These applications could then be used as components for satellites, which are ever decreasing in size."

Rivas's next big project was to study the effects of radiation on the materials and the device performance to see if in fact these devices could be used to improve communication and Positioning, Navigation and Timing, or PNT.

According to Rivas, ARL and the positive environment the organization fosters played a huge role in where he is today.

"What I have enjoyed the most at ARL are the relationships I've made with people who work here, from fellow scientists and engineers, to people on the administration side of things," Rivas said. "When my summer internship ended, I told everyone I had learned more in one summer here than my entire master's degree due to the vast amount of knowledge I gained. ARL is a very educationally friendly work environment that allows you to grow not just as a scientist and engineer, but as a person as well."

Outside of the lab, Rivas enjoys going to the gym, riding his motorcycle and taking online courses to further improve in different areas such as electronics and circuits, public policy and space studies.

He is also currently building a functional, minus the flying capability, Iron Man suit to join Hope for Henry, an organization that visits children in hospitals dressed up as super heroes.

---

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.