• STEM Hero Awards •


Plan and Programs Engineer
Plans and Programs Branch, Integration and Operations Division, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate
Air Force Research Laboratory
U.S. Air Force

Javier Rodriguez is a roboticist for the U.S. Air Force Research Lab in Dayton, Ohio. He joined AFRL in September of 2018 to help the Materials State Awareness Branch leverage robotics and artificial intelligence in aircraft inspections. His role includes integrating cutting-edge robotics with non-destructive evaluation in order to identify defects for repair that inhibit warfighter capability and impact mission life for critical technologies. 

Mr. Rodriguez may be a robotics engineer now, but his background is in neuroscience, making him one of the very few robotics professionals from that field.  Before joining Air Force Research Laboratory, he performed benchtop research at the USC Keck School of Medicine, reengineering immune molecules to impede the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

The multi-disciplinary background that Mr.Rodriguez brings to his career stems from his choice to learn both science and engineering – much rarer combination than one might think. He earned a B.S. in Neuroscience at UCLA, an interdisciplinary study of biology, psychology, biochemistry, mathematics, and engineering. His decision to enter the field stemmed from a desire to better understand the neurodegenerative diseases affecting his grandparent’s cognitive health, which also inspired him to be certified and work as an emergency medical technician while he continued his studies.

Mr. Rodriguez moved to laboratory research when a research associate position at the UCLA Laboratory for Neuro Imaging opened up, giving him an opportunity to analyze brain scans and study neurocognitive development under the direction of neuroscientists. Grateful for the opportunity, he started a mentorship program for high school students at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as a way of giving back to the community.

A year before he was scheduled to graduate, Mr. Rodriguez education was almost stymied when his parents received a removal notice from ICE. Luckily, his petition to adjust his parent’s status was approved, and he was able to complete his initial degree and begin his studies for a second B.S. in Engineering at California State University, Long Beach.

After receiving his second degree, Mr.Rodriguezjoined the Materials State Awareness Branch at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where his work in robotics and artificial intelligence fully utilizes his multi-disciplinary background and his status as a new subject matter expert.