Mirella Vargas

Research Engineer, Southwest Research Institute

Mirella Vargas is currently a research engineer in the Materials Science and Failure Analysis Group at Southwest Research Institute. She supports and conducts metallurgical failure analyses for a variety of clients. Vargas is a recent hire and as she gains experience, she hopes to be a part of applied research projects involving, metals, advanced materials, and coatings in diverse applications using a wide range of materials and chemical characterization tools. 

Vargas previously worked at the NAVAIR Fleet Readiness Center Southeast supporting the repair and overhaul of NAVY based aircraft and weapon systems. She conducted various metallurgical failure analyses on structural airframe and engine components, and provided manufacturing instructions for flight critical components.  While at NAVAIR, Vargas routinely developed component specific processing reports for welding, heat-treating, and surface finishing operations. 

During her graduate work at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Vargas focused on the fabrication and characterization of nanostructured thin films for optoelectronic and photovoltaic device applications. She worked with titanium and tungsten based mixed oxide thin films fabricated by physical vapor deposition techniques- including radio frequency (rf) and direct current (dc) magnetron sputtering. The deposition parameters were varied to ultimately tailor the visible absorption of the films in order to exhibit a high transparency and critical conductivity for application as transparent conducting oxides. Vargas successfully published various articles on the structure-function properties developed by variable deposition parameters on tungsten and titanium oxide thin films. Her graduate work was in support of a National Science Foundation partnership between UTEP and The University of California, Santa Barbara PREM (Partnerships Research Education and Materials) to promote interdisciplinary research for the advancement of materials in sustainable energy production. 

Current Job/Position

Research Engineer at Southwest Research Institute

Developing an Interest in Materials Science

Vargas' high school physics teacher, Mr. King made sure his students knew about the College of Engineering at UTEP.  He hosted various professors from the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department at Andress High School to come in and present on basic materials science principles and materials properties. 

Interests and Hobbies

  • Technical interests: Metallurgical failure analysis, coatings, sustainable energy technologies
  • Hobbies: Cooking and cooking with friends, Watching Netflix 

Future goals

  • Become a professional engineer in the state of Texas
  • Participate in outreach opportunities for minority students (K-12 grades)

Impact of PREM

"As a graduate student working with PREM, we were always part of teams made up of individuals with different technical backgrounds (chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, materials engineering, etc.). My experience working in multidisciplinary teams has been a solid foundation for my career.  

A technical foundation that PREM has instilled in its research students are property relationships in materials based on processing. Knowing the materials science of a compound, i.e crystal structure, chemical and electronic structure, we are able to tailor the properties to a specific application.  Having this principle has been fundamental to my job when performing materials failure analysis."