Wirz Research Group Photo


Professor, Aerospace Engineering

  • Director, UCLA Plasma & Space Propulsion Laboratory
  • Director, UCLA Energy Innovation Laboratory
  • Chair, UCLA MAE Fluid Mechanics
  • Faculty Affiliate, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Ph.D., M.S., Aeronautics and Applied Sciences, Caltech
  • B.S. Ocean Engineering, B.S. Aerospace Engineering, Virginia Tech


Postdoctoral Researcher, Plasma

  • Currently working on the Plasma-Material Interactions and Plasma Medicine
  • Received PhD in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from The George Washington University
  • Received Master’s degree in Engineering Mechanics from Chinese Academy of Sciences

Project Scientist, Electrospray

  • Currently working on lifetime analysis of electrospray thrusters;
  • Postdoctoral study and research in Putterman lab in the UCLA physics department, studying triboelectric X-ray emission;
  • Received PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK in 2012 studying environmentally friendly explosives and ballistics;
  • Graduated University of Cambridge, UK in 2006 with a Masters in Natural Sciences.

Graduate Students

Ph.D. Student, NASA Space Technology Research Fellow, Boeing Fellow

  • Research Topic: Development of a miniature DC ion engine
  • Previous Research: Plasma functionalization of microwave photonic crystals
  • Internships: Electric propulsion research at GRC and JPL
  • Funded through a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship for MiXI TRL advancement
  • B.S. Aerospace Engineering, Auburn University, 2014

Ph.D. Student, MAE Fellow

  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering and Astrophysics, Rutgers University, 2016
  • Currently studying drift instabilities associated with ExB discharges and electrospray thruster lifetime

Ph.D. Student, NASA Space Technology Research Fellow

  • Currently investigating advanced electrospray concepts and lifetime estimation
  • Previously researched electrospray propulsion while at Busek Co. Inc.
  • Former visiting researcher at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab and Johnson Space Center
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Boston University, 2013

Ph.D. Student, NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunity Fellow

  • Current research interests include plasma-metamaterial composite structures, plasma-material interactions, high-speed electrospray thruster dynamics, and life-limiting mechanisms in electrospray thrusters.
  • Previously researched Field-Reversed Configuration (FRC) propulsion and Hall Thruster facility interactions while at AFRL
  • Previously developed pulsed power systems while at Tri Alpha Energy (now TAE Technologies)
  • Previously researched small-scale, electromagnetic railguns for spacecraft resilience studies at Cal Poly SLO
  • B.S. Electrical Engineering, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 2012

Ph.D. Student, GSR

  • Research Topic: Numerical simulation of electrospray propulsion extraction (OpenFOAM, C++)
  • Internship: DOD HPC Internship Program (HIP) at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Edwards AFB
  • Previous project: Computational modeling on magnetization hysteresis of thin film FeGa(Galfenol) at UCLA
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Sogang University, 2015

Graduate Student, NDSEG Fellow

  • B.S. Physics and Mathematics, Minor in Business, Rhodes College, 2018
  • Goldwater Scholar (2017)
  • Member of electrospray computational team, uses Python to simulate droplet dynamics in electrospray plume

Graduate Student, GSR

  • Research Topic: Plasma-Material Interactions and Secondary Electron Emission from Micro-Architectured Surfaces
  • Previous Position: Plasma Diagnostic Specialist at TAE Technologies, Inc., working on optical diagnostics on the beam-driven fusion reactor, C-2W
  • Internships: DOE fellow at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory researching carbon velvet surfaces for Hall-thrusters, intern at Swiss Plasma Center working on gyrotron development for tokamaks, intern at DESY (Germany) researching synchrotron crystallography of proteins
  • B. S. in Physics from Cal State Northridge, 2016

Ph.D. Student, NSF Fellow, Aerospace Fellow

  • Research Topic: Investigating the utility of electromagnetic radiated emissions that emanate from a plasma
  • Employment: Propulsion Test Engineer at The Aerospace Corporation
  • M.S. Mechanical Engineering, UCLA, 2017
  • B.S. Aerospace Engineering and Physics, minor in Mathematics, University of Miami, 2015

Graduate Student, NASA Space Technology Research Fellow

  • Research Topic: Fast Optical Emission Spectroscopy (FOES) development for plasma device diagnostics
  • Previously Research: non-intrusive diagnostics of a Hall Thruster at NASA JPL
  • Internships: Electric Propulsion group at JPL (2017, 2018, 2019), Mission Design and Navigation group at JPL (2016)
  • B.S. Aerospace Engineering, UC San Diego, 2019

Ph.D. Student, Graduate Student Researcher

  • Research Topic: Multi-scale modeling of electrospray propulsion
  • Previous Research: Molecular dynamics simulations of ionic liquid thermal and catalytic decomposition
  • Internships: Research assistant at AFRL (2017), Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow at Caltech-JPL (2018)
  • B.S. Astronautical Engineering, minor in Physics, University of Southern California, 2019

Graduate Student

  • Research: Cold atmospheric plasma generation for medical applications
  • Internships: Optical diagnostics system development at Crystalline Mirror Solutions
  • B.S. Physics, UC Santa Barbara, 2020

Graduate Student

  • Research Topic: Time of flight system design for electrospray characterization
  • Internships: Electromagnetic structures research at Toyon Research Corporation
  • B.S. Electrical Engineering, UC Santa Barbara, 2019

Graduate Student, GSR

  • Research Topic: Ion-induced secondary electron emission for applications in electrospray thrusters
  • Previous Research: Molten salt fuels and coolants to be used in commercial molten salt reactors (MSR)
  • Internships: Quality engineering at Aerojet Rocketdyne and a summer fellowship with the Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR)
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering, minor in Computer Science, Brigham Young University, 2019


Adrienne Lavine

Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, UCLA

Benjamin Jorns

Assistant Professor, University of Michigan

Dan Goebel

Senior Research Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Gani Ganapathi

Principal Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Mario Merino Martínez

Assistant Professor, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Miguel Garcia-Garibay

Professor, Chair, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCLA

Nasr Ghoniem

Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, UCLA

Pirouz Kavehpour

Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, UCLA

Reza Baghaei Lakeh

Assistant Professor, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Ryudo Tsukizaki

Assistant Professor, JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science

Undergraduate Students

Richard Obenchain

3rd Year Aerospace Engineering, Plasma Medicine Research

Max Hegglin

2nd Year Materials Engineering Major, Plasma Material Interactions Research

Emma Peavler

4th Year Astrophysics Major, Plasma Metamaterials Research

Ahmad Hafizuddin

2nd Year Electrical Engineering Major

Daniel Ahn

3rd Year Aerospace Engineering Major

Juan-Pablo Almanza-Soto

4th Year Aerospace Engineering Major, Ion Thruster Modeling and Experiment

Andrew Evans

4th Year Aerospace Engineering Major, MiXI/Project RAPID

David Curry

4th Year Aerospace Engineering Major, Electrospray Modeling Research

Mihir Sharma

4th Year Aerospace Engineering Major, Electrospray Modeling Research

Miles Richmond

3rd Year Aerospace Engineering Major, Electrospray Modeling Research

Lab Staff

Amanda Gordillo

Administrative Assistant

Ph.D. (Alumni)

Gary Li

Ph.D. 2020

Spacecraft Systems Engineer, The Aerospace Corporation

Thesis: Plasma Sputtering Behavior of Structured Materials

Cesar Huerta

Ph.D. 2019

Research Scientist, Air Force Research Lab

Kaiyuan Jin

Ph.D. 2019

Postdoctoral Scholar, UCLA

Thesis: Thermofluidics of Sulfur-based Thermal Energy Storage.

Yide Wang

Ph.D. 2019

Researcher, Element 16

Chris Dodson

Ph.D. 2018

Postdoctoral Fellow, Swiss Plasma Center

Thesis: Ion Heating in Hollow Cathode Plumes

Marlene Patino

Ph.D. 2017

Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSD Center for Energy Research

Thesis: Plasma inter-particle and particle-wall interactions

Ben Dankongkakul

Ph.D. 2017

Research Scientist, Air Force Research Lab

Thesis: Overcoming the Scaling Limitations of Ring-Cusp DC Ion Thruster Discharges

Phillip Chiu

Ph.D. 2017

Aerodynamics Research Engineer, Envision Energy

Thesis: Aerodynamics and design of biplane wind turbine blades

Gabriela Bran-Anleu

Ph.D. 2016

R&D S&E, Mechanical Engineering, Sandia National Laboratories

Thesis topic: Complex Heat Exchangers for Improved Performance

Ryan Conversano

Ph.D. 2015

Technologist, Electric Propulsion Group, JPL

Thesis: Low-Power Magnetically Shielded Hall Thrusters

Samuel Jun Araki

Ph.D. 2014

Computational Scientist, Air Force Research Laboratory

Thesis: Multi-Scale Multi-Species Modeling for Plasma Devices

Perry Roth-Johnson

Ph.D. 2014

Assistant Curator, Aerospace Science | California Science Center

Thesis: Aero-structural design investigations for biplane wind turbine blades.

Hann-Shin Mao

Ph.D. 2012

Postdoctoral Scholar, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Thesis: DC plasma discharges for plasma propulsion applications