Jesus Badal will be bringing a wealth of life experience with him when he moves from Washington, D.C. to Clemson University this fall to begin pursuing a Ph.D. in civil engineering under Dr. Qiushi Chen.
Jesus emigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago in 2002 at 21 years old with the hope of pursuing a degree in aeronautical engineering. However, due to educational requirements, tuition costs and his limited finances, Jesus had to put his dream on hold.
Instead, he used his experience working with concrete and carpentry to find a job in construction, a field in which he would eventually become a supervisor for a roofing company in Washington, D.C. It was a physically demanding job that had him lugging bundles of shingles up a ladder to help save time.
“Back then I was benching probably 250, easy,” Jesus said.
Then Jesus suffered injuries to his neck and back in a 2013 car crash that required four surgeries and left him unable to do physical labor any longer, he said. In the aftermath, Jesus remembers he and his wife, Kimlyn, having a serious conversation– one that would shift his trajectory toward Clemson.
“You’re really smart,” Jesus remembers her saying. “Why don’t you go back to school?”
Although he initially thought he was maybe too old, he pressed on. Jesus started off by getting his high school diploma from a school near his house. Jesus then enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia, where he earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science, both in civil engineering.
He excelled academically. Jesus served as president of the university’s American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter, the president of the university’s STEM Ambassadors, vice president of the university’s Water Environment Federation student chapter, and captain of the university’s steel bridge team. He also acted as a founding member of other student organizations on campus, took part in research and became a NASA CAM-STAR research student in which he used DEM simulations to investigate the geotechnical properties of lunar regolith.
Jesus first learned about Clemson from Dr. Chen when Jesus was working on a NASA-funded project for his master’s thesis, and Dr. Chen was his mentor and collaborator. Jesus also had a chance to visit campus for a weekend in January, all expenses paid, through STEM ALL-IN.
As part of the program, prospective graduate students have a chance to meet with faculty, students and staff. A big part of the goal is to increase the number of students who are from groups underrepresented in STEM.
As a Ph.D. student, Jesus will be a member of the Bridge to Doctorate Program and build on the research he conducted for his master’s thesis and the work he did last summer as a NASA intern. Jesus plans to study a topic of interest he learned of as a NASA intern . That topic is drilling into frozen regolith at the poles on the moon.
Back here on Earth, Jesus and Kimlyn have three children: Jesus, Jr., Malachi and Ethan– and we are excited to have them join the Clemson Family!
Please help us welcome them!
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