College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences; Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access

Mechanical engineering professor creates collaboration between students in Clemson and Mexico


Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has worked diligently to strengthen Clemson’s ties with universities in Mexico. One recent example is the International Internship in Engineering Design program, which he started in collaboration with professor Tim Guggisberg and colleagues at the Universidad de Guanajuato in the summer of 2021 after a few years of discussion with the Hispanic Network of Michelin.

The core tenant of the five-week online summer program is to assemble international teams of students who tackle a problem of international industry.

Martinez-Duarte grew up in Los Mochis in Sinaloa, Mexico. He pursued his undergraduate degree in Monterrey, Mexico, and came to the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. at the University of California, Irvine, in 2010. He spent three years at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Switzerland before coming to Clemson in 2013 because he had seen the uptrend of Hispanics and Latinos at the University and wanted to be part of it.

A nighttime image of a group of 6 people dressed in orange and purple and one dressed in a skeleton Day of the Dead suit with a sombrero gather around the Clemson Tiger cub.

He is the first in his family to live in the U.S. and has made it his mission to make Clemson a welcoming place for Hispanics and Latinos. He is involved in multiple initiatives to that end, including organizing Clemson’s Day of the Dead celebration, serving on the Commission of Latino Affairs as a founding member and past chair, and being the faculty adviser for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

It is important to me to maintain these traditions because I consider them part of my identity.

Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte, associate professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

“We are collaborating with universities in Mexico — the Universidad de Guanajuato and Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus Leon — and with Michelin plants both in the Upstate and around Leon, Mexico,” says Martinez-Duarte. “The plan is to keep growing this program, include other universities and companies, and eventually implement a hybrid program where students from Mexico and Clemson can travel to the other location and participate in the program.” 

In 2022 Martinez-Duarte presented two papers about this and other collaborations at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition in Minneapolis; one in collaboration with ITESO Universidad, Mexico and one in collaboration with Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico and Michelin both in the U.S. and Mexico. In 2023, the Clemson team started collaborating with Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus Leon as well.

“The program with Michelin is growing stronger,” said Martinez-Duarte. “The groups are usually around 20 Clemson students and around 10 Mexico students. We just completed our third iteration this summer and planning the fourth for summer 2024!”

Rodrigo also collaborates with researchers in his alma mater, Tecnologico de Monterrey Campus Monterrey, on the use of electric fields to separate biotargets in the context of healthcare diagnostics. This collaboration, emphasizing undergraduate research, has so far produced one important review paper in 2022 and two research manuscripts in the pipeline. Additionally, in 2016, he and Clemson colleague, Hugo Sanabria from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, obtained a grant from the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund to enable travel and exchange of students between Clemson and Tecnologico de Monterrey in 2016 and 2017. 

Martinez-Duarte has received numerous awards for service and teaching in his ten years at Clemson including the 2023 Provost Senior Tenured Outstanding Teacher Award, the highest award for teaching for senior faculty; the 2023 Phil Prince Innovation in Teaching Award, the highest award for teaching from student government; the 2022 Murray Stokely Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest award for teaching in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences (CECAS), the 2021 Impact Award from the Hispanic/LatinX Heritage Month committee, and the 2019 Esin Gulari Leadership and Service Award, the highest award for service and leadership from CECAS.

A bald man wearing a white lab coat peers into a white microscope.

Despite that impressive array of awards, Martinez-Duarte says his proudest accomplishment at Clemson thus far has been seeing the Day of the Dead celebration grow each year he’s been involved.

“Seeing how the Day of the Dead celebration grows and grows every year and how people enjoy it so much, and when they thank us for keeping this tradition alive all the way here in Clemson, it feels great,” he says. “Seeing students graduate is a close second!”