Research Team


Christopher Combs

Dr. Combs is the Dee Howard Endowed Assistant Professor in Aerodynamics in the UTSA Department of Mechanical Engineering. Prior to starting at UTSA, Dr. Combs worked as a Research Assistant Professor at The University of Tennessee Space Institute. His primary area of research interest is in the development and application of non-intrusive diagnostic techniques for compressible flows and he also has extensive experience in investigations of hypersonic boundary layer and SWBLI flow physics. Dr. Combs is active with AIAA, ASME, and APS and is a current member of the AIAA Aerodynamic Measurement Technology Technical Committee.


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Graduate Students

Angelina Andrade

Angelina was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She attended the University of North Texas from Fall 2016 to Fall 2019 and graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical and Energy Engineering. Following her undergraduate studies, Angelina continued her education as a graduate student at UTSA pursuing an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a thermal and fluid system concentration. She joined the Hypersonics Lab fall of 2021 and her current research interests are using laser diagnostics to study high-speed flows. She continued her research studies under Dr. Combs as a Ph.D. student starting fall of 2022.

Mark Anguiano

Mark received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from UTSA in 2019 and is now pursuing a Master’s degree with a concentration in thermal and fluid systems. Mark will be part of the team developing a power-generation loop that uses supercritical CO2 as the working fluid. His work in the Rotating Machinery Dynamics section at SwRI also gives him the opportunity to apply his studies directly to the engineering field.

Valeria Delgado


Valeria was born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. During her undergraduate studies, she was involved in the Society of Automotive Engineers and served as aerodynamics lead her senior year. Alongside her team, she earned the UTSA Excellence in Engineering Award for placing among the top three best capstone projects. Upon graduating in the Spring of 2020, she transitioned into becoming a Graduate Research Assistant in the Combs Hypersonics Laboratory, contributing to the first diaphragm rupture tests and coding the wind tunnel virtual interface. She is currently leading the UTSA aerodynamics experimental validation in the NASA ULI Full Airframe Sensing Technology (FAST) project, implementing the pressure-sensitive paint (PSP) technique on a hypersonic concept model. She is pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Fluids and Thermal Systems under the mentorship of Dr. Combs.

Abinayaa Dhanagopal

Abinayaa Dhanagopal was born and raised in Chennai, India. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from India and a dual master’s degree from Iowa State University (ISU) in Aerospace and mechanical engineering. Leveraging low-speed fluid instabilities, she developed a wind energy harvesting apparatus using cantilevered piezoelectric actuators at ISU’s multiphase flow research laboratory. She joined the Combs Research Group at UTSA in the fall of 2022 as a Ph.D. student. Her research interests lie in hypersonic aerodynamics, combustion, and laser diagnostics. She considers space a unifying force, draws inspiration from space exploration’s technological and philosophical bearings, and eventually hopes to build a career in the same.

Brandon Donald

Brandon graduated with his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in Spring 2020 from The University of Texas at San Antonio. The following semester, he began pursuing his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Thermal Fluid Systems. He is involved in research in both the UTSA Hypersonics Lab and the UTSA Laser Spectroscopy and Chemical Propulsion Lab. His primary research area is the application of high-speed non-intrusive diagnostic techniques for the characterization of detonations. Upon graduation, he aspires to apply his knowledge to the development and testing of more efficient propulsion systems to improve accessibility to space flight and travel.

Emilio Hernandez

Emilio completed his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin in 2014. He went on to develop drone solutions for an aerial imaging company and worked as a data engineer specializing in image processing for terrain model creation. His current research interest is in studying supercritical carbon dioxide flows using advanced visualization techniques to better understand the fluid dynamics of supercritical systems and ultimately aid the research effort aimed at designing more efficient thermodynamic cycles for energy production. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering while providing assistance in the UTSA Hypersonic Laboratory.


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Eugene Hoffman



Eugene Hoffman was born in Accra, Ghana, and received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Evansville in 2016. His past research experience involves the proof of concept and practical applications of a two-loop thermosiphon system. His current research interests include experimental supersonic and hypersonic aerodynamics with a focus on shock-wave/boundary layer interactions.

David Kendhammer

David was born in La Crosse, WI, and went to the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and the University of Wisconsin – – Platteville for bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Mechanical Engineering through a dual-degree program. This included research in nuclear physics and piezoelectric materials. He then went to Iowa State University for Aerospace Engineering with a focus on orbital dynamics. His thesis was the improvement to a solution for the Global Trajectory Optimization Competition 11 problem statement. In the Fall of 2022, he began his Ph.D. Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in thermal and fluid systems and is a part of the UTSA Hypersonic Laboratory.

Elijah LaLonde

Elijah LaLonde was born in Alvin, Texas in 1996. He earned his B.S. in physics, graduating Summa Cum Laude, in 2018 from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. He did undergraduate research in photovoltaics at Texas State University from the summer of 2018 until graduating at the end of 2018. After finishing his undergraduate studies, he took a year to continue his research in photovoltaics and explore his interests in Electromagnetic Field Theory and Fluid Dynamics. In the fall of 2020, he began his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at UTSA as a part of the Combs research group. Since then, he has worked with SwRI on the CONNECT project and is currently studying hypersonic separation events through a grant awarded through the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics.

Kenneth Perez


Kenneth Perez received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas at San Antonio in May 2016. He will further his education and pursue a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in Thermal & Fluid Systems. Kenneth interned as a tooling engineer for Boeing working on fighter jets and cargo planes in the Summer of 2021. Additionally, he interned at Ball Aerospace as a technical cryogenics engineer supporting payload instrumentation thermal analysis. He has accepted a full-time role as a rocket propulsion test engineer at Aerojet Rocketdyne where he will be testing ramjets and scramjets engines for hypersonic space defense systems. Outside of work he enjoys exercising, hiking, biking, hanging out with friends and learning anything dealing with hypersonics, fluids, and rockets.

Nathan Strasser

Nathan grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and graduated in May 2022 from UNC-Wilmington with a B.S. in Chemistry and a minor in Mathematics. He interned at a biotech startup over the summers, developing a conventional vaccine technology used to make a COVID-19 vaccine and a quadrivalent flu vaccine. During the school year, he researched optimization of mutated T7 polymerase to suppress mRNA byproducts. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and conducting research in the Combs Hypersonic Lab. Nathan plans to use his skillset in chemistry to advance hypersonic research before and after graduation.


Chad Williamson

Chad Williamson was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, and earned his B.S. in Mathematics from Truman State University in 2012. He then pursued a software career which included positions at MasterCard, Google, Vynca, and iovation (now TransUnion). After completing his M.S. in Mathematics at Portland State University in 2022, he entered the Ph.D. program in Mechanical Engineering at UTSA as part of the hypersonics research group.

Undergraduate Students

Veronika Granado


Veronika Granado is from the Rio Grande Valley and is currently pursuing her B.S. in Mechanical engineering at UTSA. After graduation, she plans to work in the industry before pursuing a graduate degree in aerospace. She joined the Hypersonics Lab in Summer 2021 and began to work with Pressure Sensitive Paint (PSP). Veronika is currently designing a device to measure the moment of inertia of test articles as her capstone project. Outside of school, Veronika likes to practice martial arts and roller skating.

Sofía Gutiérrez


Sofía Gutiérrez is a sophomore Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia. She has taken courses in robotics, programming, scientific computing, data analysis, engineering, and languages such as English, French, and German. She was part of the electric traction vehicle team at the University of Antioquia, “Squalo Martello,” in charge of the 3D design for the vehicle’s cockpit, implementing aerodynamic requirements to the user’s needs. She belongs to the Mechanical Design Research Group (GDM) at the University of Antioquia. She is the leader of the “APIDAE (Adaptación Producción e Investigación de Drones de Alta Eficiencia)” Research line, which focuses on designing and manufacturing drones, where she specializes in generative design and additive manufacturing. During the 2022 Spring, she did a research internship on generative design and topological optimization of drone structures at Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. During the Summer of 2022, she worked as a CAMEE research intern at the Hypersonics lab at the University of Texas at San Antonio, assisting with high-speed wind tunnel testing and developing data and image analysis with shock wave/boundary layer interaction, pressure-sensitive paint, shade tracking, background subtraction, spectral analysis. She will pursue a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace engineering to make her dream come true of being a NASA scientist. She enjoys nature and art and loves trail running in her free time.

Patrick Hughes


Patrick Hughes is a first-year undergraduate student at UTSA majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Political Science. He joined Dr. Combs’ research group in Fall 2022 and hopes to gain research experience, grow his knowledge in the field of hypersonic testing. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. In his free time Patrick likes to yo-yo, read, and hike.

Brenda Perez

Brenda Perez was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. She began her undergraduate studies at Texas A&M International University in 2019, and in the fall of 2021, Brenda transferred to UTSA to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. In the spring of 2022, she joined UTSA’s Hypersonics Lab where she is currently working as an undergraduate research assistant. Her current projects include assisting in the research of hypersonic separation events and developing a new data acquisition triggering system to use during wind tunnel testing. In her free time, Brenda enjoys reading, working on art projects, and spending time with her friends.

Edward Gonzalez Rebollar

Edward was born in Mexico City and raised in San Antonio, Texas. He is currently a third-year undergraduate student at UTSA pursuing a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Business Administration. Edward joined Dr. Combs’ research lab in Spring 2022 and is currently assisting in research on hypersonic separation events funded through the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics. After graduation, he plans on pursuing a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with friends and playing the guitar.

Neil Sawant

Neil Sawant is a second-year mechanical engineering undergraduate at UTSA. He is from India and came to UTSA for his undergraduate studies in 2021. He joined Dr. Combs’ lab in the Summer of his Freshman year as a Citymester intern. He currently works with the Hypersonics Lab as an undergraduate research assistant, helping run experiments and designing equipment for the lab. After graduating, Neil hopes to complete a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from a prestigious institution. In his free time, he likes playing video games, occasionally mountain bikes, and works with the FSAE club at UTSA.


Graduate: Stephanie Cottier (MS, ’19, St. Mary’s U.); Prince Dukuze (MS, ’20, CPS Energy); Raj Patel (MS, ’21, Axiom Space); Diego Bass (MS, ’21, Navistar); Dean Kaialau (MS, ’21, Aerospace Corp.); Matt Garcia (MS, ’22)

Undergraduate: George Gonzalez (BS ’19, Boeing), DJ Bell (BS ’19, Boeing), Christopher Kunz (BS ’19, Boeing), Anmar Jabbar (BS ’19, Pike Corp.), Jordan Foster (BS ’20, L3 Harris), Dean Kaialau (BS ’20), Tomas Bello (BS ’20, HEB), Diana Magana (BS ’20, HEB), Raj Patel (BS ’20), Matt Garcia (BS ’20), Michael Rittenberry (BS ’20), Natasia Upadhaya (BS ’20), Ivana Chen (BS ’22, Rolls Royce), Hayden Bilbo (BS ’22), Austin Rendon (BS ’22, JHU-APL)