From the time he was 4, Wilson Flores dreamed of being an astronaut. When he was ready to launch his flight path, The Ohio State University helped make it happen.
In late 2019, when NASA launched a Blue Origin rocket to research muscle atrophy in space, it did so with equipment designed by an Ohio State engineering team Flores led. And as airports get safer, they will be so through Federal Aviation Administration research Flores conducted at The Ohio State University Airport.
Flores’ journey to Columbus and beyond has been grounded in a fearlessness inherited from parents who fled war-torn El Salvador in the 1980s. In order to pursue his dreams, Flores made his own journey in August 2013 when he left his Los Angeles home for Ohio State’s campus to pursue aerospace engineering.
“Leaving California was tough,” says Flores, the first member of his family to gain a college degree. “I was looking for the support system I needed to succeed. Ohio State had that.”
On his first visit to Ohio State’s campus during goBuckeye Day—an event for admitted students who are undecided on which college to attend—Flores met Professor Jose Castro, a native of El Salvador. Castro became a mentor who encouraged Flores to take part in the many resources Ohio State offers.
Flores joined a number of student organizations and got involved in research projects. He found several opportunities through the airport, where he earned his pilot’s license and got involved in several research projects, including a linear LED lighting project that earned him national recognition.
Later, his interest in outer space and willingness to make connections outside of engineering paid off when he met Dr. Peter Lee, an assistant professor of cardiac surgery within the College of Medicine, who was overseeing biomedical students working to send artificial muscles into space to document atrophy. Flores became lead research engineer and project manager for the NASA study.
“When I came here, my mindset was: Make an impact,” Flores says. “I’ve definitely done that in many areas.”