Javier Gonzalez-Rocha can still remember the long journey his family would take from Watsonville to Mexico each October. Like thousands of other farm workers, Gonzalez-Rocha and his family would remain at a location as long as work was available. Along with his parents, he picked crops from fields on both sides of the border until the age of 17. Despite his challenging situation, Gonzalez-Rocha’s strong work ethic and intelligence provided him with opportunities that changed his life forever.
Throughout his time working in the fields, Gonzalez-Rocha was always eager to attend school and learn new information. His parents always encouraged him to continue his education to live a better life and not go through what they did. Gonzalez-Rocha stated, “It allowed me to appreciate my parent’s hard work year-round to provide a roof and put food on our kitchen’s table. I learned that the journeys of farmworkers like my parents needed to transcend beyond the fields in meaningful ways through younger generations.”
Despite Gonzalez-Rocha’s love for school, his situation traveling from field to field inhibited any stable education. “I did very well in all of my classes and felt frustrated when we left. I often saw myself fall behind in my school work because of my family’s job.”
As a result, he cherished each moment he was in school and tried to get the best of it. Throughout high school, Gonzalez-Rocha worked hard and excelled in all of the STEM subjects. From a young age, he enjoyed solving problems around him and never let any obstacles get in his way.
In 2004, Gonzalez-Rocha enrolled at Sacramento State and majored in mechanical engineering. After acquiring a master’s degree from Sacramento State in 2012, his academic success landed him an opportunity to work at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. There, he worked on a research project with other top engineers in the country; specifically, this was the Primary Research Aerodynamic Design to Lower Drag (PRANDTL-D) Project.
Throughout the success of his career, he never forgot his roots and ultimately gave back to the community that raised him. In 2014, he worked at the migrant camp in Sacramento State where he developed an advanced curriculum that introduced teens to the world of engineering. This program helped and encouraged Latinos to get more involved in all STEM fields.
Gonzalez-Rocha is currently working to acquire his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. After completing his studies, he plans on continuing to support the STEM fields throughout the U.S.