Skip to main content Skip to main navigation Skip to footer content

Lyles College of Engineering

Kassandra Hernandez

Mechanical engineering grad hopes to inspire next generation

Kassandra Hernandez thought she was destined to work in the medical field. She was taking classes to become a doctor, but she soon realized it wasn’t the right fit for her. 

She decided to leave Pacific Union College to go to Clovis Community College and explore career paths in engineering.

“My interest in engineering started when I was young. I always liked to mess around with things,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to work on cars for as long as I can remember.”

At 8 a.m. Saturday, May 18, Hernandez will graduate with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Lyles College of Engineering commencement ceremony at the Save Mart Center. 

Hernandez, who was a Graduate Dean’s Medalist nominee for the Lyles College, previously earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Fresno State in 2022.

“If you had told me five years ago that this is where I was going to be now, I would have said, ‘Yeah, I don’t know about that,’ but it’s crazy and it’s awesome because I’ve been putting in this work and work has been proving itself so it’s very nice to see,” Hernandez said. 

Hernandez is leaving a mark on the college with significant contributions to research, including a two-part graduate thesis.

For the first part of her research, she used datasets from an online repository through NASA and specific variables related to wildfire prediction based on past research in other areas around the world to predict wildfires in the Central Valley.

“Living here in the Central Valley, we want to have fewer fires, especially because it makes the air worse and can cause asthma and other health concerns related to the prominence of wildfires, so doing this research and having something impactful in the long term was what I wanted to focus on,” Hernandez said.

Through her findings, she was able to create a map of specific hotspot regions that resources can be devoted to to diminish the amount of wildfires. Her manuscript for this research was published in the Elsevier Journal Trees, Forest and People.

The second part of her research focused on using machine learning algorithms to develop three-phase composite materials that are lead-free and can potentially be used for sensors in wearable devices like smartwatches.

Hernandez presented her research at the 2023 Materials Research Society Fall Meeting and Exhibit and most recently at the 2024 Materials Research Society Spring Meeting and Exhibit in Seattle.

“The reason I went into teaching was to have the experience of working with students like Kassandra,” said Dr. Aaron Hoskins, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “It has been such a pleasure to see her growth over the past few years. She has such a tremendous work ethic and has put so much time and energy into her education. Seeing what she has accomplished now and knowing what she will accomplish in the years to come is fantastic.”

Hernandez also served as a teaching associate for the Engineering Materials Lab, Engineering Graphics, and Computer Applications in Mech Engineering Lab courses as a graduate student. She guided 12-24 students who completed various lab activities and supervised 20-25 students on how to use engineering software.

Hernandez will pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and begin her doctoral studies this fall at Oregon State University. Her research will continue to focus on machine learning. 

“I was one of the few women who went through the graduate program, and I want to be able to not only show that I’ve done it as a woman because it is a little bit harder because of some stereotypes, but to go that step further with the Ph.D. and be able to utilize the knowledge that I have to be impactful to the next generation,” Hernandez said.