Meet the Scientists: Ayax Ramirez

Meet the Scientists is an Armed with Science segment highlighting the men and women working in the government realms of science, technology, research and development.  The greatest minds working on the greatest developments of our time.  If you have someone you’d like AWS to highlight for this segment, email Jessica L. Tozer at

Ayax Ramirez, hard at work!  (Photo from SSC Pacific/Released)

Ayax Ramirez, hard at work! (Photo from SSC Pacific/Released)

WHO: Ayax Ramirez. Born in San Diego but raised in Southern Mexico, Ayax refers to this as a “reversed migration” of sorts. His field of expertise is photonics, optics, and laser communications.  Photonics refers to the merging of electronics and light sources. He loves physics, plays the congas, and he’s a staunch supporter of programs to foster STEM interest in children.

TITLE: Division head for Advanced Systems and Applied Sciences Divisions at the Navy’s Space and Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific).  He’s also a college adjunct professor in a small community college where he teaches physics.  Additionally, he created a summer program where college students are able to work at SSC Pacific for ten weeks to actually conduct research alongside our scientists and engineers.

MISSION:  His division covers different technical areas such as robotics, environmental sciences, and even GPS!  In general, the objective is to conduct research and to transition technologies to the warfighter.  It’s a full research cycle, from basic research to the integration of an actual system, type of work, as he explains.  As a leader, Ayax says his objective is to provide a good work environment conducive to be creative and innovative and to make sure that the research conducted in his division will benefit the Navy and the warfighter.

What is it about the work that you do, and that your team does, which makes it so significant?

“We do many things that are very significant.  For example, take the robotics team, and the development of autonomous systems.  When you deploy an autonomous system, you are benefitting our warfighters by not putting them at risk.  Different types of sensors on these autonomous vehicles, wirelessly, collect, retrieve and send data back to a command center where tactical decisions can be made.  I see that as a great advancement and a wonderful tool for our armed forces.”

“It basically gives the warfighter a picture of what’s ahead before it actually happens, providing information dominance.”

“Another great example of what our division does is the ability to model and understand the environment in which our armed forces operate.  Understanding that environment helps the warfighter plan and operate better and make strategic decisions.  Yet another great example is the research we perform in the area of modeling and simulation of novel navigation capabilities providing better navigation technologies for the warfighter.”

How would you use your work to aid in the military and help with military missions?

“Everything is information dominance these days.  What is information dominance?  Well, it’s everything from collecting, transporting, analyzing, filtering, and delivering data; from the sensor all the way to the warfighter.  Part of the information dominance paradigm is that we want everything networked, right? Every sensor, every asset – on the water, on the air, and on the ground – we want everything connected, and we want to know everything that’s going on.  One of the challenges, especially with the underwater assets, is how do we power them?  Some of these sensors may spend days, months or even years underwater collecting data. ”

“Biofuel cells, which work by powering themselves using what’s available underwater, are one solution to the underwater power problem.”

What about the Navy’s emphasis on taking care of the environment?  Are you helping with that effort as well?

“Yes! As much as we love all the work that we do, we have to understand how our work is impacting the environment.  So we do work on analyzing sediments and water, seeing the effects on coral reefs, etc.  We want people to understand that when the Navy does its work, it is also concerned about the environment.  We, at SSC Pacific, do what we need to do to understand it, to model it, to analyze it, and to make sure what we do has minimal impact on the environment.”

What do you think is the most impressive or beneficial thing about what you do and why?

“That’s a really tough question since I appreciate all of the work that we do.  The work performed by the robotics team is at a stage where it’s already being deployed.  It’s already helping the warfighter directly, so that has a great and immediate impact on what we do.  That’s not to say that the research that we’re doing in other areas, – the very basic research that is still a few years from maturing into technology that the warfighter will use – is less important, it is simply at a different stage of development but the impact of that work is still a few years away.”

So what got you interested in this field of study? Did you wake up one day and say, “You know, congas aren’t doing it for me, I think I’m going to study photonics”?

“When I was twelve years old, my dad gave me a choice between a motorcycle and a science encyclopedia.  Contrary to what many twelve year olds would do, I chose the science encyclopedia. I never did get a motorcycle, but I see that moment as a turning point in my life.”

“I really fell in love with physics, and the reason – the real reason – for why things are the way they are.”

“That’s why I went into physics and not engineering. Engineering is more applied physics, it’s ‘let’s get this system going’, but in physics it’s more the ‘why’.  Why does this happen? Why is it that some of the effects in physics can be described thinking of light as a wave and yet others, thinking of light as a particle? the duality of light.  Those things fascinated me as a kid and I wanted to understand more.”

If you could go anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?

“That’s a very difficult question.  There are so many people that I admire for different reasons.  In fact, let me give you a quote.  I think it’s from Emerson.  Emerson said, ‘Shall I tell you the secret of the true scholar? It is this: Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him’, so when I think about philosophers, scientists, there are so many people that I would have wanted to chat with, but then I came up with a name.  I think I would have liked to have worked with Thomas Alva Edison in his lab, trying different materials until he came up with the right one to produce the light bulb.”  “I chose him because of his tenacity, because he never gave up. He tried hundreds of elements and compounds until he found the right one to produce a more permanent source of light.  So I think I would have liked to have been in that lab, during that length of time, and to have been a part of that amazing invention.”

Do you have anything else you’d like to add, any closing remarks?

“Another one of my passions is along the lines of outreach and diversity.  I think as a Navy organization we’re doing a lot about reaching out to the younger generations.  We need to prepare the next wave of scientists and engineers.  We need to get our kids excited about science.”

“We don’t want to end up outsourcing our science to other countries, to anyone.  We want to continue to be the number one producers of technology and innovative ideas and for that we need to invest in our children.”

Thanks to Ayax Ramirez for contributing to this article, and for his contributions to the science and technological communities.


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Jessica L. Tozer is the editor and blogger for Armed with Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for science and technology in the military.

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