UC MERCED FALL COMMENCEMENT 2022
WATCH THE FALL 2022 COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY
SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES,
HUMANITIES AND ARTS
SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING & SCHOOL OF NATURAL SCIENCES
Duval Johnson '14, '18
Mechanical Engineer and Tribologist
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
UC Merced alumnus Duval Johnson is a mechanical engineer and tribologist who leads the Applied Tribology Lab at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.
Johnson is a former member of UC Merced’s Fundamental Tribology Lab, which conducted critical tests that provided key information for the success of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover mission.
Born in Downey, Johnson was raised in Southern California until he and his family moved to Mariposa when he turned 8. After high school, he served in the U.S. Army for three years, then ran an automotive business in Merced for three decades.
In 2009, 23 years after graduating from high school, Johnson decided it was time to turn his physical work into mental work, prompting him to attend Merced College.
He then made his way to UC Merced, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2014 and doctorate in 2018. His doctoral dissertation research was in wet lubricants, but not related to aerospace.
Johnson started working as a tribologist at JPL in January 2018, before defending his thesis. Essentially everything that slides, moves or rotates against another part comes through his lab for inspection.
Senior Program Officer Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Max Espinoza is a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he focuses on advancing educational equity and economic mobility in the United States. He leads the foundation's policy and advocacy efforts in California.
Espinoza has dedicated his career to expanding educational opportunities, creating more equitable systems and practices, and ensuring racial and economic justice. Prior to joining the Gates Foundation, he was the senior vice president of education programs and policy at Scholarship America, a national non-profit organization based in Minneapolis, where he led the organization's education programs and established its policy, advocacy, and research agenda. Before that, he spent 14 years in Sacramento in various key roles, including as a senior advisor to legislative leadership and an executive leader at the California Student Aid Commission.
Born and raised in the Tijuana-San Diego region of California, Max is a first-generation college graduate from a working-class immigrant family and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA and a Master's in Education from Harvard University.
Espinoza served as the Student Regent on the University of California Board of Regents. In that role, he was active member of the Special Committee on UC Merced, charged with overseeing the creation of the UC Merced campus, as well as a member of the UC President's Advisory Committee on the selection of the first UC Merced Chancellor.
Espinoza serves on the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Institute Advisory Board and the "California 100" Advisory Council. His past service includes serving as president of the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project Board of Directors, a member of the UCLA Alumni Association Board of Directors, and a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Advisory Council.