Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Highlighting Quality Control Manager Adolfo Amaya

Written by
Jeanne Jackson DeVoe
Sept. 21, 2021

“It’s all about pride about your roots, where you come from, your traditions, your music, your gastronomy”

As the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, PPPL is highlighting some of our staff and asking them to tell us about themselves and what the month means to them. This is the first of a series of profiles throughout the month.

Adolfo Amaya has spent his career as a quality control manager and quality control engineer in industries ranging from aerospace to pharmaceuticals. He has been involved in major projects at PPPL, most recently for the National Spherical Torus Experiment Recovery Project, for which he traveled to France to inspect magnets being fabricated by a French company. Amaya says he has always enjoyed his profession because it interacts with every area of an organization. “We get the unique opportunity to touch a project from end to end,” Amaya said.

Amaya spent the early part of his life in Colombia and moved to Queens with his family when he was 11. His father, who was from a small city called Bucaramanga, had come to the U.S. six years earlier while the rest of the family waited for Visas. Amaya’s mother is from a very small town called Cocuy. He takes pride in both his Colombian heritage and in his adopted country of the United States where he became a citizen six years after arriving in the United States .

After received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Pratt Institute of Technology, Amaya has worked in a variety of quality assurance positions. His first job was with Packard Electric, General Motors in Ohio, after which Amaya came back to the New York area for a job at the Naval Air Engineering Center in Lakehurst, New Jersey. He has worked at numerous companies since then. As a quality manager for Lucent Technologies, he managed international certification efforts for ISO (International Standardization Organization) certification in Australia, Spain and Germany. He was on a team inspecting radar and sonar systems for Lockheed Martin Corp. and moved on to inspect video cameras for NASA’s Space Shuttle for the company. He has since worked for several companies, most recently for the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.

Amaya lives in Hillsborough, New Jersey, with his wife Elsy, originally from El Salvador, who works at Kohl’s department store. They have two grown children, Maria, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, and Abraham, a film maker who recently graduated from Rutgers University

Q. What is your name?

A. Adolfo Amaya

Q. What is your position?

A.  Quality control manager and quality engineer

Q. How long have you been at the Lab?

A. Just over six years

Q. Please describe your job.  

A. “We have the unique opportunity to touch a project from end to end. You get to work in the early development phases, you get to work with the engineers in reviewing requirements, working with your potential suppliers, so you touch the frontend of the project, you get to work with the project office, engineers, fabrication team, so you are touching on working with almost everybody involved in a project…We interact with Procurement when a product arrives at PPPL. You’re also working in fabrications with the engineering community and the project management team in developing inspection strategies so you play a significant role there. You want to make sure you’re the eyes and ears of the project. You want to make sure that whatever we’re building meets the specifications —And my team also supports the installation efforts—The thing I enjoy the most is that exposure to everything in the project.”

Q. Tell us three things about yourself.

A. 1. “I’m a nature-type person. I love nature and I love going on hikes. When I go hiking, it’s like, I feel free and I—kind of unwind myself. I do go for walks on a daily basis. There are a couple of trails nearby where I live.”

     2. “I love playing billiards. When I was growing up where I came from in Colombia, they played billiards a lot, so that’s one of my favorite pastimes. Anytime someone at work talks about billiards, right away I’m challenging them to a game.”

     3. “I’m very passionate about soccer, the World Cup, Colombia and the U.S. team, right now they’re playing for qualifiers to go into the World Cup, that’s basically my favorite sport and there’s a lot of pride into that, so I enjoy that very much. I root mostly for the national teams. My favorite American sport is football, and my favorite team is the New York Jets.”

Q. What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

A. “When I arrived in the US, in a matter of just a few days, I went from my school in Bogota to a school in Queens, New York, where there were about 40 kids from all over the world. There I met a lot of my friends from other Central and South America countries. What I noticed right away was how much everybody was proud of their country, their history, their heritage and traditions. While we were all from different countries, we all have one thing in common, we were all Latinos and that united all of us, so to me that’s what Hispanic Heritage Month is all about.

What I remember back in those days is any time we were celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month September to October, we were happy, because we felt like one whole family.” 

Q. What does working at PPPL mean to you?

A. “I tell everybody we’re one of 17 national laboratories and we’re working in a lab to develop fusion. I have a lot of pride that we’re working for the future. It’s clean energy and as we see nowadays with the weather we need different ways to provide cleaner energy…I love the idea that I’m part of that team.

I have the utmost respect and enjoyed working with the fabrication team of machinists, welders, technicians, inspectors, supervisors, along with the engineers, receiving team, procurement and other PPPL colleagues with whom I interact every day in support of our key projects such as NSTXU, FLARE and ITER.”

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

PPPL is mastering the art of using plasma — the fourth state of matter — to solve some of the world's toughest science and technology challenges. Nestled on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, New Jersey, our research ignites innovation in a range of applications including fusion energy, nanoscale fabrication, quantum materials and devices, and sustainability science. The University manages the Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the nation’s single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences. Feel the heat at https://energy.gov/science and https://www.pppl.gov.