Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Highlighting technician Fredy Rabanales

Written by
Jeanne Jackson DeVoe
Oct. 4, 2021

As the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory 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 discuss what the month means to them. This is the second of a weekly series throughout the month.

Fredy Rabanales is a technician on PPPL’s Lithium Tokamak Experiment-Beta  (LTX-ß), a device to test how lithium could be used to coat the walls of doughnut shaped devices called tokamaks to protect the walls and enhance plasma performance in future fusion power plants.

Before coming to PPPL, Rabanales was a technician at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where he helped build satellites. 

Born in Guatemala, Rabanales had to adjust to a new culture and language when he came to the United States with his parents when he was just 6 years old and settled in Trenton, New Jersey. His brother and two sisters were born in the U.S. He always excelled at fixing things and attended ITT Technical Institute in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, after graduating from high school. He has been an American citizen since 2010.

Rabanales and his fiancée, Wendy Sanchez, live in Lawrenceville. They have four children: Sanchez’s son Adrian, 21; Leslie, 16; Anthonie, 9, and Sophia. 8.

Q. What is your position?

A. Technician

Q. Please describe your job:

A. “I’m a technician, so I do maintenance on LTX. I do a very wide range of jobs from fixing stuff to taking out or putting in components, maintenance. If the pumps go down, I switch them out or fix them. If someone wants to put in a probe or a flange, I do that. My work is fun because I get to think about it. If you don’t get to think about stuff, there’s really no point in working.”

Q. Please tell us three things about yourself.

A. 1. “I’m a big family person. I love to spend time with my kids. The two little ones are really into science especially since I work here. They miss coming here. We do a little bit of everything from going to theme parks to just taking a walk.

2. “I’m a big soccer fan. I go watch soccer games at the Red Bull Arena (in Harrison, New Jersey) or just watch them on TV. I root for a lot of teams -- from Madrid to the New York Red Bulls right up the street.”

3. “I’m also a basketball and football fan. I root for the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia Eagles. “

Q. What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

A. “I grew up with the Guatemalan heritage. My mom cooks all the Guatemalan food. If we wanted American or Mexican or Chinese, we’d have to go out. She does a lot of different dishes -- paches, a tamale-type thing my mom makes from potatoes wrapped in banana leaves to arroz con leche, a pudding with rice and milk.

It’s nice to learn about where you come from. I talk to my grandparents about what they’ve been through, and they tell me about different histories about when they were growing up. It’s really nice to know about the histories of where we come from. So that’s something that I think Hispanic heritage is all about, learning new things, reading new things. I went to Guatemala two years ago with my parents. We were trying to go last year with the kids but then the whole pandemic happened.”

Q. What does working at PPPL mean to you?

A. “It means a lot. It’s a wonderful place to work. I mean, working for Princeton University -- everybody knows what Princeton is. For my kids and grandparents, it means I came here for a purpose. They brought me here for a purpose. It’s a good place to be. 

It’s funny because I’ve got people coming to my house trying to sell me solar power and I tell them what I’m doing and they’re amazed. I’m amazed by what I do too because we’re working here trying to build a sun. it’s something big.”

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.