Alexandra Hickey

Ph.D.A.E. 2023

What’s your next adventure?
I started my next adventure a little early, but I recently moved to Hampton, Virigina to start working at NASA Langley Research Center in the Computational Aerosciences Branch.

What are you most looking forward to?
I’m most excited about working with Fund3D. It’s a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code that I have worked with before, but the opportunity for me to grow and learn from the experts who developed the program is really exciting. I’m also excited to do a lot of fundamental science as well as continue to grow as a researcher. I’m super excited for what’s to come.

Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?
During my undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, I worked in a couple of different labs at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I participated in cutting-edge technology demonstrations for small satellites. Then, while I was completing my master’s degree in mechanical engineering at CU Boulder, I got the opportunity to conduct research during an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where I worked on space systems related to treaty verification for space nuclear detonation detection. I enjoyed all of my research experiences but wanted to explore other aspects of space systems and development, so when I was looking for Ph.D. programs, I looked for programs with lots of different types of opportunities.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve your goal?
I started as a doctoral student in the Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL), working in the defense and space division, and in my first year I participated in a variety of projects, including one related to space debris removal. The program is designed in such a way that I was able to work on a lot of projects and I eventually found myself working in CFD, which has a lot of applications  related to entry, decent, and landing vehicles. I found it to be a lot of fun. The program helped me find what I love to do because of the amount of opportunity to try new things and the flexibility to pursue areas that you really enjoy

What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?
Be willing to try everything because you never know what you’re going to like. As an undergraduate student, I volunteered my time to research at a few labs in my undergraduate institution ,and eventually, it turned into a paid opportunity. That experience, in combination with my experiences at LANL eventually led me to pursue my Ph.D. I also volunteered my time here at GT and taught GT 1000 for three semesters. I wanted to experience what it was like teaching in a university setting and Georgia Tech has so many opportunities to get involved and try new things. I’m very introverted, so I didn’t know if I would really enjoy teaching because I don’t like public speaking. But I found out that I enjoyed it so much that I taught it for three semesters and would teach again if I could.