Saba Shaik

B.S.A.E. 2021

What is your next adventure?

’m returning to Lockheed Martin Space for a summer internship. I'll be working on research and development for electric propulsion thrusters while supporting NASA’s JANUS small satellite mission, this fall I’m starting grad school at MIT where I plan to conduct research in space propulsion.

What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited to contribute to our space capabilities through my research. Electric propulsion is a really cool technology with mission enabling potential but there are plenty of technical challenges associated with its design as a grad student I’ll be able to delve deeper into the underlying physics of electric propulsion.

It'll be good to be back in Boston. I did an internship at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory during my sophomore year and I really liked the area. 

Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?

On campus I joined the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab as a junior. During my first semester I was learning the ropes and helping out graduate students with their projects, but this past year Prof. Mitchell Walker asked me to lead research on carbon nanotube field emission cathodes. If you join his group he puts a lot of trust in you and helps you to achieve more than what you thought you could. The graduate students in that group are really brilliant and they foster a strong lab culture around learning and sharing knowledge. 

As a 2020 Brooke Owens Fellow I spent last summer working at Lockheed Martin Space. The Fellowship matches you to a specific internship position. I was able to do a project with field emission thrusters.

How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?

I've met great mentors at Tech who really had a big impact on my trajectory. During my internship at the Lincoln Laboratory my advisor connected me with one of his former classmates Prof. Claudio Di Leo. I’ve been working with him for two years and in that time, I’ve done experiments modeling and some theory for our chemo mechanics research on swellable gels. Prof. Di Leo's field is challenging, but if you do a good job he'll help you learn all about the advanced mechanics. 

The second thing here that I think i really benefited from was the breadth of opportunities that Georgia Tech offers. For example, my friends and I elected to take rotorcraft senior design despite having no experience with rotorcraft, we just thought it would be a fun challenge. We really enjoyed the course which was taught by Prof. Chance McColl.  

What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?

Take your mental health seriously. Everyone has to deal with tough stuff that you don't know about, even people who seem to have their act together, so don't tell yourself that ‘things could be worse’ or wait for the perfect moment to get help. Reach out and get the help you need, when you need it.