Snigdha Nellutla

B.S.A.E. 2023

What is your next adventure? 
I’m in the BS/MS Program so I will continue on to my master's in aerospace at Georgia Tech. I will be working in Professor Carr’s Planetary Exploration Laboratory (PXL) where I will continue my research on the Venus atmospheric return mission. After I earn my master's degree, I'll take some sort of gap semester. Then in 2025, I will start to look into PhD programs in either atmospheric or planetary science. 

What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?
I'm really looking forward to delving deeper into the research I've been working on with Professor Carr, in the Planetary Exploration Lab (PXL) for about a year now. I think it's really what taught me the most about what I want to do in the future. It’s a real-life mission that's being planned sometime within the next 10 or 20 years. It’s really cool to see that my work can make an impact somewhere.

It’s also great that I'm able to contribute to something that will further advance our knowledge of outer space and planetary science. The mission itself is planning to launch sometime in the early 2040s and it's a sample return mission from Venus. There's going to be a balloon that floats through the atmosphere and collects solid liquid and gas samples, and the goal is to be able to learn about traces of biosignatures as well as the mysterious UV absorber that's present in the Venus atmosphere.

Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?
I had two internships during high school, but as far as the work that I'm more interested in has been primarily through PXL, and before that I was in a class called, Mars Vertically Integrated Project Program (VIP). I was in it for three semesters from my sophomore year to my junior year, and I did a lot of work on life support systems for Martian missions that will be planned way in the future.

How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?
At Georgia Tech, the possibilities truly are endless. No matter what you're interested in, I feel like there are so many things that are offered, and it is easy to find. When I first started at Georgia Tech, I knew that I was interested in outer space. It's something that I've dreamed about since I was in second grade. And obviously, Georgia Tech is the best place in Georgia for aerospace.

But, once I got here, after taking some classes, my focus was geared more towards the science side of space. Due to the classes that I took, there was a special topics class that I took called Space Instrumentation for Life Detection. It was what changed my entire perspective and shifted me over to focusing on Earth and atmospheric and planetary sciences. So, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many things you must try, you can always find something for you. There's something for everyone out there.

What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?
Pace yourself. My freshman year was during Covid, so I lived at home. Once I finally got to campus as a sophomore, I lacked a sense of community because I pretty much lost an entire year of my college experience. I tried to go out there and do everything that I could. I took 17 credit hours that semester. I was on the dance team. I was on the executive board of two other organizations. I really tackled everything at once because I thought that I had to catch up. It’s okay not to be perfect, and it's okay to take time to learn and grow, especially to learn more about yourself. What I thought I would be doing at this point in life is very different from what I thought a couple of years ago and for the better, for sure. Try new things and take risks.
I'm really glad that things ended up the way that they did, but for an undergraduate who wants to follow the same path, or even if not just in general, it's important to understand that it's okay to deviate from the plan that you created.

From high school, I was always under the impression that you should know exactly what you're doing, and always have a plan for everything. And that's how I was through my years of schooling. But after I got to Georgia Tech specifically sophomore year onwards, I quickly learned that that's not the case and it's okay to not always follow your plan because there are always new adventures and new opportunities that come up along the way.