Inspiring the Future of Aerospace Engineering. (l to r) Ashleigh Bunch, Rukmini "Rikhi" Roy, and Saumya Sharma are among just 38 young women chosen nationally as 2019 Brooke Owens Fellows.
Three School of Aerospace Engineering undergrads - Ashleigh Bunch, Rukmini “Rikhi” Roy, and Saumya Sharma - have been named fellows in the 2019 Brooke Owens Fellowship cohort.
As "Brookies," each will embark on a 12-week internship this summer and be assigned to two aerospace engineering mentors - one of whom will be from their host company. They will also travel to Washington, D.C. this summer for the Brooke Owens Fellowship Summit, where they will meet 35 other 2019 Brookies.
The Brooke Owens Fellowship was established in 2017 to honor the legacy of a beloved space industry pioneer and accomplished pilot, Dawn Brooke Owens, who died of breast cancer in 2016. It is bestowed annually on college-age women who show promise in the aerospace field.
|Ashleigh Bunch, 2019 Brooke Owens Fellow, is also a drum major in the Yellow Jackets Marching Band|
This third-year aerospace engineering undergrad didn’t let a slow start at Tech derail her ambitions. After one semester as a chemistry major, she jumped over to the AE School.
“I’ve always loved space but I hadn’t really considered it as a major until I talked with a friend of mine in the [Yellow Jackets Marching] Band who kind of mentored me. It makes me really happy that I switched into something that I was more passionate about,” she said.
Dawn Andrews, a 2017 Brooke Owens Fellow, helped her classmate apply for the Fellowship by writing recommendation letters.
Bunch hasn't yet met her Brooke Owens mentors, but she does know what her internship assignment is: working with drones at Amazon Prime Air in Seattle, Washington.
“I haven’t worked with drones on a technical level, so I’m excited to see what that will entail and what it’s like to work with a company like Amazon,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a really great internship for me. Amazon will also pair me up with a female mentor that is not on my team, so I’ll have three different mentors to help me along the way this summer”.
Bunch will have plenty to fill her time between now and then. In addition to her studies, she is a drum major in the Yellow Jacket Marching Band, a sister in the Epsilon Theta chapter of Tau Beta Sigma, and a member of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).
She is also doing aerodynamics research with AE professor Lakshmi Sankar, an opportunity that came to her after she participated in AE's Limerick Study Abroad program last summer.
“The AE Limerick program was great. It was AE, 24-7. I really got immersed.”
Rukmini “Rikhi” Roy
|Rikhi Roy, 2019 Brooke Owens Scholar, has studied classic Indian dance since her childhood.|
Rikhi Roy says applying for the the Brooke Owens Fellowship put her on an exciting path of self-discovery.
“What I realized was that this fellowship is different from others. It promoted both the heart and the head of an engineer and that, to me, was very, very important. It spoke to me.”
The Singapore native says the Brooke Owens leadership team saw something in her that she didn’t see in herself, and she is grateful.
“For me, getting this internship was very much like hitting a 'six' in cricket. It wasn’t a 'one' or a 'two.' I knew I wanted to apply for this Fellowship, but I had no idea where I would be assigned. I’m really happy it went where it did,” she said.
Roy has been involved in design-build-fly competitions since her first year at Tech serving as the wing lead and is currently a student assistant in the Center for Academic Success. More recently, she's been working with Prof. Narayanan Komerath's Experimental Aerodynamics and Concepts Group where she designed and built prototypes and tested iterations for a low-speed wind tunnel. She's also researching the structure of biodegradable polymers with Prof. Claudio V. Di Leo's Multiphysics Mechanics of Materials lab.
This summer, Roy will be interning with Bryce Space and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia where she'll be managing data for the company's clients and synthesizing results for a report "Small Sats by the Numbers".
She is looking forward to networking with other Brooke Owens Fellows at the Summit and is excited about the guidance she will get from her two new Brooke Owens mentors.
“I feel like networking and getting a mentor are two keys to unlocking so many opportunities,” she said.
In addition to her passion for aerospace engineering, Roy has been long devoted to Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance, which she now performs as part of a Georgia Tech team.
"It [dancing] has taught me what balance means - literally and figuratively. It has taught me time management. I haven't seen anything quite like this classical Indian dance circuit in the United States," she said.
"I chose Georgia Tech based on the fact that they had this competitive dance team and that was a huge deal to me when I was applying to schools."
|Saumya Sharma, 2019 Brooke Owens Fellow, is also a member of the Georgia Tech Women's Water Polo Team.|
When Saumya Sharma was researching internships for the Summer 2019 semester, the Brooke Owens application stood out. She immediately saw that it was much more than a job to put on her resume.
“Initially I thought I just wanted to get an internship, but, the more and more I interviewed and interacted with the Brooke Owens team, the more I realized, this is why I want to intern. Their message is far-reaching and goes beyond your typical professional development,” said Sharma.
The New Jersey native will be working on the mechanical engineering subsystem team that is building satellites at Astranis Space Technologies, a start-up company based in San Francisco.
“I will get to see and be a part of the transition between design and actually bringing the satellites to life,” said Sharma.
The Brooke Owens-supported internship will not be her first. Sharma spent last summer interning at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory where she worked on the exterior structural analysis of the ESPA-class satellite.
“I have really wanted the chance to do spacecraft structures and space craft mechanics, so this is my chance to do it again this summer and that’s amazing. I love space and I love doing structural analysis, so this is perfect to do both.”
At Tech, the second-year AE student has already immersed herself in research. She is currently working on the lidar system for the T.A.R.G.I.T cubesat mission, which is overseen by Prof. Brian Gunter. She is also working with Prof. Julian Rimoli in the Computation Solid Mechanics lab.