Naia Butler-Craig, a first-year graduate student at the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, has been chosen to receive a 2020 Modern-Day Technology Leader Award.
The MDTL award is given each year to men and women who are demonstrating outstanding performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Butler-Craig will travel to Washington, D.C. in February to formally receive the award as a part of the Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) STEM Conference.
The award is supported by a consortium of sponsors including US Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine, the Council of Engineering Deans of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, Aerotek, and the Boston Scientific Corporation.
A 2019 graduate of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Butler-Craig became a viral sensation last year when she let the social media world know that she was holding out for spot in Georgia Tech's aerospace engineering graduate program. She made an undeniably strong case for her admission into Tech's prestigious doctoral program: good grades, NASA internship, and a deep-rooted commitment to the future of the discipline through her participation in groups like the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women in Space Exploration, and Dreams Soar, a STEM outreach group. As a first-year doctoral student at Tech, she has worked as a research assistant in the High Power Electric Propulsion Lab under the tutelage of Prof. Mitchell L. R. Walker and has TA'd for the AE 2010 Thermodynamics & Fluids Fundamentals class.
A native of Florida, Butler-Craig had a mind for science since long before she took her first real class in the subject. Unprompted by anyone, she 'designed' an engine fueled entirely with oxygen when she was seven. The engine didn't work, but Butler-Craig did. In middle school, she dove head-first into an Earth and space science class that introduced her to "the mysteries of deep space." As an undergraduate NASA intern, she had an 'aha' moment when she realized that how much her growing interest in electromagnetics complemented her fascination with electric propulsion.
"Coming to Georgia Tech put me at the intersection of my passions for space, science, and engineering... I'm getting to work in a well-respected electric propulsion lab with one of the largest vacuum chambers in the country and I'm being mentored by one of the most accomplished researchers in this area - Dr. Walker," she says.