A Summer Spent in Space Startups

A Summer Spent in Space Startups

Mentorships, Internships, and Spaceships. Emily Ku, left, and Catherine Liu selected as Brooke Owens Fellows with interning and mentorship opportunities in aerospace. 

For aerospace engineering students Emily Ku and Catherine Liu, it’s going to be an exciting summer – they are both interning at aerospace startups as part of the 2021 Brooke Owens Fellowship Program.

The Fellowship, whose participants fondly refer to each other as “Brookies”, pairs young women with a paid summer internship in leading aerospace companies, as well as mentorships with executive-level industry professionals.

Ku will be interning remotely with the Spaceship Company – a Virgin Galactic aerospace-system manufacturing organization, located in Mojave, California. 

“I’m really excited to intern with the Spaceship Company and gain more exposure to manufacturing and propulsion,” said Ku. “Through the application process it was easy to see that they are really passionate about what they do and that really resonated with me.”

The Fellowship seeks students who are passionate about space, take their talents outside of the classroom, and get involved with their communities.

The aerospace engineering senior is currently conducting undergraduate research in the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab with aerospace research engineer, David Wu. Ku is investigating acoustic instabilities in Rich-Burn Quick-Quench Lean-Burn (RQL) combustors, which are designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.

Her team is currently machining and building the parts of the combustor for future acoustic analysis.  During her time at Georgia Tech, she was the project manager of the Design Build Fly (DBF) team and led the winning team of the 2020 NASA Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition.

“Managing the RASC-AL team was the first project that got me interested in space systems, like space architecture, and got me really passionate about space,” explained Ku.  “I was already passionate about space before the competition, but it was the type of project that gave me more exposure to it and I really enjoyed being the project manager.” 

The Georgia native hasn’t found out who her mentors will be just yet, but she’s looking forward to making more connections in the space industry. 

“I ultimately want to work on projects that will help the future of human spaceflight, and being a part of the Brookie network is one step in that direction,” said Ku.  

While Ku interns at Spaceship Company, Catherine Liu will begin her 12-week summer internship with Hermeus Corp., located in Atlanta, Georgia. Hermeus is a startup company - co-founded by AE alumnus A.J. Piplica - that is developing hypersonic aircraft and propulsion systems. 

“I'm really looking forward to interning at Hermeus because I think it's so exciting to know that a startup could have such an ambitious dream and be so systematic about pursuing it,” said Liu. 

Like Ku, Liu is conducting undergraduate research and actively seeks ways to get involved.  

The Colorado native is currently in her second year of research at the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab, under the direction of professor Adam Steinberg. Liu’s research includes turbulence and swirl flame nozzles, hot wire experiments, and imaging with lasers. 

“I took a thermodynamics class taught by Prof. Steinberg during my second-year and I really enjoyed that class and learned a lot from it,” said Liu. “I reached out to Prof. Steinberg at the end of the semester, and he told me about an open position in his lab and that I should apply for it, so I did.” 

Liu is excited to find out who her mentors will be and begin building her network. “I'm most excited for the mentorship aspect of being Brookie,” revealed Liu.  “Having someone to guide you through the process of how to get into industry or how to navigate the job world is something that I think is really valuable, and it’s something I haven't had in the past”. 

Giving back and being active in the community is something that Liu has done since she was in high school. “I worked at a STEM camp in high school, which led me to co-found a Girls Who Code chapter in Fort Collins, Colorado,” said Liu, who herself has served as a mentor. “I think it's really important for all of the Brookies to have the spirit of going out and mentoring younger women and being passionate about STEM.” 

Three out of the 44 recipients selected for the 2021 Fellowship were from Georgia Tech. Industrial engineering student, Madeleine Pollack, joins Ku and Liu in the newest Brookie class. 

The Brooke Owens Fellowship was founded in 2016 to honor the memory of beloved industry pioneer and accomplished pilot Dawn Brooke Owens, who passed away in June 2016 at the age of 35 after a hard-fought battle with cancer. The Fellowship pairs young women, and other gender minorities, with a paid summer internship in leading aerospace companies, as well as mentorships with executive-level industry professionals.
The Fellowship has seen its fair share of Georgia Tech students in its six-year history. Meet the AE Brookies from the 2020 Class and 2019 Class that started their journey at Georgia Tech.  



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Kelsey Gulledge