What's Next for the Class of 2022?

What's Next for the Class of 2022?


Carson Coursey, B.S.A.E. 2022

Carson Coursey, aerospace engineering gradate at Georgia Tech
Carson Coursey

What is your next adventure?

In March, I’ll be moving to Boston and working at The Aerospace Corporation as an associate member of the Technical Staff. Here I’ll be working on the Civil Aerospace Operations team, focusing on space traffic management. I am also currently applying to graduate school so I may be starting graduate school in aerospace engineering in the fall of 2023.  

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

I’m really excited to work at Aerospace Corp. as a full-time employee on space traffic management, as it’s a really interesting time to be in this line of work. In my new role I’ll be working on engineering tasks, but also advising policy by briefing government and industry clients on various aspects. I’m also looking forward to being somewhere new. I grew up in Georgia and spent the last four years at Georgia Tech so starting a new adventure somewhere new is exciting. Additionally, I’m excited about hiking up in New England. There are good hiking areas up there and I plan to hike the entire Appalachian Trail at some point so this will be a good start towards that goal.

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

Yes. I interned with Northrop Grumman as a Manufacturing Engineering Intern in solid rocket manufacturing during the Summer of 2020. The following spring, I interned at the Georgia Capitol as a legislative intern where I worked on education policy and then during the Summer I interned at the U.S. Capitol as a Legislative Intern where I worked with a Georgia U.S. Congresswoman on space policy and immigration policy. 

This past summer I interned with Aerospace Corp. in their Center for Space Policy and Strategy where I researched the policy side of space traffic management and space situational awareness which led to my new full-time position. From a research perspective, I did undergraduate research with the Space Systems Design Lab (SSDL) under Dr. Brian Gunter from Summer 2021 until now. I worked on space situational awareness from an astrodynamics perspective, specifically on initial orbit determination.

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

What’s great about Tech is the fact that not only does it offer space policy classes, but it also has different specialties within the aerospace curriculum. I could also take graduate level courses as an undergrad, which I’m not sure other schools have as readily available as Tech. It also gave me the opportunity to expand on what I learned in the classroom and apply it in hands on experiences. I served as the president of the Aero Maker Space, worked in the Machine Shop, and was a president of the Georgia Tech Experimental Rocketry team (GTXR) so I really formed connections between my classwork and extra curriculars and all of that helped me learn more and stand out as a candidate when applying for jobs.

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

Be involved. It has practical reasons in terms of setting yourself up professionally, but it helped me build a community at Tech. I’ve made so many friends and connections through getting involved and it makes a difference.

Take care of yourself. Whether that’s sleep, read more, do the things you like to do for fun, schedule rest time, whatever it is. Do it.

Work on your persuasive communication skills. It may seem out of the ordinary for people studying aerospace engineering, but for those interested in pursuing policy like me, it will be part of your day and something I got better at as time went on. You’ll get great technical writing through your coursework at Tech, but when you’re writing grant applications or have to debate your policy it’s an invaluable skill and resource to have.

Learn how to time manage. I use a Google calendar to help me keep track of classes, clubs, jobs, and my personal life. If you start early on, by the time you graduate you’ll develop that skill to be more prepared for life outside of Tech. Having an on-campus job forced me to learn how to time manage between the machine shop, classes, being in Marching Band, etc. I had to really work at managing my time so that I would be efficient.


Zachary Ernst, Ph.D.A.E. 2022

Zachary Ernst

What is your next adventure?

I have actually started working at the NASA Langley Research Center (Langley). I am in the vehicle analysis branch of the strategic concepts and Analysis Division.

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

Being able to take what I was doing as a graduate student and apply it as a graduate researcher in the big leagues. Working on vehicle design for NASA and taking codes that I had written as a graduate student and now applying them as a researcher on huge supercomputers and things like that.

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

I had an internship at Langley a few years ago. I was working for a different organization, but still at Langley. So, I got a feel for the atmosphere at Langley and the area around Hampton and Norfolk.

For the last two years of my degree, I was part of the Samuel L. Langley Professor Program. So, I was in Virginia working under the National Institute of Aerodynamics as part of the agreement between Langley and Georgia Tech. I came up here and started working in VAB. That was my first foray into the group that I'm actually working for now.

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

I came to Georgia Tech purely for grad school. My graduate classes were certainly up to par with the level of knowledge and skills that I needed in my career. I really credit the model of Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) for bringing in all of these different contracts and programs from NASA and industry. It was important to have the ability to work with these companies and organizations on problems of interest.  There is also more freedom then you would see in, say, a smaller lab. Also, of course, on top is the actual direct introduction to the people that I'm now working for at NASA.

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

Get involved. Start making sure that you're planning out what you want to do with undergraduate research and internships. That's another good way of introducing yourself to these programs, both getting a feel for what they do and making yourself familiar to them.

Be aware and embed yourself in the stream of the research that's going on in an area of interest because the more that you are in tune with that, the better ability you will to navigate and contribute to that in the future.


Madelyn Focaracci, M.S.A.E 2022

Madelyn Focaracci

What is your next adventure?

In February, I will be moving to the Boston area and starting my first full-time job as an air vehicle associate engineer at Aurora Flight Sciences. I’ll be part of an experimental rotation program so I’ll get to work on different teams and try different things like software or configuration and loads.

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

I’m excited to help design airplanes. Working on airplanes has always been a huge dream of mine so it feels like a dream being fulfilled and I’m excited to actually get to do that.

I got my undergraduate degree at MIT so I’m also looking forward to going back to a familiar spot, even though it will be during the dead of winter.

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

As an undergraduate, I worked as a software engineering intern at Northrop Grumman and then later I was a flight sciences intern at Boeing. Just before I started graduate school I interned at Boeing again, but this time as an aircraft configuration and integration intern.

As a master’s student in the Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) I’ve had a lot of opportunities and exposure to aircraft and systems design, especially through the Grand Challenge projects. One of the Grand Challenges I was working on was a really good experience for what I’m going to be doing at my new job. My team worked on a conceptual design for a high-speed vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, and stepping through that project helped me get experience with aircraft configuration on top of things I learned during my undergraduate and internship experiences. The final presentation that my team gave for that project was something that made me feel confident in my abilities, I presented it again for my interview at Aurora.

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

The educational experience I got through ASDL was pretty unique compared to the academic experience I had during undergrad. Going through the two Grand Challenges during my first year as a master’s student was extremely beneficial because it was more geared towards the aerospace industry rather than towards something more theoretical. It was awesome to be able to work on two group projects, working with a small team, which gave me more responsibility and ownership. It helps to be put in scenarios where you learn about team dynamics and how you relate to the people that you work with because it’s something you know you’ll use in the real world as you start your career in engineering.

My advisor, Dr. Mavris, does a really good job of bringing in the business side of aerospace, so that we better understand the industry beyond the science and engineering. We’re learning about things like airline profit margins and the perspective of an airplane manufacturer and how they relate to the people designing the airlines. It makes the educational experience that much more invaluable.

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

Don’t be intimidated by things that seem difficult. I was a big perfectionist coming into Tech and was always a bit afraid to try something and fail. But trying and failing is what helps you become better at whatever it is you are trying to do. I think it’s an experience you have to embrace as you go through school and beyond.  


Askar KazbekovPh.D.A.E. 2022

Askar 

Kazbekov

What is your next adventure?

I just started my next adventure, which is working full-time at Rocket Lab, located in California, as a propulsion engineer where I am designing rocket engines for the next generation of spacecraft.

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

It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little child, so I’m excited to be doing what I love. The most exciting part for me is making and designing brand new rockets. At Rocket Lab, we are pushing the boundaries of space and furthering human space exploration which is exciting.

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

I had two internships at SpaceX. The first one was a one year-long internship while I was in undergrad (University of Toronto) where I worked on research and development (R&D) of various propulsion components. My second internship with SpaceX was prior to starting my master’s at the University of Toronto. For my second stint, I worked with the propulsion analysis group, performing structural, fluids, and thermal analysis of the propulsion systems. As a Tech doctoral student, I’ve been researching at the Ben T. Zinn Combustion lab with Dr. Adam Steinberg. My work specifically was in turbulent combustion, which is a phenomenon that commonly occurs in aeronautical gas turbine and rocket engines. My research aims to understand the physics of this phenomenon, and is directly applicable to my current work.

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

I was pleasantly surprised that the AE School at Georgia Tech offers such a wide selection of graduate-level courses. I was able to take classes that are not readily available elsewhere and learn from the professors who are passionate about the field and are able to explain complex concepts in a clear manner. This makes a big difference when learning how to design complex systems like rocket engines.

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

Get involved in something outside of the classroom. Getting involved in extracurricular activities helped me get to know people and build a community as a Ph.D. student. Almost every semester, I was involved in some type of intramural club and would often play in a pickup game of soccer or volleyball at CRC. Also, staying proactive and staying healthy is extremely important for your academic and professional career.

Don’t be afraid to look for opportunities and grab them. Just because you graduate, it doesn’t mean you’ll stop learning. You’ll learn more as you start your career and put your degree to work. I’d encourage people to accept positions that you don’t feel quite qualified for because those opportunities are where you will learn the skills that will be invaluable later in your career, whether it’s in academia, research, or industry.  


Kelvin Miller, B.S.A.E. 2022

Kelvin Miller

What is your next adventure?

I haven’t really decided what that adventure is yet. I’m a non-traditional undergraduate student and have 28 years of military experience in the Army, working in aviation, before deciding to come back to school and study aerospace, which was my childhood dream. My will be more focused towards my family and taking some time off before jumping into a new adventure. After taking some time off, I plan on pursing my master’s in aerospace engineering.

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

I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family. My wife is retired, so we’re looking forward to spending time together in Atlanta and having the freedom to travel to see our family that live out of state.

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

I didn’t have your standard job or internship experience while pursing my undergrad. But before I came to Tech, I was a helicopter mechanic and crew chief in the Army for five years, an unmanned aircraft pilot for 7 years, and an unmanned aircraft operations officer for 16 years. As a mechanic, I performed daily and phased maintenance on transport helicopters (Bell UH-1 Hueys) and was part of a helicopter flight crew. As an unmanned aircraft operations officer, I coordinated for airspace, radio control frequencies, and logistical support, and trained and evaluated unmanned aircraft flight crews.

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

My previous aircraft experience really helped me understand the coursework at Tech and allowed me to really understand the practical side of aerospace. I love the opportunities that Georgia Tech has opened up as far as aerospace. I came in knowing a lot about aircraft and aviation, but the courses the AE School offers allowed me to expand to other areas of aerospace and made me think of things in a different way.

I would have never realized how complicated controls are without the coursework required and it’s really fascinating. I came in thinking, oh you just move the joystick to the left or right and the aircraft will go to the left or right, but now I know there’s so much more involved in the controls and the system of the aircraft to make it operate the way you need it to.

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

Show up to class. You’ll learn so much more in person than if you don’t go and rely on the textbook or classmates.

Keep your mind open. You may have your mind set on working for a spacecraft company like SpaceX or want to pursue a career in one area, but as you go through the curriculum you may find you actually like aircraft more or like me, you realize you really like controls and robotics. Be open to what you’ll learn and where that may take you. The aerospace field has so many different areas that you can apply yourself to.

Take a variety of classes. Take a variety of classes early on in your undergrad career. I found that I liked controls towards the end of my undergrad career and if I had been more open, maybe I would have found it earlier on and been able to really dive deep into that area.


Preethi Mysore, B.S.A.E. 2022

Preethi Mysore

What is your next adventure?

I'll be staying here at Georgia Tech to complete my master’s and Ph.D.  in aerospace engineering. I'll be working under Professor Joseph Oefelein on computational fluid dynamics. So that's the plan starting in spring. I was a part of the BS/MS program as an undergrad, so I'm already in the master's program and must complete qualifying exams and things.  I'll also be doing a graduate research assistantship.

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

Independence and control over the project that I'll be working on. It's always been great to work with graduate students and my advisors; they give me a lot of knowledge, and I’ve learned a lot. But at the same time, I'm excited to be able to have more individual research experience. I've been doing research for almost my entire undergrad career. I've always really enjoyed getting the opportunity to look into new topics and do a deep dive into some of those topics of special interest.

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

I have been interning at NASA Langley Research Center remotely since fall 2020, doing computation fluid dynamics (CFD). I get to work with various NASA employees, and it’s been a great experience. It’s a huge part of the reason why I'm even pursuing a Ph.D.  

I’m also working in my current research lab, Aerodynamics and Fluid Mechanics with Dr. Joseph Oefelein in fluid dynamics and specifically high-speed computation fluid dynamics (CFD). These high-speed flows are things that you might see in an engine or on the wing surface of a supersonic jet.

At Georgia Tech, there's actually a really cool intersection between what I’m doing at Tech and the work that I'm doing at NASA because they're all physics modeling,

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

It all started in the second semester of freshman year. I was freaking out because I didn't have any experience. So, I reached out to professors for research. I took different research opportunities, and it helped me figure out the research I liked. I ended up being in three research labs that summer, which I don't recommend, but they were all so different. Due to that, I was able to explore more fields within aerospace. Georgia Tech’s robust aerospace engineering program is one of its biggest strengths.

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

Early in your undergraduate career, reach out to as many professors as you can, even going to their office hours to talk about their research to get an idea of what you can do in aerospace. When I came to Georgia Tech, I wanted to do spacecraft and work at NASA or SpaceX. I didn't even realize that computational fluid dynamics was a thing. There are so many different subfields within aerospace that people don't even know until they are here. I thought I didn’t what to do anything related to computers or computer science. I didn’t know how to program, but I’m doing something that is literally computational fluid dynamics. And I don't think I would have had that experience if I had just been like, I'm going to only apply to things that are spacecraft related. Try several things. You don't have to try it for long. While I was an undergrad, I would try something new and not like it. I would feel bad because of the invested time, but in reality, I was learning skills along the way.


Oluwafikayo Oshinowo, B.S.A.E. 2022 

 

What is your next adventure?

I’ll be working on earning my master’s degree in aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech starting next Spring, and I’ll also be doing research with Professor Timothy Lieuwen, which I’m really excited about. I also have an internship planned for next summer with Pratt and Whitney.

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

So, right now, I'm looking forward to my internship with Pratt and Whitney, especially since it’ll be my first on-site internship. My previous internship was during COVID, so I felt like I missed out on the experience of working in person. I’m also excited that I’ll be able to apply what I learned here at Georgia Tech.

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

Working in the Combustion Lab with Dr. Lieuwen helped uncover my interests in propulsion and combustion, which really made me want to pursue my upcoming Pratt and Whitney internship. Most of what I had done in the Combustion Lab was focused on either flame stability or making combustion more green but still efficient. I did some image processing on some of the data collected from the experiments as well.

I also worked with Dr. Alexander Alexeev for most of my undergrad, and we mainly looked at improving the propulsion of robotic swimmers. Most of that research was in computational fluid dynamics (CFD), which I enjoyed, and the experience helped me get my internship at the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center in 2020. It was my first glimpse at space systems. We were researching different heat transfer geometries in nuclear propulsion systems for future space missions.

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

When I first came to Georgia Tech, I was really confused because I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do, but Georgia Tech gave me an opportunity to explore and try different things. I think the amount of different skills and interests I developed along the way helped me work on projects I never would have thought I’d be able to, and inspired me to pursue things I otherwise would’ve ignored.

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

I'd tell them two things; the first one being don't be afraid to ask for help. I struggled a lot in my first few years because I was scared to talk to any of my professors or peers. It would have saved me a lot of trouble if I had just remembered that other students were trying to figure things out, too, and my professors were there to help me learn. Most of the professors I talked to were really nice when I finally asked for help. So, save yourself the trouble and ask for help.  

Don't be afraid to seek new learning opportunities. Information that may not seem as important now could be important later. Try different learning experiences; it exposes you to things that you may not have known existed.


Maggie Stewart, B.S.A.E. 2022

 

What is your next adventure?

In March, I will be starting at NASA JPL with the Spacecraft Mechanical Engineering Group doing mechatronics for the descent landing of the Mars sample return mission. But before that, I’ll be taking a vacation to Europe where I plan on spending time with friends and family. 

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

The sample return mission is such a great cornerstone mission for JPL, with so many moving parts, I’m really excited to even play a small role in that. I’m looking forward to working on flight hardware that’s going to Mars. But beyond the sample return mission, I hope to continue working at JPL with other robotic missions to who knows where, it could be Europa or Enceladus or asteroids, or even Venus. Really, the sky's the limit there...pun intended.

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

I interned at Lockheed Martin in Summer 2020 and Summer 2021 as a propulsion engineer where I did component analysis, or development of valves and latches, and a little bit of engine, thermal anomaly analysis. It was really a great survey of the whole arena of propulsion. During the spring of 2021 I interned at NASA JPL where I worked on ground support equipment for Europa Clipper. I was also there when Perseverance landed, which was absolutely incredible to see. That experience was super helpful in seeing how the workplace of an engineering department works.

This past summer I interned at Aerospace Corporation where I conducted propulsion science for methane-based fuels. Kind of determining and characterizing the carbon deposition that occurs when you heat the fuel in regenerative cooling channels. It can often decompose into carbon, and then set up the inside of the channel. It's like cholesterol in your veins, you don't want that carbon buildup inside those channels either.

I did research with Dr. Walker in the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab (HPEPL), mostly working with Naia Butler-Craig on building up a cathode to validate results seen by the University of Michigan. Later, I gained solid propulsion experience with GTXR and machining experience in the Machine Shop. The knowledge I’ve learned there is priceless. Knowing the tools you have access to and how they’re going to impact your design is super important. A lot of engineers don’t really have that knowledge, so I wish everyone could learn how to machine in the same way that I have.

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

The hands-on experience that Tech offers is great and one of the biggest things that set me apart in my interviews for a full-time job in aerospace. I had a variety of experience from working in the AE Machine Shop, GT Experimental Rocketry, mixed with my classwork and projects.  I think it makes the learning of engineering more concrete when you actually have a physical thing you’re doing. That experience is incredibly valuable.

I think the soft skills I learned along the way contributed too. Being the president of GTXR really helped in learning how to communicate with people and lead a team, which is not easy, especially when you have to make difficult decisions, even difficult decisions about your own designs and your own projects.  But that's what shaped me.

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

Always be curious. Be open to learning from everyone around you. Georgia Tech is incredible, because there are so many smart people here. I think ultimately, you should never be the smartest one in the room, and if you are, find another room. The AE School has so much to offer that I’d encourage students to listen and soak it in like a sponge, even if you don’t fully understand it.

You never know when an opportunity is going to come around. For me, when I got the JPL interview, I wasn’t really looking for a job because I was already interning, but I was at the career fair and thought “I’ll go and practice my interview and networking skills - and see what happens”. That initial talk with a recruiter turned into an internship with JPL and now a full-time job.

Challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. I could have very easily been comfortable at my internship and let opportunities pass by, but I got out of my comfort zone and new opportunities opened up for me.

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Kelsey Gulledge and Monique Waddell