Isakowitz Foundation recognizes five Georgia Tech students in the 2024 Class.
Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering (AE) students Connor Johnson and Sabrina Mayor have been named fellows of the 2024 class of the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program. They will take off for internships at cutting-edge commercial space companies this summer. Three other Georgia Tech students, Katherine Anderson (ME, AE Minor), James Shin (EE), and Keven Yeh (CSE), were also chosen.
The highly selective fellowship program, now in its seventh year, awards exceptional college juniors, seniors, and graduate students pursuing aerospace careers with sought-after paid internships and one-on-one mentorship from established experts in the field of aerospace, including astronauts, engineers, entrepreneurs, and investors.
Additionally, the program features a special summit during which the fellows learn about space start-ups, network with top industry leaders, and develop entrepreneurial skills.
Johnson, a third-year student from Midlothian, Virginia, will head to Firefly Aerospace this summer for his internship and focus on propulsion engineering, specifically on their future launch vehicles and scaling up their engine sizes. He will be paired with a mentor in the coming weeks as a part of the award but will be working for Merritt D'Elia, who is working on some of the new rocket engine hardware for their future launch vehicles.
“I’m super excited about this opportunity. I'm also looking forward to the summit in Los Angeles, where all the mentors and fellows come together. Networking is a great part of this award. We made a Slack channel to meet other 2024 fellows, so we’re already making connections,” Johnson shared.
He knew that he wanted to go into aerospace at an early age. His parents, chemical engineers, and their NASA friends gave him plenty of advice about getting involved in the aerospace community.
“I grew up in Houston, and many of my friend's parents worked at NASA. I heard so many cool things about space and rockets. I watched Space Shuttle launches on TV as a normal activity,” Johnson said. “I've been to Mission Control multiple times because I was so close. Growing up in that environment, I was exposed to space at a young age. I loved it and haven’t changed my mind.”
Johnson, the co-president of the Georgia Tech Experimental Rocketry (GTXR) group, is also a part of the BS/MS program and will start his master's degree in 2025. He plans to pursue a career focused on rocket engines.
Sabrina Mayor, also a third-year undergraduate, will land at Blue Origin in Van Horn, Texas, as a fluid systems intern for the Testing and Flight Operations department, working on propulsion systems. She hasn't been assigned to a specific team yet, but she'll be hands-on with their vehicles' propulsion systems.
“I was honored to receive this award. I couldn’t believe it. I’m really looking forward to learning from and working with other people who have a passion for space exploration like me,” Mayor explained.
The Edison, New Jersey native is a busy bee currently interning at Stoke in Moses Lake, Washington, working on their novel second-stage engine design. She will be there until the end of April.
Mayor excelled in math and science in school and was drawn to engineering. Her dad, an electrical engineer, also exposed her to the field. She remembers seeing work on his laptop and thinking it was cool. Ironically, she became interested in aerospace in her high school history class. While she always thought the stars and beyond were beautiful, it was the rapid technological advancements and national morale of the Space Race during the Cold War era that truly inspired her.
“I was impressed by what we accomplished in space exploration during that time and the great sense of national pride centered around aerospace,” she shared, “From then on, I wanted to be a part of space history by improving the ways we get there.”
Her passion lies in propulsion systems. She spends much of her time in the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab (HPEPL) and with GTXR as a responsible engineer on the propulsion team. She was also a former president of the Ramblin' Rocket Club. Mayor is unsure where her future lies in the space industry, but she knows she wants to work on advanced propulsion systems and can’t wait to see where that will take her.
Stronger as a Swarm
Mayor and Johnson have indeed joined an elite class of student space explorers and are grateful for the mentorship and community at Georgia Tech that helped get them there. So, they were happy to offer pearls of wisdom for future applicants to pay it forward.
“If you are passionate about commercial space specifically and see the merit in it like I am, then apply. If you’re heavily involved in an aerospace student engineering group, apply,” Johnson said. “They're looking for people who are very motivated with an extreme drive to work on commercial space.”
“Don’t feel intimidated, and don’t underestimate yourself,” Mayor encouraged.
Both winners acknowledged the help they received from fellow AE student Taylor Hampson, who received the award last year. His guidance and encouragement are a testament to the importance of peer mentoring and how vital the Georgia Tech hive can be when students work together and support each other.
Katherine Anderson, an undergraduate student in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, has been selected for the 2024 class of the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program.
Taylor Hampson, Grace Krahn, and José Morel will embark on summer internship at innovative aerospace companies