By William Litant
With the goal of increasing diversity in the next generation of aerospace engineers, the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics has created a pool of graduate fellowships designated for females and underrepresented persons. The fellowships will be available starting with the 2017-2018 academic year.
“The fellowships are the first of a series of initiatives the department will roll out in coming months,” said Professor Nick Roy, AeroAstro graduate admissions chair and member of the department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “Our first step is to guarantee funding for the best female and underrepresented graduate students."
Both current MIT undergraduates and students from other universities are encouraged to apply. “As the research in our department is wide-ranging, we encourage applications from students with undergraduate degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, computer and environmental science, mathematics, and physics, in addition to, of course, aerospace engineering,” Roy said.
Graduate student Alexa Aguilar, a first-year master’s candidate in the Space Telecommunications, Astronomy and Radiation Laboratory, was selected in 2017 to receive an AeroAstro fellowship. Aguilar said, “Coming from an electrical engineering background, I was nervous about diving head-first into an aerospace program, but having a fellowship has given me the freedom and flexibility to get up to speed with the current research, discover what resonates with my interests, and brainstorm what I want to pursue.”
Aguilar said that fellowships let students concentrate on their work without the specter of tuition finance looking over their shoulder. She said, “Fellowships alleviate stress for both you and your advisor when it comes to covering all tuition and housing costs here at MIT. They also allow you the time to explore your research interests through your allotted funding.”
Cadence Payne, who, like Aguilar, is a graduate student with a fellowship in the department, encourages others to seek AeroAstro fellowships. “Since my arrival, I’ve been immersed in a world of technological prosperity that’s nothing short of inspiring,” Payne said. “AeroAstro allows students an insane amount of hands-on, real-world experience. Students in my lab are leading missions and designing entire systems to be integrated on projects that will one day physically reside in space!”
The fellowships will be offered to students after admissions decisions are made.