What's Next for the Class of 2021?

What's Next for the Class of 2021?


It's An AE Tradition. We Had To Ask. Whether it's a B.S, an M.S., or a Ph.D., the students graduating on May 7 and 8 have some incredible potential ahead of them. We asked a few of them to take a minute to give us a peek at what their next adventure will be.


Austin Matthews, M.S.A.E '21


What is your next adventure?

Austin Matthews, MSAE '21

Right after graduation I’ll move to Denver, Colorado to start working as a test conductor at Ursa Major Technologies. They are a manufacturing company that builds liquid rocket engines.

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

I’m excited to get out there and start working. I've been in school now for a long time, so I'm excited to apply the concepts that I've learned and work more on building real engines that'll really fly.

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

During undergrad I worked at Caterpillar for their fuel systems design department, then later I worked at Tesla as a mechanical engineering intern. 

I more recently interned at Solar Turbines where they make gas turbine engines, so that was where I had my first industry experience with combustion.  

I’ve been conducting graduate research at the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab with Professor Tim Lieuwen where I’ve worked on a solar turbine sponsored research project, which game me a lot of crossover experience in between working on solar and gas turbines.

Through working with my research team I’ve worked on making engines more efficient by investigating combustion instabilities that occur in engines. To do so, we built a rig that simulates a portion of a real engine and we run this experimental apparatus at various conditions and use lasers and high-speed cameras and other diagnostic techniques to analyze the combustion dynamics and identify different regions where there's a combustion instability and find out why that's occurring.

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

There’s so much going on at Georgia Tech that it gives you the opportunity to explore what you want to do. There's so many different opportunities and you have to you just look for them.

For me, it was really helpful for to be able to come into Georgia Tech and get my undergraduate education. That's where I figured out the different aspects of mechanical engineering that I was interested in.

During undergrad I was able to do research at the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab with the same group for two years, so that really helped me get my foot in the door to figure out what it was all about. Then I was able to move into an actual graduate research position once I started graduate school. After undergrad, more opportunities at Tech allowed me to dive more into combustion.

Professor Lieuwen saw me as an undergrad mechanical engineering student and believed in me enough to bring me on as a graduate research assistant and that’s what drove me to really pursue combustion in my graduate years. Now I’m about to go work for a rocket engine company, so I found it really helpful to go through the broad education and then narrow it down to a specific area of aerospace as I went on. 

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

Try to get involved with extracurricular activities, whether that's joining an automotive, rocket club, or honor society it’s important to explore different hands on opportunities. For me I was more targeted towards joining an automotive club because I got my bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. There's a lot of opportunities in rocket clubs and student organizations like that at Tech.

If you're interested or curious in research, I’d recommend getting involved as early as possible, because for combustion at least there's a high learning curve for entry, you’re dealing with really complex phenomena, so getting in early and seeing what's going on from an undergraduate perspective is super helpful if you hope to transition to more of a graduate role.


Eugina Mendez Ramos, Ph.D.A.E '21


What is your next adventure?

Eugina Mendez Ramos, PhDAE '21

Immediately after graduation I'm joining Northrop Grumman in their Future Technical Leaders Program. It's a rotational program where they bring in professionals early in their career and place them in strategic areas within the company, so that they can really learn and become enveloped in the company.

I’m currently looking at a couple of different possible rotations now, it's still up in the air, but I will find out soon.

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

I’m most excited about taking what I learned through my doctoral program and through my research in the Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) and taking that knowledge into a real world work environment.  

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

As a doctoral student, I interned at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama with the Advanced Concepts Office. There I had the chance to do some modeling simulation on their electric cluster systems for their in-space vehicles that utilize cryogenic propellants.

The kind of modeling simulation I did there is very similar to what I’ll be doing at Northrop Grumman. It gave me a lot of training not just in the real-world environment but also in the kind of group environment that multi-disciplinary work gets you ready for. Working in systems engineering you find a lot of that collaborative type of research, and you need a lot of that hands-on practice so that when you go and do that in the real-world it really helps your capabilities stand out.

My thesis work focused on the modeling and simulation of the boil off that occurs and the liquid hydrogen propellant tank, specifically of in-space vehicles. Researchers need a more updated version of the models that we are using today, so my particular doctoral research looked at creating a simpler model that we can bring into the design process to give us more accurate estimates of the propellant losses in the concessional design process.

I also did hands-on work through ASDL and at the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab with Prof. Mitchell Walker. There I had the opportunity to interface on-site with a customer every day by providing the necessary conditions to test a component on one of their systems within the vacuum chamber. That experience was really interesting and definitely something I will take with me everywhere, especially in my new position.

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

The lab experiences I had with Prof. Mitchell Walker and Prof. Dimitri Mavris allowed me to experience much more than just the classroom here at Tech. I got to experience hands-on research with not only other students, but also with other organizations in a customer-facing role, and in the type of research that I ultimately want to do. I wanted to interface with clients, learn how to communicate effectively, and work collectively with a variety of different people in a group setting. I found that very valuable and I’m not sure that I could have had that anywhere else because Tech has so many strong relationships.

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

Classes are important but there's so much more to education and experience than what you learn in the classroom. I always encourage students to take an internship in something that you're interested in or something that you think is going to shape your future. Try and take more than one internship so you know you tried a lot of different things but so much of the experience extends beyond the classroom, so get your experience in any way, shape, or form and if you can't find one, make one. It may sound silly to make an opportunity, but if it's not there you have to make something happen in order to meet your goals.


Marc-Henri Bleu-Laine, M.S.C.S.E/A.E. '21


What is your next adventure?

Marc-Henri Bleu-Laine, M.S.C.S.E/A.E '21

I will be joining Joby Aviation in Santa Cruz, California as a data analyst. They work on vertical take-off and landing vehicles and in the process of developing air taxis. 

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

I'm excited to join such a new, innovative, and upcoming industry, especially since it is expected that in the next couple years this industry will be booming. Joby is planning on having their aircraft flying by 2024 so it’s an exciting time in general. I’m also looking forward to starting a position that will combine my aerospace background and my computer science background into one position.

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

During my last semester of undergrad, I started my first internship at Tietronix in Houston, Texas where I worked on model-based system engineering (MBSE), and created System Modeling Language (SysML) models. During my first year in graduate school at Tech I interned for Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies (SGT) at NASA Ames as a model-based systems engineer with in the Intelligent Systems Division. There I got work on creating SysML models again. This internship allowed me to make a lot of connections, in particular with other groups within the Intelligent Systems Division. During the summer of 2019 I interned again at NASA Ames but with the Data Science Group, and this time I started working on anomaly detection using flight data. This time I was officially working for KBR (formerly SGT) and I worked with the same group, but my work expanded to include precursor mining and I was able to extend the work I did there for my master's thesis,  which I successfully defended this year. 

As far as my graduate research, I was initially only focused on model-based systems engineering, which I’ve been doing with the Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL). l started researching MBSE as an undergraduate researcher and then later transitioned as a graduate research assistant. At ASDL I had the great opportunity to work on MBSE, data analytics, and machine learning. I was taking extra time to work on developing machine learning models for aviation purposes, enabling me to combine two of passions: aviation and data analytics. 

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

My experience at Georgia Tech really solidified that I’m a lifelong learner. Tech gave me the tools and capabilities to give me the confidence that I can learn anything and everything I put my mind to and I can apply what I learned to any situation. Through undergrad, graduate school, and research it enabled me to learn a lot in terms of problem formulation, problem solving, and presentation. I think those skills are extremely valuable for my profession and even personally.

As an undergraduate student coming from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, I was really worried about getting a job after graduation, but through my experiences at Tech, it has made me that much more confident and comfortable in my abilities and gave me the experience to find the industry I want to work in.  

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

Get involved in research. I'd especially encourage international students to pursue research while they are at Tech. Research is really good because when you're first starting out you likely don't have much experience, you don't know a lot about aerospace, but research will set you apart from those not doing research. Even if you don't get an internship or a position you want, you can get involved in research and work on your skills to help you get your first internship experience. For me, my first internship led to my second, my third, and ultimately landed a job I'm excited about. 


Philippe Clifton, M.S.A.E '21


What is your next adventure?

Philippe Clifton, B.S.A.E. '21

I’m moving to northern California to begin working as an investment analyst at a financial company. Before I start my new job, I’m heading back to Belgium to spend time with family.

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

It’s a bit of a jump away from aerospace, but I don't view it as I’m leaving aerospace altogether. I think the engineering mindset follows me wherever I go so I’m pretty excited for this new chapter.  

I’m really looking forward to the style of investing that I’ll be doing and constantly learning more about investments

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

I interned at several aerospace companies as an undergrad. I interned at SpaceWorks as a junior engineer intern, Bryce Space and Technology as an aerospace analyst intern, Analytical Graphics as a systems engineer, and last year I interned at Scion Asset management as an analyst intern. That internship really solidified my curiosity and interest in pursing a job with a finance company.  I had been doing financial analysis as a hobby all throughout school, but I never thought about it much as a career until I got that experience, so I'm excited to get started. 

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

Tech is rigorous, it's  rigorous school and I didn't think it was going to be as rigorous as it turned out to be, but I’m glad in the end that it was.

I think going through the AE School and everything that comes along with that, it really sets you up to do anything after you graduate. For me, I feel like not only am I passionate about learning and capable of learning, but that I can learn anything, which is not something I felt like I could do before I got here.

Tech has the right resources and access that I didn’t know existed and that I didn’t have before in high school. The AE School has helped by building a supportive community of staff, faculty, and students. 

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

I think a big part of it is to be confident in yourself. Through studying aerospace at Tech, you really are prepared for anything and I think knowing that you can apply your engineering mindset to solve any problem that's thrown at you is immensely valuable.

Get a very broad experience while you're at school. You have a ton of student organizations that you can join, all kinds of different classes you can take, take advantage of everything here to the greatest extent you can and try to find what you're passionate about, and I think once you find it you'll know it so you don't second guess yourself.


Lane Dillon M.S.A.E '21


What is your next adventure?

Lane Dillon, M.S.A.E. '21

I’m starting at ABL Space Systems at El Segundo, California as a systems and operations engineer. I’ll be testing, developing, and operating rocket engines.

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

I’m most excited about having the opportunity to launch rockets, work with hardware and build things. I like seeing things through and doing hands-on work. That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to join a startup. I’m excited for the startup culture and to get the opportunity to work on engines and launch vehicles and see those projects from start to finish.

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

As an undergraduate student at Syracuse I interned at Tesla as an industrial engineer. Once I started my master's at Georgia Tech I did research at the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab with Prof. Tim Lieuwen and then worked as a graduate research assistant. At the combustion lab I worked diagnostics and design projects for the Federal Aviation Association (FAA), Raytheon Technologies, and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). 

I later worked at the AFRL in Dayton, Ohio as a propulsion research engineer. I worked with a team that experimented on an afterburner to better understand how fuel types operate under different engine conditions. My job was to do the diagnostics and imagining using laser and then process the data and relay that information. 

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

From an education standpoint, Georgia Tech really focuses a lot on the theoretical side and having that base really allowed me to gain a good understanding of what I was going to do and use and apply it. Along with that, I think one of the biggest things is the rigor that Tech has. It gives you the drive to push through and that's really been helpful for me and where I am now. It showed me that I can continue even though I thought I had reached my threshold in terms of information and learning. That’s one thing Tech is really good, though at the time I didn't think it was good, now I can appreciate it and understand that it made me better.  

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

I would say probably the biggest thing is to work on being a well-rounded individual. You can go to Tech and work hard in the classroom to get a 4.0 GPA, but once you get into the field that 4.0 is not likely going to get you very far because you have to be really good at communication with people, interfacing with hardware, and so many other things that happen outside of the classroom.

Another thing I would recommend is to get involved in research labs or something where you're actually applying the skills you learned as a student because once you get into industry you're not going to be solving math problems like you do in school, it's going to be much more interfacing with hardware and having a good understanding of the nuts and bolts work will really set you apart.


Sarah Demsky, B.S.A.E '21

What is your next adventure?

Sarah Demsky, B.S.A.E. '21

I will be starting as a master's student at MIT in September in aerospace engineering. I'll be working as a graduate research assistant in the Laboratory for Aviation in the Environment. I don't know exactly what my projects will be yet, but the lab overall studies how aviation impacts the environment and researches ways to mitigate the industry’s impact on climate change.

Before I start there, I’m interning with the Sandia National Laboratory as a research and development intern working on non-linear mechanics and dynamics projects.

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

I’m excited to be in a new place. I haven’t been to Cambridge, Massachusetts so I’m looking forward to exploring and navigating a new place. My graduate program held a virtual Q and A session a few weeks ago, so it was exciting to meet my future classmates and professors, and learn more about the program.

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

My first internship was at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I spent the summer doing a lot of research and development work that I really liked, so that pushed me more towards the research aspect of aerospace.

On campus I worked on the structures team of the Tethering And Ranging Mission Of The Georgia Institute Of Technology (TARGIT) cubesat mission in the Space Systems Design Lab (SSDL), and I’m currently finishing up my work with Prof. Brian German on an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), x-plane project.

Georgia Tech has a lot of different research opportunities, so I was able to explore lots of different projects. After TARGIT, I worked on the OrCa cubesat mission with Prof. Brian Gunter, so those projects went together, but at the same time I was able to transition into the aircraft side of things by working with Prof. German.

I also had research experience through a vertically integrated project (VIP) course I took last semester. We studied COVID modeling, which doesn’t sound aerospace related, but my team specifically analyzed airflow and how COVID could spread through the airflow of buildings.

My team analyzed airflow using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to study different scenarios. For instance, if you have a K-12 classroom and someone coughs and no one is wearing a mask, how many people will be affected? What if we use a different air vent layout or HVAC system, how does that change the data? Taking that type of course during a global pandemic isn’t something that happens often, so it was gratifying to help make a difference.

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

My goals definitely shifted a lot from when I first started at Tech. At first all I wanted to study was space. I wanted to finish school in four years and get a job at a cool space company right out of college, but when I started research in the SSDL I realized that there was more that I wanted to do. Through my research with SSDL I was able to get more experience and get internship opportunities, which shifted my goals from going straight into industry after graduation, to continuing my education and diving deeper into research.

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

I would say don't close off your mind to other opportunities, even if you think you have your mind set on something. You should try other things to make sure that that's what you want to do and explore. For anyone that wants to follow a similar path to graduate school, I would say definitely get involved in enough research to make you well-rounded, but not too much where you're scattering yourself.

It’s okay to do research in an area that might not necessarily be exactly what you want to do, because you'll gain skills along the way that will lead you to different research, which may lead you to another research project, and will overall build up your arsenal of tools for later on. The research I’m doing in grad school is not that similar to what I’ve been doing here at Tech, but from all the experiences I’ve had it shows that I can adapt and I can pick up things, which is important in graduate school.  


Yohannes Kasseya, B.S.A.E '21

What is your next adventure?

I’ll begin working at Lockheed Martin Space in Virginia as a systems engineer. Before I start there, I plan to do some traveling to Ethiopia, where my parents are from, and visit family.

Yohannes Kasseya, 
B.S.A.E. '21

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

I’m definitely excited about starting my employment with Lockheed. I look forward to starting my assignment and getting experience in the industry and working for a space company is exciting. 

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

Coming here, I knew that I wanted to do a lot of research and get hands-on experience, so during my sophomore year I enrolled in one of Georgia Tech’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) courses. VIP is a program where students work with faculty and graduate students in their areas of scholarship and exploration, my course was exploratory robotics.

In that class we worked on the aerodynamic analysis of NASA's prandtl-m project. The following two semesters I worked on the development of an autonomous on-campus delivery drone system while also working in the Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) for the Airspace Propulsion Outreach Program (APOP). I worked with that group for two years where we identified modifications of a small jet cat engine.

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

The AE program, being as difficult as it is, definitely developed my critical thinking skills aside from the research projects that I was involved in. All of the other extracurricular activities that I did at Tech helped me apply the concepts that I learned in the classroom setting and apply it to actual real-world, practical problems. Like any project, you face challenges and trying to figure that out and maneuvering around the challenges or hurdles that was one of the skills that I acquired from the research projects.

One of the best things about my experience at Tech has been being able to interact and connect with like-minded individuals. I’ve met so many people here that have helped me to become a better person and a better engineer.

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

Take advantage of the resources that are available to you, whether that be the research facilities that we have on campus, including the faculty. They're here to help you through the course work and help you achieve your goals, so don't be afraid to reach out to them. 

Make sure to get involved in projects, research, or student organizations. Expand the group you hang out because they will help you to gain new perspective and build your community.


Saba Shaik, B.S.A.E '21

What is your next adventure?

Saba Shaik,
B.S.A.E. '21

I’m returning to Lockheed Martin Space for a summer internship. I'll be working on research and development for electric propulsion thrusters while supporting NASA’s JANUS small satellite mission, this fall I’m starting grad school at MIT where I plan to conduct research in space propulsion.

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

I’m excited to contribute to our space capabilities through my research. Electric propulsion is a really cool technology with mission enabling potential but there are plenty of technical challenges associated with its design as a grad student I’ll be able to delve deeper into the underlying physics of electric propulsion.

It'll be good to be back in Boston. I did an internship at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory during my sophomore year and I really liked the area. 

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

On campus I joined the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab as a junior. During my first semester I was learning the ropes and helping out graduate students with their projects, but this past year Prof. Mitchell Walker asked me to lead research on carbon nanotube field emission cathodes. If you join his group he puts a lot of trust in you and helps you to achieve more than what you thought you could. The graduate students in that group are really brilliant and they foster a strong lab culture around learning and sharing knowledge. 

As a 2020 Brooke Owens Fellow I spent last summer working at Lockheed Martin Space. The Fellowship matches you to a specific internship position. I was able to do a project with field emission thrusters.

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

I've met great mentors at Tech who really had a big impact on my trajectory. During my internship at the Lincoln Laboratory my advisor connected me with one of his former classmates Prof. Claudio Di Leo. I’ve been working with him for two years and in that time, I’ve done experiments modeling and some theory for our chemo mechanics research on swellable gels. Prof. Di Leo's field is challenging, but if you do a good job he'll help you learn all about the advanced mechanics. 

The second thing here that I think i really benefited from was the breadth of opportunities that Georgia Tech offers. For example, my friends and I elected to take rotorcraft senior design despite having no experience with rotorcraft, we just thought it would be a fun challenge. We really enjoyed the course which was taught by Prof. Chance McColl.  

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

Take your mental health seriously. Everyone has to deal with tough stuff that you don't know about, even people who seem to have their act together, so don't tell yourself that ‘things could be worse’ or wait for the perfect moment to get help. Reach out and get the help you need, when you need it. 


Harshini Sivakumar, B.S.A.E '21

What is your next adventure?

Harshini Sivakumar,
B.S.A.E. '21

I am headed to Washington D.C. to start working at Boeing as a spacecraft operations engineer. Before I start there, I’m headed back home to Michigan to enjoy a break and take a formal French baking class, which I’ve always wanted to do.

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

I'm looking forward to being a professional and going to work full-time. I’ve done several internships so I know a little bit about what the world of working looks like, but it'll be interesting to have that type of work as my full-time job. I’m also looking forward to creating a work-life balance now that I won’t be a full-time student.

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

I interned virtually at Boeing last summer in their Commercial Aircraft Division and before that I interned with HAECO Cabin Solutions in their manufacturing department where I worked on aircraft interiors.  

At Boeing I worked on their flight performance and early conceptual design groups so our job and final project was to take the next generation of a 737 aircraft and give recommendations on how it could be improved. We did a lot of conceptual design testing through software-based work as well gained a better understanding of the aircraft performance.

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

Georgia Tech helped prepare me both inside and outside of the class. The classes really helped me understand more of what aerospace is and what I want to do within the field. I think there's a misconception that aerospace is a niche field, but there's actually so much that goes on inside of it that I had no idea existed. Learning that definitely helped me on the professional and personal side. I think it's interrelated in that a lot of the leadership opportunities that I’ve been fortunate enough to have really helped me out in terms of understanding that I want to be a leader as part of my professional goals. During my time at Tech I was the president of the School of Aerospace Engineering Student Advisory Council (SAESAC), a Yang Aero Maker Space mentor, Georgia Tech Women of Aeronautics and Astronautics board member, and a Sigma Gamma Tau peer mentor. Through these leadership opportunities I became a more vocal person, to speak up for what I want, what I need, and stand up for what I think is right. I definitely needed that coming into college versus leaving without it.

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

Don't be afraid to get out there and see what's available to you. Georgia tech has so many things that you can get involved in and it's really easy to hold yourself back if you think 'I'm not qualified for this' or 'I couldn't possibly do that', but all of the opportunities exists for you to try it out. Get out there, show them what you've got, and I guarantee it will lead to you finding whatever it is that you really want to do.

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Kelsey Gulledge