7 CU-Boulder students among 20 national engineering leaders

Published: Nov. 12, 2013

Seven University of Colorado Boulder aerospace engineering students are among 20 top students who will be recognized Nov. 14 with a new national award honoring tomorrow’s engineering leaders sponsored by Penton’s Aviation Week in partnership with Raytheon.

The “Twenty20s” awards honor the academic achievements and leadership of top engineering, math, science and technology students.

The CU-Boulder award winners are doctoral candidates Paul Anderson, Brad Cheetham, Jake Gamsky, Erin Griggs and Dan Lubey, and B.S./M.S. students Kirstyn Johnson and Mike Lotto. The awards will be presented during Aviation Week’s annual Aerospace & Defense Programs Conference in Phoenix.

“I am delighted with the national recognition our outstanding aerospace undergraduate and graduate students are receiving from Aviation Week,” said Penina Axelrad, chair of CU-Boulder’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences. “All of them bring incredible passion and impressive technical skills to their classwork and to an extensive portfolio of professional and extracurricular activities.  Each is on a fast track to making remarkable contributions in fields like space exploration and satellite-based Earth observations.”

The high-profile projects and research portfolios of the seven students cover a wide range of critical issues facing the field of aerospace engineering today.

Working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration, Cheetham has been developing and co-teaching graduate-level courses on commercial spaceflight, while Gamsky is helping to design the Dream Chaser commercial spacecraft as an intern at Sierra Nevada Corp. and conducting research on human spaceflight life-support technology.

Griggs is developing a next-generation Global Positioning System receiver for spacecraft. Anderson is working to model geostationary space debris and Lubey is studying space situational awareness to detect and model satellite maneuvers.

In their senior year of the undergraduate portion of their concurrent B.S./M.S. degrees, Lotto and Johnson both hold perfect 4.0 grade-point averages and have completed internship or co-op experiences with NASA. They are working together as part of a capstone senior project design team that is developing a dust impact monitor capable of measuring the size of tiny cosmic dust particles near the surface of the sun.

In addition to their outstanding academic achievements, the students were selected for their leadership and civic involvement outside of the classroom. All are active in professional and student societies and volunteer their time to help others. From encouraging K-12 outreach to volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to mentoring and tutoring fellow classmates, the seven students all make service a priority.

“For most of us this is more than a career, it’s a passion,” said Cheetham, who three years ago launched the “We Want Our Future” educational initiative to inspire American youth and strengthen their interest in math and science.

Anderson, who mentors undergraduates and participates in outreach to younger students, agreed. “We’re fostering the next generation of engineers here,” he said. “We want to inspire them to continue the great things we’re doing in aerospace.”

Six of the seven students will attend the awards ceremony in Phoenix along with former NASA astronaut and aerospace engineering sciences faculty member Joe Tanner.

Tanner and Axelrad said the Twenty20s winners are representative of the high caliber of many of the students in CU-Boulder’s aerospace program, which is considered one of the best in the nation.

“Our department is proud to count these seven among our students and we look forward to watching their careers take flight,” says Axelrad. “We will continue to create opportunities for students like these to learn from our exceptional faculty, collaborate in hands-on projects with talented peers and industry partners, and engage in cutting-edge aerospace research.”