Published: July 5, 2023

Three University of Colorado Boulder aerospace students have been named 2023 Draper Scholars.

The trio are among nearly 40 graduate students from across the country to earn the distinction. The three recipients from Smead Aerospace are PhD students Kristen Ahner, Laura Davies, Kian Shakerin.

Four other CU Boulder students were also named to the program, for a total of seven honorees from across the university.

The Scholars program provides recipients with the opportunity to work at Draper’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, conducting research and contributing to programs in national security, space systems, biotechnology and strategic systems.

Scholars in the program are paired with a member of the Draper's technical staff and a university faculty advisor while they conduct research in fields of mutual interest.

Find out more about the Smead Aerospace winners below:

Kristen Ahner

Advisor: Daniel Scheeres

I'm from Dayton, Ohio, and recently graduated with a BSE in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University. My PhD research is focused on the areas of astrodynamics; guidance, navigation & control; and uncertainty-aware planning and decision-making. I plan to work on uncertainty quantification and propagation for orbit determination and trajectory design to support cislunar space situational awareness. Over the course of my senior thesis I was able to work with Professor Ryne Beeson at Princeton, where I proposed an uncertainty-aware approach to solving the robust optimal trajectory problem. I look forward to continuing this research at CU Boulder with the help of the Draper Scholarship!

Laura Davies

Advisor: Penina Axelrad

I'm from Virginia and my research is focused on multi-target tracking/space situational awareness. I was interested in this field because it combines really interesting aspects of astrodynamics and estimation and it has many applications.

Kian Shakerin

Advisor: Jay McMahon

I am from Mission Viejo, California. My PhD research will be focused on the subject areas of spacecraft autonomy, guidance, and navigation. For the Draper Scholar program I will be working on applying Orbit Determination (OD) and Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) techniques towards developing ephemeris-free satellite-based navigation. I became interested in these areas through a combination of experience in the aerospace industry and a lifelong passion for space exploration.