About The Smead Program 

Excellence in academia and research arise from a collaboration between outstanding faculty and students who have an environment that can foster opportunities to explore interests, gain understanding, and contribute to solutions of important research questions. At CU Boulder's Ann & H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, The Smead Program provides excellence in research, academic programming, and personal and professional enrichment for the brightest minds interested in pursuing graduate- or faculty-level research in aerospace engineering.

The Smead Program incubates a well-rounded community for support and collaboration between the Smead Scholars (PhD Candidates), the Smead Faculty Fellows, the A. Richard Seebass Chair, the Michael M. Byram Distinguished Visiting Professorship, and the Smead Space Technology Chair (currently CU Boulder's Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Bobby Braun). The Smead Program also supports an annual Fall Dinner for Smead Program participants, and a spring Smead Symposium that takes place every year in Vail, Colorado. 

Only two of the department's incoming PhD candidates are selected to be Smead Scholars each year. The Smead Scholars component makes the pursuit of graduate studies more financially feasible and intellectually captivating by providing incoming students with more freedom to determine their preferred line of research through full tuition coverage and a monthly research stipend above the average Graduate Research Assistant rate, plus additional annual stipends in Years 2-4.

Scholars also receive: an annual travel budget for conferences and other relevant scholastic travel; access to senior leadership in the aerospace community across academia, government, and industry; access to dedicated professional development and soft skills training; and the ability to participate in the annual Smead Symposium. Smead Scholars are visible members of the aerospace department community, and are selected in part because of their demonstrated leadership and public service qualities. Smead Scholars are nationally-recognized for the excellence of their research and character, with Scholar alumni spanning the nation both geographically and across the aerospace sector (see "Scholars & Fellows" tab above).  

SMEAD logoUp to two tenure-track aerospace department faculty are selected to be Smead Faculty Fellows. These Fellows are chosen for their outstanding research records and mentorship qualities, supporting both groundbreaking science and the Scholars themselves. The Michael M. Byram Distinguished Visiting Professorship (Byram DVP) brings in an internationally-renowned external researcher for one or two semesters each year, further amplifying the research impact of our department.

The Smead Scholarship for Graduate Students was established in 2006 to honor the memory of Dr. Harold J. “Joe” Smead (learn more about Dr. Smead in the History tab above). 

Original funding for the Smead Scholars Program was provided in 2006 by Joe’s widow, Ann, and Michael Byram, then president of the University of Colorado Foundation, in honor and respect for a man who achieved so much and yet was so modest about his accomplishments and generous philanthropy, including to this very department. To qualify and be selected as a Smead Scholar is a singular and distinguished honor in an individual’s academic career.


History of Dr. Harold "Joe" Smead

Joe SmeadDr. Harold J. “Joe” Smead (1925-2003), a native of Spokane, Washington, graduated from CU Boulder in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Joe was able to attend CU through the U.S. Navy’s WWII V-12 program and upon graduation served as an ensign aboard the USS Columbia. He subsequently earned a master’s degree from the University of Washington and a PhD from Purdue University. From 1954 to 1973, Joe was employed in electronic systems engineering by Litton Industries and Teledyne Corp. He became president and CEO of Kaiser Aerospace and Electronics Corp. in 1974 and continued in that capacity until 1997.

Joe was a leading member of the CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Sciences’ volunteer External Advisory Board and played a pivotal role in the establishment of the department’s A. Richard Seebass Chair endowment. For his many extraordinary professional accomplishments and strong volunteer commitment to CU engineering, he was awarded the College of Engineering and Applied Science Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award. 

Dr. Smead had a lifelong passion for education and learning. He quietly, and typically anonymously, supported scholarships and teaching programs as he recognized his responsibility to give back to that which had helped him achieve and accomplish so much.

Smead Scholars

Damennick HenryDamennick Henry is a first-year Smead Scholar and is advised by the A. Richard Seebass Chair, Prof. Dan Scheeres. Damennick graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota in May 2018 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Originally from Beavercreek, OH, Damennick is interested in studying controls and astrodynamics to provide solutions to problems such as formation flying and multi-agent control. During his academic tenure at UMN, Damennick served as president of UMN’s IEEE honor society, performed research in compressive sensing, and led the design of the attitude controller for UMN's small satellite team. He also interned at Air Force Research Laboratory and Honeywell Aerospace during his summers. Long-term, Damennick hopes to stay in academia after completing his PhD studies, where he will continue to work on space systems control research and act as an ambassador for the field. Outside of academics, he enjoys tennis, hiking and traveling.

Alex HirstAlex Hirst is a first-year Smead Scholar and will be advised by Smead Faculty Fellow emeritus, Prof. Eric Frew, who is also the faculty director of the College of Engineering & Applied Science’s Interdisciplinary Research Theme in Autonomous Systems. Alex graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering in May 2018. At Cornell, he pursued his research interests in autonomous robotics by working in the Autonomous Systems Laboratory under Professor Hadas Kress-Gazit. He has also been involved in various student organizations at Cornell such as Engineers for a Sustainable World, Cornell Steel Bridge, and Cornell Engineering Ambassadors. Originally from Idaho, Alex loves to ski, hike, and bike during his free time. 

Abhishektha Boppana Abhishektha Boppana entered CU’s Aerospace Engineering Sciences PhD program in Fall 2017 and is advised by Prof. Allie Anderson in the Bioastronautics group. His research focuses on developing a new spacesuit boot architecture using dynamic foot-shape models, thereby allowing for astronauts to more efficiently and comfortably walk on planetary surfaces. This work will be supported by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which was awarded in 2018. In addition, Abhi is also involved in research exploring the use of alternative reality technologies as a spacecraft habitat design tool. Abhi graduated from Case Western Reserve University in May of 2017 with a B.S in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Mechanical Engineering. Abhi conducted multiple internship tours at NASA as an undergrad. He is an alumnus of the 2015 Glenn Space Academy, where he worked to create a finite-element based model designed to simulate the effects of microgravity-performed exercises on bone loss. In addition, he spent the spring and summer of 2016 at Johnson Space Center, where he worked with their Anthropometry and Biomechanics group and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, evaluating new equipment to improve the space suit sizing process. Outside of school, Abhi enjoys hiking, photography, traveling, and cooking.

Jonathan Manni Jonathan Manni entered Smead Aerospace's PhD program in Fall 2017 and is co-advised by Prof. Nisar Ahmed in the Aerospace Engineering Systems focus area with an emphasis on Controls, and Prof. Jay McMahon in the Astrodynamics and Satellite Navigation Systems focus area. Jonathan graduated from Calvin College in May of 2017 with a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a minor in German. As an undergraduate at Calvin College, Jonathan participated in numerous study programs in Germany, including a research internship developing methods to improve crop sensing and imaging for autonomous agricultural robotic platforms at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences in Osnabrück, Germany. Jonathan’s research interests include spacecraft autonomy and autonomous planning, machine learning, and human-robot collaboration. Outside of his academic interests, he enjoys hiking, learning, tinkering, photography, and travel.

Andrew Harris Andrew Harris is a second year PhD student whose research focuses on developing and refining techniques for autonomous, aero-assisted orbital and attitude maneuvers. He is working under Prof. Hanspeter Schaub. Prior to arriving at CU Boulder, Andrew graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University at Buffalo with a degree in aerospace engineering and a minor in English. While at UB, he co-founded the University at Buffalo Nanosatellite Laboratory (UBNL), an undergraduate-focused satellite development group with funding from NASA and the Air Force. He has also spent multiple summers interning with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys community engagement, hiking, tinkering, tennis, and creative writing.

Marielle Pellegrino Marielle Pellegrino is a second-year student under Prof. Daniel Scheeres in the Celestial and Spaceflight Mechanics Lab. Marielle is studying the solar radiation pressure perturbation and how to harness it for orbital debris removal and mission design optimization. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida where she worked as an undergraduate research assistant for the Space Systems Group. Recently, she has been focusing her energy in science communication by founding Miss Aerospace with the intentions of making information accessible to someone without a technical background. In her free time, she loves to travel, eat, watch TV, watch sports (occasionally play them), and hike.

Shaylah Mutschler Shaylah Mutschler worked as a software engineer in the Space Situational Awareness Industry after completing her B.S. in Computer Engineering at Wright State University in 2012. As a software engineer, she assisted in the development of algorithms that characterized geosynchronous satellites using light curve data. After working for two years in the space industry she began pursuing her PhD at the University of Colorado Boulder with a focus in Astrodynamics and Satellite Navigation. She was a research assistant with the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research during her first two years, where she developed algorithms for multi-target, multi-sensor tracking. In addition, Shaylah conducted research as an intern Summer 2016 and 2017 at the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, she focused on analyzing and quantifying the effect of attitude dynamics, shape modality fidelity, and uncertainty on the characterization and prediction of space-object motion. In addition to being a Smead Scholar, Shaylah was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (accepted); she began her tenure as an NDSEG Fellow in Fall 2017.

Conor Benson Conor Benson is pursuing his PhD in the Astrodynamics and Satellite Navigation Systems focus area. As a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow, Conor is investigating how solar radiation and other perturbations affect the spin states of retired Earth-orbiting satellites. He hopes to better understand and predict the long-term rotational evolution of these debris objects through dynamical modeling and analysis of satellite light curve observations obtained with ground-based telescopes. Conor received his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from North Carolina State University in 2015. Outside of academics he enjoys cycling, skiing, and exploring the great Colorado outdoors.

JoAnna Fulton JoAnna Fulton is a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow and Zonta Amelia Earhart Fellow working in the Autonomous Vehicle Systems Laboratory with Prof. Hanspeter Schaub. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Her broad research interests concern the deployment dynamics of complex deployable space structures. Current research focuses on origami-inspired folded space structures that incorporate novel elastic hinge materials. Additionally, she has co-founded a new student organization for Women in Aerospace Engineering at CU Boulder and serves on the graduate committee for the Society of Women Engineers. In her spare time, she enjoys rock climbing, reading, crafting, 3D printing, and cooking.

Ryan Skinner Ryan Skinner works at the intersection of design optimization and computational fluid dynamics. He spent his first two years at CU developing active flow control strategies for an aggressive subsonic diffuser, in collaboration with Prof. Kenneth Jansen and Northrop Grumman. As an NDSEG graduate fellow, Ryan currently develops scalable methods for design optimization of a broader class of unsteady aerodynamic systems. He holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Carleton College in Minnesota. Outside of school, Ryan is an avid cyclist and cross-country skier.

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Faculty Fellows



Research and Excellence Through the Smead Fellows Program

Stephanie GolmanAerospace Structures

Designing a load bearing & energy storing structure

Stephanie Golmon studies modeling batteries on the microscale, focusing on how the mechanics of a battery are affected by the electrochemical process. A system such as an aircraft or spacecraft can drastically reduce weight by utilizing the structure of the craft as the electrically energy source.

"I had a very nice offer from another school as well, and had I not had the Smead Fellowship offer, it would have made it a lot harder to choose CU. It is making it a lot easier for me not to have to worry about finances now and really focus on schoolwork and research rather than worrying about how to pay the bills."~ Stephanie Golmon

Space Flight Dynamics


Aaron Rosengren has studied the effect of solar radidation pressure on the evolution of orbital debris in GEO during his research project in Space Flight Dynamics. Read More 

Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles (RECUV)

Recuv TempestChasing "SuperCell" Thunderstorms with Unmanned Aircraft

Jason Roadman assisted team in preparation and launch of the Tempest unmanned aircraft that performed in-air studies on severe thunderstorms to gain knowledge on formation, duration, wind speed and potential damage of the storms. As part of the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2), Tempest was designed to handle adverse flight conditions while collecting data on the environment in real time. 

Guidelines to become a Smead Fellow

Smead Graduate Fellows

Smead Graduate Fellows are chosen for their outstanding scholary achievements, character, commitment to others, and potential for leadership. 

Recipients are chosen by the Seebass Chair with input from the graduate secretary and chair and the best candidates are selected based on the application and interview process. 

Smead Faculty Fellows

Smead Faculty Fellows are faculty members in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. They are chosen based on their outstanding past research and their future potential.

Smead Symposia

Each year, Smead Scholars gather for a special weekend in the Vail area to present their research and listen to other Scholars, Faculty Fellows, Smead Scholar alumni, and network with distinguished guests across industry, government, and academia to learn about different career paths and get mentor advice on how to overcome challenges while navigating careers. There have been eight Symposia to date: 

  • 8th Smead Symposium: Vail, Colorado, May 11-12, 2018
    • Keynote Speakers:
      • Dr. Ivett Leyva, Program Officer, High Speed Aerodynamics, Air Force Office of Scientific Research
      • Gregg Burgess, Vice President for Technology Space Systems, Sierra Nevada Corp.
  • 7th Smead Symposium: Avon, Colorado, April 21-22, 2017
    • Keynote Speakers:
      • Kathryn Tobey, VP and GM for Special Programs, Lockheed Martin Space Systems
      • Rob Strain, President, Ball Aerospace Corporation
  • 6th Smead Symposium: Avon, Colorado, May 13-15, 2016
    • Keynote Speaker: Prof. Sergio Pellegrino, California Institute of Technology
  • 5th Smead Symposium: Vail, Colorado, May 15-16, 2015
    • Keynote Speaker: Prof. Bobby Braun, Georgia Tech University
  • 4th Smead Symposium: Vail, Colorado, May 16-18, 2014
    • Keynote Speaker: Prof. Mason Peck, NASA/Cornell University
  • 3rd Smead Symposium: Vail, Colorado, April 26-28, 2013
    • Keynote Speaker: Dr. Donald K. Yeomans, Jet Propulsion Lab
  • 2nd Smead Symposium: Vail, Colorado, May 11-12, 2012
  • 1st Smead Symposium: Boulder, Colorado, July 25, 2011

Seebass Chair

Joe and Ann Smead established the first endowed chair in the department of aerospace engineering sciences in memory of A. Richard Seebass, the former aerospace professor, department chair and dean of engineering.

Dan ScheeresDaniel Scheeres is a University of Colorado Distinguished Professor and the A. Richard Seebass Chair of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. Following a 5 year tenure at the Jet Propulsion Lab's Navigation Systems Section and professorships at Iowa State University and the University of Michigan, Scheeres joined the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences in 2008. He has since become a vital member of the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research community, heading the Celestial and Spaceflight Mechanics Laboratory. As of 2018, Scheeres has graduated 39 PhD students who now hold positions in academia, US and international research labs, and industry, 20 of these while at CU. 

Scheeres’ research spans the topics of astrodynamics and spacecraft navigation to planetary science and celestial mechanics and has published extensively in these fields. One primary focus of Scheeres’ research is studying the mechanics of small bodies (such as moons and asteroids) with applications to planetary and asteroid missions. A separate focus of Scheeres' research is in the field of Space Situational Awareness, where his lab studies the dynamics and estimation of orbital debris and active satellites. Most recently, Scheeres is serving as the Radio Science Lead and Co-Investigator for NASA’s OSIRIS REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission. 

Scheeres is a Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a Fellow in the American Astronautical Society, and president of the Celestial Mechanics Institute. He is a member of the American Astronomical Society's Divisions on Planetary Science and Dynamical Astronomy, the International Astronomical Union and the International Astronautical Federation. He was awarded the Dirk Brouwer Award from the American Astronautical Society in 2013 and gave the John Breakwell Lecture at the 2011 International Astronautical Congress. Asteroid 8887 is named “Scheeres” in recognition of his contributions to the scientific understanding of the dynamical environment about asteroids.



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