Published: Nov. 29, 2023

Koehler working in a clean room.
Koehler working in a clean room.

Sydney Koehler is a 2023 Outstanding Graduate for Research Award winner. The honor, given by the College of Engineering and Applied Science to graduating seniors, recognizes Koehler's impressive work on the SPRITE CubeSat and INFUSE Sounding Rocket Mission.

As a student employee at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Koehler served as the lead student engineer on INFUSE and was the first author on published research related to SPRITE's construction.

Why did you want to become a mechanical engineer?

From a young age I've always been fascinated by the intricacies of how the things around us work. Whether it be what makes a clock tick, how LEGOs stick together, or how a bridge can hold thousands of pounds of weight, it always made me curious about the world and I knew I was born to be an engineer.

In high school, I learned how to use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to model prototypes and I absolutely fell in love with the design process.

During my time at CU Boulder, I was also able to learn skills such as machining, welding, and 3D printing, which further fueled my passion for design. As a mechanical engineer, I am able to drive innovation and enhance the technologies that positively impact our society as a whole.

What interested you about doing research and working on projects like INFUSE?

My passion for space, innate curiosity, and drive for hands-on experience ultimately led me to my research position with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

The prospect of contributing to cutting-edge projects, exploring the outer bounds of our atmosphere, and gaining practical insights into the aerospace industry greatly captivated me and aligned with my career goals.

With the recent successful launch of the INFUSE sounding rocket, I was able to achieve my dreams of designing, manufacturing, and implementing hardware that went into space! The opportunity to work at the forefront of scientific discovery and contribute to advancements in aerospace technology aligns perfectly with my desire to be at the forefront of exploration and discovery.

You’re the first author on published research connected to the SPRITE CubeSat, an unusual achievement for an undergraduate student. What is it like creating a conference publication seen by other scientists and engineers?

Being the first author on a published research paper connected to the SPRITE CubeSat as an undergraduate student is an incredibly gratifying and unique experience. It feels like a culmination of dedicated effort, collaboration, and a passion for space exploration.

Creating a conference publication that is seen by other scientists and engineers brings a sense of pride and accomplishment, as it signifies a contribution to the broader scientific community. It's exhilarating to know that my work is being recognized and shared with experts in the field, opening the door to discussions, feedback, and potential collaborations.

Overall, the experience was both humbling and motivating, as it reinforces the importance of continued exploration and innovation in the ever-evolving landscape of space science and technology.

What does receiving the Graduating Student Research Award mean to you?

Receiving the Graduating Student Research Award holds profound significance for me. It represents the culmination of years of dedicated academic and research pursuits, validating the hard work, passion, and commitment invested in my endeavors.

This award is not only a recognition of my individual achievements but also a testament to the support and mentorship I've received from my peers, professors, and colleagues. It emphasizes the value of my contributions to the field and reinforces my belief in the importance of dedication and innovation.

Moreover, the award serves as a motivating force, inspiring me to continue pushing the boundaries of knowledge and contributing meaningfully to my chosen field. It is a prestigious acknowledgment that instills a sense of pride and gratitude, fueling my determination to make a lasting impact in research as I transition to the next phase of my professional journey.

What’s next for you after graduation?

After graduation, my next step involves leveraging the knowledge, skills, and experiences gained during my academic journey to embark on a fulfilling career path.

I aim to secure a mechanical engineering position in the aerospace industry that aligns with my passions and allows me to contribute meaningfully to a dynamic field. I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and am committed to embracing new challenges and opportunities for personal and professional development.