CU Boulder students and faculty discussed innovation, collaboration and career opportunities with thought leaders and executives from Colorado’s aerospace industry on campus Oct. 27 at the 4th annual AeroSpace Ventures Day hosted by AeroSpace Ventures at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).
The event brought together representatives from the state’s leading aerospace companies in order to learn about the latest cutting-edge research, talk about challenges and opportunities facing their organizations and explore ways in which the CU community can help advance the field.
Bobby Braun, incoming dean of CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, praised Colorado’s “strong and vibrant” aerospace industry in his keynote address.
“From small to medium to large-sized businesses, to the space-oriented focus at CU, to some of the work that’s going on at the national labs, CU and Colorado are a real aerospace economic and innovation engine,” said Braun. “And there’s nothing you can’t do when you partner industry and university folks. I’ve seen that on the academic side and on the federal side.”
Careers in aerospace
In addition to research presentations from CU Boulder faculty and discussions of university-industry partnerships, the event featured an aerospace career panel with representatives from Advanced Space, DigitalGlobe, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — all companies with offices in Colorado. The panelists spoke about their own experiences in the industry, gave advice on job seeking, and answered questions from students.
The panelists unanimously emphasized the value of wide-ranging applicable skills, extracurricular activities and a willingness to learn and grow within a position, regardless of education level or academic major.
Anyone looking to start a career in aerospace needs “a mixture of critical thinking and curiosity,” said Christian Meyer, director of Off Planet Asset Management and Exploitation for DigitalGlobe. “It’s about being able to get to the root of something and then solving it.”
Making personal connections
Afterward, in a departure from typical career fair structure, students attended a networking reception and had an opportunity to meet with in-state aerospace companies in a more personal setting.
“We wanted to highlight the huge workforce opportunity right here in Colorado and facilitate those connections for our students,” said Abby Benson, executive director of AeroSpace Ventures.
Thanh Cong Bui and Audrey Randall, both juniors, came to the event in the hopes of getting career questions answered and making contacts that could eventually lead to aerospace internships.
“It’s great knowing that all these companies are right here in Colorado,” said Randall, who has a computer science focus.
Shelby Bottoms, a second-year graduate student from Kansas with a focus in bioastronautics, hopes to work on spaceflight and the design of planetary habitats and transport vehicles one day. For her, AeroSpace Ventures Day represented a golden opportunity to chat with industry thought leaders one-on-one.
“Any chance you have to get advice like this, you take it,” she said, adding that Colorado’s ever-growing reputation as an aerospace hub may end up being a big factor in her career decisions. “Before, I assumed I’d eventually end up leaving the state after school. Now I’m probably more likely to stay.”