AE graduates largest BS class in recent history; new alumni reveal next steps

2017-05-25

Aerospace Engineering at Illinois has once again topped its largest number of bachelor’s degree-earning graduates in more than the past 10 years, and produced a record number of master’s degree earners over the same time span.

A total of 111 AE students earned bachelor’s degrees over the 2016-17 academic year. Fifty-one students earned master’s degrees, with seven of those having been online students. AE graduated 9 PhD students.

Here’s a look at what some of those students have planned for their next steps.

Steven Macenski
DEGREE: BS 2017
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: I will be attending graduate school at Illinois
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: Yes, I had five internships (three with NASA, one with Planet Labs, and one with John Deere), and had two years undergrad research with Professor (Tim) Bretl.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: I’m excited to be able to work in a research role in experimental robotics.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: It gave me the confidence and experience necessary to get my foot in the door at top companies, research institutes and groups.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: Get involved as much as possible in aerospace clubs and research. Getting into these early is key to being successful and has resulted in some of my greatest lifelong friends.

Quinn Calvert
DEGREE: BS 2017
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: I will be starting a job with United Launch Alliance on June 19th in Pueblo, Colorado, as a Propulsion System Design Engineer.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: I had an internship with United Launch Alliance last summer, but it was in their Tool Design Engineering division in Decatur, Alabama, so it was not strictly speaking in this same area. I also had research experience with Professor (Scott) White and Stephen Pety, but that was also in a different subject matter.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: The ability to get paid for my work, to have an 80-90 hour work schedule, and to finally have free time.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: It gave me the knowledge and degree I need to do my job.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: Work hard, keep a good GPA, but don't worry about getting a 4.0. Join clubs and get practical experience, practice presenting, and keep getting your name out there. Apply to every single position that even slightly catches your interest.

Joseph Stelter
DEGREE: BS 2017
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: I'll be starting as a Flight Test Engineer at NavAir (NAWCWD) in the fall.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: I had a fair amount of research experience in wind tunnel testing.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: Moving to California. I've lived in Illinois my whole life.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: The classes, skills, and research experience I gained in the department directly got me this job.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: GPA is nice and all, but real extracurricular/research/internship experience is where the money is. Don't forget to have fun!

 

Jared Abshire
DEGREE: MS 2017
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: Full-time position in industry.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: Yes.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: I am done with school.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: I had wonderful advisers.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: Keep studying, and get some sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clayton Summers
DEGREE: BS 2017
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: Northop Grumman, Systems Engineering Professional Development Program, Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: Yes, defense internships with Boeing in Huntsville. Alabama.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: Finding my purpose in life.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: Provided me with a tough curriculum that made me think.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: To follow your passions; not do what the world tells you that you need to do.

Brian Schmidt
DEGREE: MS 2017 (online)
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: As a fulltime-employed online MS student, I will continue on at my current job. I presently work for The Morey Corporation, a family owned electronics manufacturer, as the automotive division Production Engineering Manager.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: Yes, but my fulltime employment experiences helped me transition into this job more than my internship experiences.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: I am most excited to take what I've learned into complex situations where engineering/engineers struggle to interface with other departments. I excel at using my soft skills to help business and engineering departments build bridges to enable successful project completion.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: I was able to continue developing my engineering capabilities, and thus maintain a level of confidence from my engineering peers and employees. I completed a project for work, using the material I was learning that semester, in almost every class I completed. I applied the Systems Engineering and Business Management for Engineers certificates I obtained during my degree program to achieve a promotion to a management position.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: Study yourself, your natural skills, and what brings you the most joy. If you put as much effort into learning those things as you do your engineering education you will be empowered to flourish in the professional world. Knowing what you're interested in will help you avoid ending up at a dead end job.

Elias Waddington
DEGREE: BS 2017
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: I will work at the start-up, Impossible Aerospace.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: I interned one year at UTAS; three months at Lycoming Engines; did research for four years; and was involved in (the student organization) Design/Build/Fly for five years.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: Changing the way we all fly from fossil fuels to all electric.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: Design/Build/Fly and hands-on research gave me the knowledge I needed to be able to design, build, and fly new, complex aircraft.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: Get involved in extra curricular teams. The only thing that separates a senior from a freshman is the amount of time they put in on a subject, and it's completely possible to catch up very quickly.

Samyak Shah
DEGREE: MS 2017
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: Yes, I worked in a research group for three semesters.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: Career development in an area of interest.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: Illinois provided me with resources to participate in projects such as Illinois Robotics in Space (student organization), challenged me academically in senior design, and gave me opportunities to work on interesting research with professors.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: Participate in at least one technical extra curricular activity like Illinois Robotics in Space. Utilize summers wisely to improve your resume and develop skills perhaps by joining a research group, an internship, or take a class to get ahead. Don't be afraid to do a co-op either. Programming is a necessary skill for any engineer and advanced programming knowledge will help separate you from the rest of the pack, so consider a minor in a subject like computer science or electrical engineering.

Kyung Yun Choi
DEGREE: MS 2017
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP, NOW THAT YOU HAVE GRADUATED: I'm going to the graduate school at (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), focusing on developing a programmable matter applied to human-computer interaction. I will be a research associate in the Tangible Media Group of the MIT Media Lab.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS CO-OPS, INTERNSHIPS, OR RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA: My research work during my MS has been involved with lots of 3D design, 3D printing, hardware prototyping, and performing experiments. Those are related with my future research that I will do at MIT. Also, I was able to develop and improve my MS.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS EXCITE YOU MOST: A new environment at a new place in the U.S. Exploring new research fields and collaborations with people from different fields. Meeting with new people and learning from them, experiencing and learning things related with my current research interests. But mostly, I am really excited to build my ideas that will bring positive social impacts.
HOW DID AE AT ILLINOIS HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS: My adviser has been supporting me a lot in terms of providing a clear direction for my research, planning a scientific experiment methods, and elaborating the ideas. His advice helped me a lot in learning how to think as a critical researcher. AE at Illinois was a really good environment that promotes creative ideas and encourages interdisciplinary works through collaborations. Also, various mechanical tools for test and experiment and resources were very easy to access and were helpful. Moreover, very supportive and kind staff members and people in the Machine Shop at AE have always offered me useful information and help!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE AE AT ILLINOIS STUDENTS: I would like to say studying and researching at AE at Illinois is a great opportunity to express creative ideas, and students get a lot of supports to do that. You will definitely love the environment. As long as you enjoy your research, I think AE at Illinois will be a good place to achieve your goals. Do not hesitate to present your ideas and thoughts, and find good people to have helpful discussions.