Current Graduate Fellows
For 2021-22 academic year, the AOE department is proud to recognize 26 graduate students who have been awarded 12 prestigious fellowships. The future will be bright as this group of men and women leave Virginia Tech, move into the workforce, and serve as a force for positive change in the world.
Kevin T. Crofton Fellowship
Dawson Beatty is a 1st year Ph.D. candidate from Boulder Colorado. He obtained his bachelor’s and masters degrees from CU Boulder in 2019 and 2021, respectively. He has previously gained experience during summers working at Draper Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Lockheed Martin.
This year, Beatty is the recipient of the Kevin T. Crofton Graduate Fellowship. He hopes to eventually become a professor, but may work in industry or at NASA to start out his career. "My research is on detecting and locating terrestrial GPS jammers and spoofers based on signals received both on the ground and in space-based orbiting platforms. The work will leverage signal cancellation techniques in which true GPS signals will be subtracted from the received data stream to better detect power introduced by jammers or spoofers. GPS jamming and spoofing presents a threat to both civilian and military assets, especially in cases such as commercial airline flights where accurate positioning ensures safety. Detection and location of malicious attacks could prevent loss of life and assets."
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Mark Psiaki
Mingming Ge is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate from Shandong, China. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2012, and his masters degree from Beihang University in 2015.
At Virginia Tech, Ge is a board member of Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Virginia Tech. He previously worked as a project manager in Toyo Engineering Corporation in Japan from 2015 to 2018 and as an intern at Boeing China in 2014.He is the recipient of the Pratt & Whitney Fellowship (2019), and the Kevin T. Crofton Graduate Fellowship (2021).
Upon graduation, Ge hopes to further his research as a postdoctoral researcher. “My research is mainly devoted to multiphase flows and cavitation, which are complex and exciting phenomena of vaporization of a liquid flow subjected to a local pressure drop. Cavitation can be harmful in large scale applications, such as hydraulic machinery, naval propellers, or pumps in space launchers. Our work aims to diminish such detriments, and makes it beneficial for chemical processes, water treatment, medical and pharmaceutical applications.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Olivier Coutier-Delgosha
Theresa (Blandino) Furgiuele
Theresa Blandino is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate from Lexington, Virginia. She earned her undergraduate degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2018, studying mechanical engineering.
She has gained experience as a Pathways Intern for Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. Here at Virginia Tech, she has been awarded the Kevin T. Crofton Graduate Fellowship, the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security Fellowship, ans is a New Horizons Graduate Scholar.
Blandino hopes to make her mark by continuing working for the Navy to develop and implement control schemes on unmanned systems.
“My research focuses on using drones to simulate control systems used on SmallSats. This will allow for 6 degree of freedom hardware and control scheme simulations of individual SmallSats as well as constellations in a manner that reduces testing costs and development time.”
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Jonathan Black
Will Jordan is a first year Ph.D. candidate from Newland, North Carolina. He holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from North Carolina State University.
While at NC State, Jordan served as aerodynamics team lead for SolarPack, a student solar car club and worked as an undergraduate researcher in the investigation of multirotor aeroacoustics. He is a student member of the AIAA and has joined the MMA Club, the Hang Gliding Club and Origami Club since arriving at Virginia Tech.
Jordan is a recipient of the Kevin T. Crofton Graduate Fellowship and aspires to work for NASA at an aeronautical research center.
“My area of research falls under verification and validation in computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Specifically, I am working with error transport equations and their applications to unsteady flow simulations. Error estimation is an important tool for validating computational methods, and this research aims to reduce the computational cost of these estimates. This research will hopefully help to allow CFD to be used more confidently for real-world use cases.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Christopher Roy
William (Liam) Lambert
Liam Lambert is a third year Ph.D. student from Staunton, Virginia, studying Applied Mathematics. He completed his undergraduate degree at Roanoke College in 2019, majoring in Math and Physics.
During his time at Roanoke College, he served as president of Pi Mu Epsilon, was a member of Sigma Pi Sigma, a member of Alpha Chi, and historian of Alpha Lambda Delta. He also actively participated as a leader for YoungLife.
Lambert was a summer research fellow at Coastal Carolina University during the summer of 2018. He was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship his junior year; was named valedictorian of his graduating class and received the Senior Scholar Award in mathematics and Frank Munley Award in Physics his senior year at Roanoke College.
Here at Virginia Tech, Lambert is the recipient of the Kevin T. Crofton Fellowship, as well as a New Horizons Graduate Scholar.
Upon completion of his doctoral degree, Lambert hopes to do civilian research for the Navy; however he is still unsure of exactly what aspect of research he’ll want to go into.
Currently his research is “geared towards developing a new maneuvering model for underwater vehicles near a wavy free surface. This can have major impacts for faster and more accurate control over autonomous vehicles such as torpedoes or offshore sensing instruments saving time and money.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Stefano Brizzolara
Wentao Ma is a second year Ph.D. candidate from Guangzhou, China. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Sun Yat-sen University in 2014 and a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University in 2019.
He is the recipient of the Kevin T. Crofton Graduate Fellowship here at Virginia Tech, and he has aspirations to become an expert in computational fluid-solid interaction upon graduating.
“My research is in the area of computational fluid-solid interaction. I am currently developing a high-fidelity computational tool for evaluating the shock-resistant performance of elastomer coatings on structures. This study aims at revealing more insights into the mechanism of the coupling of fluid, structure and elastomer coatings, and therefore helping design real-world structures with better shock-resistant ability.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kevin Wang
Eleanor Davenport Leadership Fellowship
Henry Pace is a first year Ph.D. candidate from Fayetteville, Tennessee. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Technological University.
As an undergraduate he was active on campus as a Tau Beta Pi member, served on the Tech Wars Committee, the RA Projects Board and the SCO Music Committee.
Pace participated on the EIME team, creating a sensory swing for a local child with autism, and gained research experience through positions such as Designer Lab volunteer and as an undergraduate research assistant at Los Alamos National Labs.
Pace is the recipient of the Davenport Fellowship at Virginia Tech. At Tennessee Technological University, he graduated Magna Cum Laude, was a recipient of the Resident Scholars Award, Dean’s List, and the Service Learning Scholarship .
After finishing his degree he would like to work in R&D for a military contracting company on computational fluid dynamics of hypersonic vehicles.
“My area of research is computational fluid dynamics of solid fuel scramjet propulsion systems. This is a joint experimental/computational effort to design and optimize a propulsion system with high residency and fuel mixing properties in order to create more efficient hypersonic air breathing propulsion systems to be used in various applications.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Luca Massa
Dominic Gallegos is a second year Ph.D. candidate from Rio Rancho, New Mexico. He earned his undergraduate degree from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 2020.
As an undergraduate, he served as team lead for the New Mexico Tech Sounding Rocket Team and also gained experience as an explosive engineering intern at Sandia National Labs, and as an undergraduate research assistant at New Mexico Tech. Here at Virginia Tech, Gallegos has become involved with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and is a recipient of the Davenport Fellowship and is a New Horizons Graduate Scholar.
His research aims to improving performance of solid fuel ramjets. By improving our understanding of the performance, and devising novel ways to improve flammability and flame holding, he hopes to improve our ability to tailor solid fuel ramjet motors to specific mission requirements.
Gallegos hopes to someday work in propulsion in the space exploration industry, possibly at NASA. “Eventually I hope to return to academia to teach and help facilitate the transfer of knowledge to the next generation of scientists and engineers.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Gregory Young
Martin Marietta Aircraft Fellowship
Lt. Col. James Gresham is an aerospace engineering doctoral student, specializing in Dynamics and Controls. He hails from Corpus Christi, Texas, and is an Active Duty US Air Force Flight Test Engineer, as well as a member of the AIAA and Sigma Gamma Tau.
James is currently doing research on unmanned aircraft in the AOE Non-Linear Systems Lab, and has past experience as an Air Force Academy Assistant Professor, and as a graduate of the Air Force Test Pilot School, experience with F-16 and Special Projects Flight Tests.
He is the recipient of the Martin Marietta Aircraft Fellowship and a past recipient of the Dominion Energy Fellowship, is a New Horizons Graduate Scholar and is part of the US Air Force Sponsored PhD program. He hopes to become a Commander and Air Force Academy Professor, post-graduation.
“My research area is Non-Linear System Identification and Parameter Estimation for Unmanned Aircraft. Model determination of unmanned aircraft greatly enhances other areas of research including control system design, path planning, risk assessment, and atmospheric sensing. I am partnering with student and faculty colleagues conducting research in these areas and supporting their applications with improved aircraft models.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Craig Woolsey
Ali Hassani is a third year Ph.D. candidate in the aerospace engineering program, and grew up in Tehran, Iran and moved to the United States in 2015. He received his undergraduate and his first master of science degree in aerospace engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, and obtained a second master of science degree in mechanical engineering from University of Arizona. His expertise is in estimation and filtering, navigation, control and dynamics.
Hassani is a member of Institute of Navigation (ION) and a reviewer of several journals such as IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems, IEEE Sensors Journal and ION Journal of Navigation. He has served as leader of small satellites GNC Simulator Team at Orion Lab in Florida Tech, and leader of 3D Pendulum Lab Module Design and Manufacturing Team at Industrial Control Lab in Amirkabir University of Technology.
At Virginia Tech, Hassani is the recipient of the Martin-Marietta Aircraft Fellowship and the Brian Nerney Graduate Research Assistantship; and previously was awarded the Stephen Rolle Aerospace scholarship at the University of Arizona and The Best Master’s Thesis award from Sharif University of Technology and Iranian Aerospace Engineering Association.
His childhood dream job is to work for JPL at NASA as a specialist in navigation of manned and unmanned interplanetary missions. He has followed his dream up to now. “Virginia Tech is one of the pioneers in research about autonomous vehicles, especially cars. The future of autonomous driving systems and their potential benefits for society highly depends on their safety. My research in NAViTi Lab is focused on designing navigation systems and evaluating their safety. Integration of sensors and data fusion, trajectory estimation and integrity risk quantification are the main topics of my research in my Ph.D. program.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Mathieu Joerger
John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellows Program
Kendy Edmonds is a third year master's student from Valley Falls, Kansas. She earned her undergraduate degree from Kansas State University Polytechnic in 2017.
Edmonds is a student member of the AIAA and the AUVSI and currently works for the VT Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP). She has also completed three internships with NASA. She is a recipient of the John S, McCain Strategic Defense Fellows Program and previously a New Horizons Graduate Scholar and a recipient of the Collins Aerospace Fellowship.
Upon earning her doctoral degree, Edmonds hopes to obtain a position in the aerospace industry that will help me make a difference in the field. “The focus of my research is the utilization of terrain and obstacle awareness for low-level small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations. The goal is to design and validate an avoidance algorithm that uses proximity to obstacles and terrain to mitigate risk of collision with manned aircraft, and to prove out an equivalent level of safety using robust simulation and analysis tools. Hopefully my research will help UAS companies develop safety cases to submit to the FAA for low level beyond line-of-sight operations, such as package delivery and land survey, and will help make the integration of UAS in the national airspace safer.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Craig Woolsey and John Coggin (Chief Engineer at VT MAAP)
Brian Nerney Graduate Research Fellowship
Mustafa Kara is a Ph.D. candidate, studying ocean engineering from Bodrum in the Mugla province of Turkey. He attended the Turkish Naval Academy, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Naval Architect and Marine Engineering.
Kara holds a number of leadership roles including General Secretary for the Council of International Student Organizations (CISO), AOE Graduate Student Assembly Secretary, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) Senator for AOE, and Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity GPSS Representative. He has previously served as a Naval Architect and Marine Engineer in Turkish Navy, Design Department Manager at Euro Marine Shipyard, and Business Development Manager at Mitas Composite Factory.
Kara is the recipient of the SNAME Walter M. & Doris H. Maclean Scholarship for 2021, and the Pratt Fellowship for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Upon earning his doctoral degree, Kara would like to be part of the green future in the Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering community. “I research network-based methods to assess naval ship distributed system vulnerability, survivability, and battle damage recoverability in concept stage design; naval ship distributed system design and total ship synthesis in concept stage ship design; operational modeling of naval ships and their distributed systems; and naval ship system deactivation analysis using network architecture framework. The key contributions of my research are modeling naval power and propulsion systems with an energy commodity instead of individual flow commodities, modeling naval combat and mission systems with a data commodity, modeling combat and mission system electric and thermal loads based on the data commodity usage, developing the Ship Behavior and Interaction Models, and developing a warfighting effectiveness-based objective function to determine the energy and data commodity usage.”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Alan Brown
Tomas Vlach is a first year Ph.D. candidate who hails from Jihlava, Czech Republic. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (2018) and a masters in aerospace engineering (2020) from Czech Technical University in Prague.
Vlach has served as an ASME IGTI’s Aircraft Engine Committee member and previously worked for GE Aviation from 2017-2020, handling installation aerodynamics.
Vlach is the recipient of the Pratt Fellowship for the 2021-2022 academic year.
After finishing his doctoral degree, Vlach would like to stay in aerospace (either academia or industry), focusing on the development of propulsion technologies that will help shape the future of aviation.
“My area of research focuses on particle ingestion in turbine engines. Having a well-known relationship between the operating conditions of aircraft in dusty environments such as deserts and the deterioration of their safety is crucial especially in military operations. Therefore, research focused on such aspects of turbine engines can lead to improved safety and save lives.”
“As a part of our project, we are setting up a turboshaft engine test cell at the Advanced Propulsion and Power Laboratory that will expand VT’s experience in propulsion related research. Having strong technical capabilities that can be proven by setting up such complex facilities like engine test cells can help VT bring in more projects and funding from both government and industry partners.”
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Todd Lowe and Dr. Wing Ng
Rolls-Royce Graduate Fellowship
Brandon Weindorf is a first year Ph.D candidate from East Northport, New York. He earned a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Physics from Messiah University in 2021.
He has previously gained hands-on experience through two internships at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. This year, he is the recipient of the Rolls-Royce Graduate Fellowship.
Once he has completed his doctoral degree, Weindorf hopes to work in research and development within the aerospace industry. “[I hope to] study and characterize particle impact to model erosion. This will contribute towards the goal of decreasing erosion within jet engines due to sand ingestion.”
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Todd Lowe and Dr. Wing Ng
Science Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Fellowship
Sean Powers (NSWC Dahlgren)
Robert Schickling (Edwards Air Force Base)
SNAME: The Walter M. & Doris H. Maclean Scholarship
Robert H. & Carol J. Tolson Fellowship
Virginia Space Grant Consortium Graduate Fellowship
Julie Duetsch is a native of Blacksburg, Virginia. She is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech, earning her degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2019. She began earning credits toward her graduate degree through the UG/G program her senior year.
As an undergraduate, Duetsch served as president of the AIAA, as an open house volunteer coordinator for the College of Engineering, was a member of the College of Engineering’s Dean’s team, treasurer for the Society of Women Engineers, a member of Theta Tau Professional Co-Ed Engineering Fraternity and served as an AOE Ambassador.
As a graduate student, Duetsch is still active on campus, participating in the Society of Women in Aviation and Space Exploration (SWASE), AIAA, and the College of Engineering’s Dean’s Team.
Duetsch has gained experience during summers through programs such as NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates: Pratt & Whitney Assembly Engineering; and Boeing Aerodynamics Technology.
She is the recipient of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium Fellowship. She hopes to one day work as an Aerodynamics Technical Fellow at The Boeing Company.
“My area of research focuses on collecting detailed experimental data on the 3D turbulent boundary layer separation over a smooth bump. This is a good test case for Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models, which typically struggle to accurately predict performance in this flow regime. The data from this test, along with detailed documentation of the experimental set-up and facility, initial conditions, and flow qualities, will help to tune CFD models to better predict the separation over this surface. These improved models can then be applied to more complex cases, such as commercial aircraft or spacecraft design applications. Increasing the quality of CFD predictions reduces the experimental testing required to validate the performance of this vehicles, which will speed up the development timeline and drastically decrease costs, allowing for more innovation in the industry.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. William Devenport