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Current Graduate Fellows

For 2020-21 academic year, the AOE department is proud to recognize 36 graduate students who have been awarded 18 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.

Collins Aerospace Fellowship

Julie Duetsch

Julie Duetsch

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 Collins Aerospace Fellowship, the AIAA Luis de Florez award, and is a New Horizons Graduate Scholar. 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


Kendy Edmonds

Kendy Edmonds

Kendy Edmonds is a second 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 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)

Daniel Weber

Daniel Weber

Daniel Weber is a second year Ph.D. candidate from Katy, Texas. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Space Physics, Magna Cum Laude, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019.

Weber is a member of the American Physical Society (APS), the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society, a FAA Certificated Commercial Pilot, an Advanced Open Water Certified Scuba Diver and is a tubist for the Blacksburg Community Band.

Weber previously worked in the Chemistry Lab at Embry-Riddle as a Laboratory Assistant. He has also served as a musician in the United States Marine Corps Band, and as an instrumentalist and a sound engineer for the Marine Corps Band New Orleans.

He appeared on the Dean’s List throughout his time as an undergraduate and was the recipient of the 2017 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to study laser-plasma interactions from ablation on different materials. Here at Virginia Tech, he was awarded the Collins Aerospace Fellowship, the Robert H. and Carol J Tolson Scholarship and the New Horizons Graduate Fellowship.

“In the future, I would like to help develop some of the world’s first widespread nuclear fusion power sources. On top of that, I would like to work towards using this power in applications such as, spacecraft propulsion. With all of that together, I am still holding out hope that I could be an astronaut, someday, as well.”

“My area of research is on plasma physics and its use in creating a self-contained nuclear fusion power source. This would make Virginia Tech a leader in energy research as well as help humanity in its thirst for a sustainable power source.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Colin Adams


Kevin T. Crofton Fellowship

Theresa (Blandino) Furgiuele

Theresa Blandino

Theresa Blandino is a third 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

William Jordan

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

William Lambert

Liam Lambert is a second 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

Wentao Ma

Wentao Ma is a first 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


Virginia Smith

Virginia Smith

Virginia Smith is a second-year doctoral candidate from Lexington, Kentucky. She earned her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kentucky in 2018.

Smith has gained experience at NASA Langley, NASA Marshall, and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. At Virginia Tech, she is a member of the AOE Graduate Student Association.

She is the recipient of the Kevin T. Crofton Graduate Fellowship, as well as the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology Fellowship. In the short-term future, Smith hopes to help develop space satellite systems or vehicles for planetary exploration in the short term. Long-term, she would like is to teach at a university and incorporate what she learned from industry.

“I am beginning to develop a tool to optimize high-altitude ballooning mission operations and systems that will plan a multi-balloon mission to achieve a single goal. This work could help design missions that test various satellite components to increase the chance for mission success when launched into space.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Black


Eleanor Davenport Leadership Fellowship

Dominic Gallegos

Dominic Gallegos is a first 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


Dominion Energy Research Fellowship

James Gresham

Maj. James Gresham

Maj. 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 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


Fulbright Fellowship

Muhammad-Irfan Zafar

Muhammad Irfan Zafar

Muhammad-Irfan Zafar is a second year Ph.D. candidate studying aerospace engineering from Pakistan. He earned his undergraduate degree from the Institute of Space Technology, Pakistan (2011) and a master’s degree from Politecnico di Milano, Italy (2014).

He previously gained experience through a teaching and research position at Institute of Space Technology in Pakistan. Here at Virginia Tech, he is the recipient of the Fulbright PhD Fellowship, and the Pratt Fellowship.

Zafar would like to continue doing research in developing computational models and their application to tackle challenging research problems in fluid dynamics. He also feels passionate about the application of analytics for problem solving and decision making in the field of engineering and beyond. 

“My research area focuses on developing novel computational models for fluid dynamics using Machine Learning techniques, which is aimed to achieve improved efficiency, applicability and accuracy over existing models. Recently, significant advances have been achieved in this regard towards predicting Laminar-Turbulent transition, and the developed models have found their application for a range of flow regimes.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Heng Xiao


Gem Fellowship

Bryant Springle

Bryant Springle

Bryant Springle is a first year master’s student from Brooklyn, New York. He earned his undergraduate degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University at Buffalo.

As an undergraduate, Springle served as a resident advisor, studied abroad through the Student Leadership International Dialogue and Exchange (SLIDE) program in Germany and Austria, and was active in the OSTEM Club. He completed an internship at the Air Force Research Laboratory through Griffis Institute in Rome, New York.

At Virginia Tech, Springle has been selected as a GEM Associate Fellow and is a New Horizons Graduate Scholar. “I hope to join the industry as a guidance, navigation and controls engineer where I can put all my skills to the test and (hopefully) never stop learning after I have obtained my graduate degree.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Black


Martin-Marietta Aircraft Fellowship

Monika Chauhan

Monika Chauhan

Monika Chauhan is a second year doctoral candidate from New Delhi, India. She holds an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from India (2008) and a graduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington (2011).  

Chauhan is a student member and active participant of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), AIAA, American Physical Society (APS), Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE), SWG, Women of Wind Energy (WoWE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and Rubber Division ACS Chapter. She is also active in the AOE Graduate Student Assembly, the 500 Women Scientists organization in Blacksburg, and serves as a graduate Academic Coach and volunteer in VT STEP undergraduate program.

She has gained experience through multiple positions in Cummins Inc. (2011-2015) and an internship in Meteodyn Inc. She has been awarded the Martin-Marietta Aircraft Fellowship and is a past recipient of the Rotary International Society Scholarship.

Chauhan would like to work in the research and design field for jet applications in corporate labs. “My current research topic involves supersonic jet noise, with a specific focus on thermally non-uniform jet plumes and their effect on turbulence development and radiated sound. Interested in developing and understanding different turbulence models and computational techniques to obtain related information of the acoustic field surrounding high speed jets using LES simulation and stability analysis. My objective is to investigate the link between changes in noise generation and the underlying stability of supersonic heated jets when actuated via inlet temperature distortion and help in reducing the jet noise.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Luca Massa

Megan McCracken

Megan McCracken

Megan McCracken is a second year Ph.D. candidate from Clarksville, Tennessee. She earned a Bachelor's of Science from Austin Peay State University in 2019, and was previously employed with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Here at Virginia Tech, McCracken is a member of the AOE Graduate Student Association, a Critical Reading Group Leader for the New Horizon Graduate Scholars, and a member of the American Physical Society (APS).

McCracken is a New Horizons Graduate Scholar, and a past recipient of the Martin -Marietta Aircraft Fellowship and the Robert and Carol Tolson Scholarship. She hopes to become a research professor at an R-1 institution, and to be able to train the next generation of students within physics and engineering.

“My current area of research is in the numerical development of high order accurate shock capturing schemes for multi-fluid plasma flows. This research will be done in cooperation with an experimental group from MIT to better understand the interactions of multi-ion species flow within internal confinement fusion (ICF). This collaboration will lead to a better understanding of multi-species flows within shock regimes and allow for more in-depth research to be conducted in the pursuit of fusion energy.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Bhuvana Srinivasan


Carlos Michelen-Strofer

Carlos Michelen-Strofer

Carlos Michelen-Strofer is a fifth year doctoral candidate from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He earned degrees in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, from University of Michigan, in 2012 and 2013.

Prior to arriving at Virginia Tech, he was employed for three years at the Sandia National Laboratories, performing research on marine renewable energy.

Michelen-Strofer is a student-member of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and a member of the VPI Cave Club.

He is a past recipient of the Charles C. Walts Fellowship, Martin-Marietta Fellowship, Kevin T. Crofton Fellowship and Davenport Fellowship.

Upon graduation, Michelen-Strofer  would like to continue doing fluid dynamics and applied mathematics research either at a Department of Energy National Laboratory or through a career in academia. 

“My research is on applying data assimilation and machine learning techniques to fluid dynamics problems. Specifically I am currently working on data-driven turbulence models as well as field inversion problems in fluid dynamics. The goal is to come up with good methods of incorporating data from experimental results into our simulations to obtain improved predictions of fluid flows.”

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Heng Xiao


Stefan Povolny

Stefan Povolny

Stefan Povolny is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate and earned his undergraduate degree in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2015. He is a student member of Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, and the AIAA.

In 2016, he spent the summer working at Orbital ATK, conducting trade studies on satellite structure using Femap with NX Nastran. There, he also assisted in preparation of vibrational testing of flight hardware and established compliance of shock response spectrum data. In 2019, he worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, identifying sources of error in shock simulations using the material point method and Developing, testing and verifying mitigation strategies for said sources of error.

Povolny has been awarded the Martin Marietta Aircraft Fellowship, and the Charles C. Walts Fellowship. Upon graduating, he hopes to work on exotic materials and constitutive modeling research at a national lab.

I research how numerical methods can be used to simulate exotic material systems. Specifically, I analyze the behavior of highly porous ultra high temperature ceramics (UHTCs) using the material point method. UHTCs stand to be a revolutionary material in the development of sharp geometries, e.g. leading edges, on hypersonic vehicles. However, they suffer from a relatively high density. This is mitigated by the introduction of porosity, but doing so affects the characteristics of the UHTC. My research seeks to characterize this effect. One impact is that such numerical models allow researchers here at VT and elsewhere to intelligently design UHTC-related experiments before investing precious resources into actual testing. On a more ambitious scale, the benefits to hypersonic flight that UHTCs could offer include the development of aircraft capable of traversing the globe in a matter of a few hours.”

Faculty Advisor: Gary D. Seidel


National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship

Adit Acharya

Adit Acharya

Adit Acharya is a second year Ph.D. candidate from Cary, North Carolina. He earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University in 2019.

Acharya has previously gained experience as an intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in in which he worked on X-Ray space telescopes. At Virginia Tech, he has been awarded the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG), selected by Office of Naval Research.

Acharya hopes to work as a research engineer on aircraft and rocket propulsion/aerodynamics for the US Military, NASA, or private industry. “I'm working on experimentally studying the unsteady fluid dynamics of turbulent vortex interactions - basically, the behavior that occurs when a region of swirling airflow is bordered by other swirling regions. I'll study this in a wind tunnel using a form of Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV), which uses cameras and lasers to observe tiny particles introduced into the flow. The direct application of this work is the improvement of Vortex Tube Separators, which are placed ahead of turboshaft engine intakes to centrifuge out large, potentially damaging particles. For the U.S. Navy, that means a great increase in the lifespan of helicopters operating in dusty environments.”

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Todd Lowe, Dr. Wing Ng

Vidya Vishwanathan

Vidya Vishwanathan

Vidya Vishwanathan is a third year Ph.D. candidate from Aldie, Virginia. She graduated with a BS in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech in 2018.

Vishwanathan has been active on campus, co-founding the Society of Women in Aviation and Space Exploration (SWASE), serving as a member of the AIAA (VT Chair 2016-2017), and Sigma Gamma Tau (VT VP, 2016-2018).

She has gained experience with the The Boeing Company, GE Aviation, and studied abroad at the University of Paris in the spring of 2018.

Vishwanathan is a past recipient of the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG), and after graduation, she hopes to work in the research and design field for experimental vehicles for space and air application - particularly those involving wind tunnel testing!

“My area of focus is in experimental fluid dynamics, specifically in verification and validation experiments with the VT Stability Wind Tunnel. Through my research, I hope to bridge the gap between CFD simulations and experiments to form reliable analysis techniques that can be used in developing leading edge vehicles.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. William Devenport


Brian Nerney Graduate Research Fellowship

M. Javad Javaherian

Javad Javaherian

M. Javad Javaherian is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate from Bushehr, Iran. He received his bachelor degree in Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture from Persian Gulf University of Iran, and also holds a Master’s degree in Naval Architecture from Amirkabir University of Technology of Iran.

At Virginia Tech, Javaherian is a board member for the department’s Graduate Student Association (GSA), and is a member of the CREATe Student Association (CSE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE), and the American Physical Society (APS).

He has been awarded the SNAME Graduate Paper Award (2020), the Best Maritime Thesis Award at Iranian National Marine Industries Conference (2013), Best Thesis Award in Maritime Faculty of Amirkabir University of Technology, (2013) and Excellent Student Award, Amirkabir University of Technology (2013). He is the recipient of the Brian Nerney Graduate Research Fellowship.

Javaherian hopes to implement his expertise in the Ocean Engineering area, while enhancing and broadening his knowledge and understanding in this field.

“My Ph.D. research is on experimental investigations of flexible structures impacting a water surface. Through my research, I conduct flow visualization, image processing, and digital image correlation technique to study different aspects of this fluid-structure interaction problem. The two main applications for my work are: slamming of small high-speed craft in waves, and passive and active shape reconfiguration to reduce drag around a body impacting the water.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Christine Gilbert

Mark Parsons

Mark Parsons

Mark Parsons is a fifth year doctoral candidate studying Ocean Engineering from Madison, Alabama. He completed his undergraduate degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in 2016 from the University of New Orleans.

Here at Virginia Tech, Parsons has been active in the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME), serving as the organization’s Graduate Student Representative from 2017 to present. He previously served one term as co-Vice-President of the AOE Graduate Student Association.

Parsons has been honored as a Science Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholar and worked at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division as a SMART Scholar (2017, 2018, and 2019) and as an Intern (2014 and 2015) through the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP).

Parsons has been awarded SNAME’s Wilbur N. Landers Graduate Scholarship (2016-2017); the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) Graduate Scholarship (2016-2017); the Charles C. Walts Fellowship (2019) and the Brian Nerney Graduate Research Fellowship (Fall 2019).

 He currently researches network-based methods to assess naval ship distributed system vulnerability, survivability, and battle damage recovery in concept stage design.  This assessment is typically done during the preliminary or detailed stages of design because of its perceived complexity and requirement for detailed analysis.  Trends in electric warship design indicate an increasing interdependence of combat, power, and energy systems, further complicating this task.  Considering vulnerability in concept stage design insures an effective, operable, survivable, and affordable final ship design.

He aspires to become the premiere naval architect in the naval ship concept design community upon graduation from Virginia Tech.

 Faculty Advisor: Dr. Alan J. Brown

John Rodman

John Rodman

John Rodman is a second-year Ph.D. candidate from Baltimore, Maryland. He earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering / Physics from Syracuse University in 2019.

His past experience includes working at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab SULI, as well as the Brookhaven National Lab SULI, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst REU.

During his time as an undergraduate, Rodman was awarded the Earl H. Devote Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Research and the Paul M. Gelling Award for Academic Achievement at Syracuse. Here at Virginia Tech, he is a past recipient of the Brian Nerney Graduate Fellowship and the Robert & Carol Tolson Fellowship.

Rodman is also a member of the Virginia Tech Crew Team.

He hopes to work at a Department of Energy National Lab with research focus on plasma physics and nuclear fusion. “My area of research is high-fidelity simulations of high-energy-density plasma to study transport and instabilities in astrophysical and nuclear fusion contexts. In this regime, current simulations do not match experimental results.  My research will help to refine commonly-employed simulation codes and will involve some of the largest high-fidelity kinetic simulations in high-energy-density regimes.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Bhuvana Srinivasan


New Horizons Graduate Scholars

Bruce Barbour

Bruce Barbour

Bruce Barbour is a first year doctoral candidate from Rocky Mount, Virginia. He earned his undergraduate degree in aerospace and ocean engineering from Virginia Tech in 2020.

Barbour is an active student member in the Sigma Gamma Tau Aerospace Honor Society (SGT), the AIAA, and the Commonwealth of Scholars Honor Society. As an undergraduate, he was a former member of the Galileo Living Learning Community and participated in Project Empyrean: Interstellar Mission Design, NASA’s BIG Idea Challenge, NASA University Student Design Challenge, RASC-AL competition and the NASA L’SPACE Academy.

He has gained experience through internships with The MITRE Corporation in Spacecraft Position, Navigation, and Timing; and as a academic tutor with The Student Success Center.

Barbour is a New Horizons Graduate Scholar and is a past recipient of the Kevin Crofton Engineering Student Support Endowment Scholarship.

“A long-time dream of mine has been to participate in NASA’s mission to explore the space frontier since the moon landing in 1969. There are people who are always fascinated by the sky above us, and there are those who take those imagination and wonders into an innovative design problem. I wish to take orbital mechanics to that design problem by re-evaluating past answers and rewiring them to fit modern solutions using cutting-edge technology.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Black

Marco Peterson

Marco Peterson

Marco is a third year Ph.D. candidate from Suffolk Virginia and a Flight Company Platoon Leader in the United States Army. He holds an undergraduate degree from Virginia State University.

At Virginia Tech, he is a member of the SpaceDrones team, and is a New Horizons Graduate Scholar.

Upon earning his doctorate degree, he hopes to become a test pilot. Peterson hopes to make an impact through his research of the development of machine learning and computer vision tools for in-space assembly and maintenance.

VTX: Standing between satellites and space junk: Robotics, and a helicopter pilot

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Black


Science Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Fellowship

Danny Fritsch

Danny Fritsch

Danny Fritsch is a third year aerospace engineering Ph.D. candidate from Baltimore County, Maryland. He earned undergraduate degrees in both aerospace engineering and music from Virginia Tech in 2018.

Fritsch has gained experience as an intern for Columbia Helicopters Inc. in Portland, Oregon and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Jupiter, Florida. He is also a student member of the AIAA.

He is the recipient of a Department of Defense Science Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Fellowship, which is sponsored by the Applied Aerodynamics and Store Separation branch of the Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Maryland.

Through his research and work, Fritsch hopes further our knowledge of fluid dynamics, particularly turbulence, while being able to serve the world in a meaningful way

“My research focuses on understanding and predicting turbulent boundary layer flows, specifically how the turbulence causes the pressure on the immersed surface to fluctuate. This has profound implications for understanding aerodynamic noise, drag, and structural fatigue. This research project, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, has already brought international attention to Virginia Tech, the Crofton Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Department, and our very own Stability Wind Tunnel by serving as a test case for a NATO Applied Vehicle Technology workshop.”

Advisors: William Devenport and Chris Roy


Robert H. & Carol J. Tolson Fellowship

Amit Bala

Amit Bala

Amit Bala is a second year doctoral candidate from Rio Rancho, New Mexico.  He earned his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from New Mexico State University in 2019.

Bala is a student member of the AIAA and the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. He has gained experience through an internship with Northrop Grumman’s Air Force Research Labs Scholars Program. He is a recipient of the Robert H. & Carol J. Tolson Fellowship.

Following graduation, Bala hopes to work in industry in spacecraft guidance, navigation and control or systems architecture, and later return to academia to teach. “My research lies in the areas of orbital mechanics and applied machine learning. With my work, I hope to improve orbital maneuvering capabilities with the application of machine learning and potentially other novel techniques.”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Black


Virginia Space Grant Consortium Graduate Fellowship

Christopher Krier

Christopher Krier

Christopher Krier is a fourth year doctoral candidate from Clemson, South Carolina. He completed his undergraduate degree in Physics at Clemson University in 2017.

His previous experience includes working with Jens Oberheide at Clemson University on the analysis of data from the NASA/TIMED mission.

During his time at Virginia Tech, Krier has been awarded the Brian Nerney Graduate Fellowship and Davenport Fellowship (2017-2018), and the Virginia Space Grant Graduate STEM Research Fellowship (2018-2019).

He aspires to be a professional scientist who solves fundamental problems relevant to understanding the Earth's space environment. “My area of research is space science.  This field is important to the world because understanding the Earth's space environment is crucial to limiting the impacts of space variability on space-based technologies and operations such as GPS, telecommunication, and manned spaceflight.  I am currently working on investigating atmospheric waves using data from NASA's ICON and GOLD missions.”

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Scott England

*All photos have been student submitted, and were taken prior to COVID-19 safety protocols.