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Finding Inspiration in the Stars

Pitt Senior Aarti Patel Receives Competitive Brooke Owens Fellowship for Women in Aerospace Industry

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 4, 2021) — Ever since her father gifted her a telescope when she was a child, Aarti Patel (BSME ‘22), a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, has had an eye toward the stars. 

“When I was younger, my nights looking at the sky were the most inspired I ever felt,” said Patel, who is studying mechanical engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering. “With that, I became curious and eager to learn more about aerospace technology and wanted to contribute to its advancement.”

Since then, she has relentlessly pursued that dream. In recognition of her drive and passion, Patel was recently named among the competitive 2021 Class of the Brooke Owens Fellowship. The organization recognizes exceptional undergraduate women and other gender minorities who are entering the aerospace industry.AartiPatel3

Fellows are matched with an executive-level mentor to help launch their careers and will be invited to the annual Brooke Owens Summit, to be held virtually at the end of the year. This year, 44 undergraduates were chosen as “Brookies” out of more than 800 applicants. The selected fellows have demonstrated “their desire to pursue a career in aerospace, a record of leadership, a commitment to their communities, and their inexhaustible creativity,” according to the organization

In her studies at Pitt, Patel has taken a keen interest in mechanical design, analysis and mission operations for launch vehicles. In addition to her engineering classes, internships in the aerospace industry and undergraduate research, Patel was a co-founding member of Pitt’s Society of Astronautics and Rocketry (SOAR) and now serves as one of the Chief Engineers of the NASA Student Launch Team at Pitt.

Patel’s creativity is evident not only in her research and industry work, but also in her art—as a NASA Psyche Inspired Intern, she creates meaningful art for the upcoming Psyche Mission to explore an asteroid, with the purpose of public engagement and education. She hopes to continue that work in her career, where she plans to mentor girls and first-generation students in stem and bridge the connection between art and science.

“For me, art has always been more than a creative outlet—it has inspired me to keep learning and to explore the unknown,” she said. “So, with that I hope to create inspiring and educational space art for the public and students.”

Patel has worked as a Defense Division Engineering Co-op at Curtiss-Wright and is currently an Integrated Test Engineering Intern at Blue Origin. This summer, she will intern at Airbus U.S. Space & Defense in Arlington, Va. Patel hopes these experiences, along with the support and mentorship of the Brooke Owens Fellowship, will help her launch a compelling career in the aerospace industry.

“It is an exciting time in the industry with the upcoming missions to the moon and Mars along with more breakthroughs being made with reusable launch vehicles,” said Patel. “I hope to have a diverse experience in the work that I do and to make a difference as I continue to explore all the super exciting roles that engineers take on.”

Author: Maggie Pavlick