Momentum Member Spotlight – August 2013
AIAA Congratulates Mississippi State University’s Paromita Mitra
By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
The August 2013 Member Spotlight shines on Paromita Mitra, from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, an AIAA Student Member, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering student at Mississippi State University. Mitra also recently represented her home state as Miss Mississippi in the Miss U.S.A. pageant. Originally from Bangladesh, Mitra maintains close family ties with relatives in that nation, and still returns their often to visit, and to work with the charity Smile Bangladesh, a non-profit group with supports reconstructive surgery for children born with cleft lips and pallets.
“Since childhood my brother has been a role model in my life,” said Mitra, when asked who or what may have inspired her to into aerospace. “Growing up, he took our family on monthly planetarium visits, so space and astronomy naturally became an interest of mine.” “Each year, we would also attend the Mid-South Star Gaze as a family at French Camp, Mississippi. Upon joining my robotics team in high school, my physics teacher became my mentor and a huge influence in my future career. Mrs. Sappington always spoke to me about the importance of women in engineering, and was an advocate for the Bagley College of Engineering at MSU.”
When asked about her favorite aerospace moment, Mitra responded: “Thus far, my favorite memory about aerospace is being part of the MSU Space Cowboys Rocket Design Team. Being part of the team has granted me so many opportunities. Not only have I gotten the hands on experience of being on a design team, but the most fulfilling experience has been the educational outreach portion. To see kids light up and get so excited during a rocketry demonstration is truly rewarding. As Miss Mississippi USA 2013 I promote S.T.E.M. as my personal platform and I could not have done so without the influence of my rocket team members.” “Another good memory is travelling and speaking on S.T.E.M topics with my title is another experience in itself- especially when I interact with young girls. My most memorable experience was at the US Air Force Academy where I was invited to speak at their annual "Audience for an Astronaut" event. There, a little girl hugged me and said that she never thought it was possible for her to become a scientist until she met me. I am so lucky to be able to share my story of perseverance and dedication through my own life experiences as an immigrant and a woman in the engineering field. It has been a blessing.”
For students thinking of entering aerospace, Mitra underscored the sacrifices that pursuing an aerospace degree can entail: “Accept the idea of no social life. The four years of dedication it takes to achieve an aerospace degree goes by so very fast and is well worth the effort. Become involved in the department and it will be very beneficial. Plus, rocket scientists are some pretty rad people to interact with. My entire friend group consists of people from the aerospace engineering department.”
For peers, Mitra had this advice: “To my peers my personal advice would be to join a design team. I have learned so many aspects of the design, test, and build process which otherwise would not have been possible without my involvement in the Space Cowboys. Everything from manufacturing, working under pressure/deadlines, professionalism, group correspondence, to versatility is all crucial aspects of the reality that is the work field.” And for professional members who are mentors and role-models, Mitra stated: “For older members: remember to pay attention to the diversity and individuality of applicants and students. The best thinkers are those with very unique experiences.”
For high school students still thinking about pursuing an aerospace degree, Mitra offered this advice: “Never become discouraged. Aerospace engineering may sound very intimidating, but like all other things in life, take it day by day. In high school my calculus teacher literally laughed out loud when I told her my career choice. Now I am a math minor and in my final year of my degree. It is so important to take negative situations and let them fuel your success. I was never Star Student or valedictorian. Hard and smart workers are the ones who succeed in this field.” Mitra also talked about the role that organized speech and debate competitions played in her ability to confidently purse an aerospace career: “My forensic training has played a large role in my aerospace career thus far. As an engineer it is vital to be able to portray complicated information in a way which others may understand it. Without speech and debate I would not have the courage to speak about Computational Fluid Dynamics at an international conference in front of a panel of esteemed judges and huge audience. Moments like this certainly make me thankful that I had the training I did as a forensics member.”
Mitra closed our interview discussing the Miss USA pageant and her involvement in it. When asked if her participation in the pageant would have an effect on young females, and if it would help break down stereotypes, she stated: “I certainly hope so. My year as Miss Mississippi USA has granted me the opportunity to travel and speak about my passion for education. Although difficult, it is very possible and okay to have both brains and beauty (although the latter is negotiable). I hope to really show others that you don't have to choose. If anything, being involved in pageantry has helped my schooling. The life lessons of commitment and dedication I learned play a huge role in my education and future career.”
AIAA congratulates Paromita Mitra on her selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for August 2013, and extends its best wishes on the completion of her undergraduate career.