Ken M. Mitchell Wins 2018 AIAA Foundation Abe M. Zarem Award for Distinguished Achievement in Astronautics Written 20 August 2018

CONTACT: John Blacksten

Mechanical engineering student winner is from the University of Memphis

Ken M. Mitchell, 2018 AIAA Foundation Abe M. Zarem Graduate Award Winner for Distinguished Achievement in Astronautics

August 20, 2018 – Reston, Va. – Ken M. Mitchell from the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tenn., has won the 2018 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation Abe M. Zarem Award for Distinguished Achievement in Astronautics. 

Mitchell is receiving the award for his research paper “Thermal Conductivity and Specific Heat Measurements of an RTV-655/Polyimide Aerogel Compound at 77K and 298K.” He has been invited to participate in the student paper competition of the 69th International Astronautical Congress held October 1-5, 2018 in Bremen, Germany. 

“As a professor myself, I know the essential role graduate students play in expanding what’s possible in research,” said Dan Dumbacher, AIAA executive director. “I am inspired by the work being done by the newest generation of innovators.”

Mitchell is a mechanical engineering graduate student at the University of Memphis and is working in the Bio, Nano, and Space Materials Lab within the Physics Department. He’s in the second year of his master’s degree studies and expects to graduate in December. He received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering last year at the University of Memphis. 

“I was born and raised in Memphis by two hearing impaired parents, learning English sign language as my first language, which I attribute to most of my intellectual growth,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be a mechanical engineer right out of high school stemming from a childhood of tinkering with small engines and a variety of other mechanical equipment.” 

Mitchell’s field of study began as an undergraduate when he asked to participate in Jeffrey Marchetta’s research. Marchetta is a professor of Mechanical Engineering and faculty advisor of the AIAA University of Memphis Student Branch. He’s also a lifetime AIAA Senior Member and a member of the American Society for Gravitational Space Research (ASGSR). He received the AIAA Abe Zarem Award for Distinguished Achievement in Astronautics Research in 1999 and has been a member of the AIAA Microgravity and Space Processes Technical Committee (MSPTC) since 1999.

Marchetta assigned Mitchell to a project pertaining to the development of a cryogenic tank constructed of a novel rubber and insulation compound, leading to work in the physics department's Bio, Nano, and Space Materials Lab. 

After Mitchell won second place in the technical paper and presentation category at an AIAA regional student conference in 2017, he was inspired to continue his research under Marchetta. His focus in graduate school has been to measure thermal conductivity and specific heat of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and aerogel at room temperature and cryogenic temperature using the transient plane source technique. 

“I attribute all of my success to my mentor and faculty advisor Dr. Jeffrey Marchetta,” Mitchell said. “Upon the completion of my degree, I aspire to work for an organization like NASA or a company like SpaceX alongside some of the greatest minds in the world! I want to continue learning for the rest of my life and I want to contribute to the future of astronautics and aeronautics!” 

Both Mitchell and Marchetta will be recognized at an awards luncheon at the AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition (AIAA SciTech Forum) to be held Jan. 7-11, 2019 in San Diego, Calif. 

AIAA Honorary Fellow Dr. Abe Zarem, founder and managing director of Frontier Associates, established the Abe M. Zarem Award for Distinguished Achievement to annually recognize graduate students, in aeronautics and astronautics, who have demonstrated outstanding scholarship in their field and who are pursuing graduate degrees. 

For more information on the Abe M. Zarem Award for Distinguished Achievement, please contact Felicia Livingston at or 703.264.7502.

About the AIAA Foundation
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