AIAA Announces Winners of Prestigious Zarem Graduate Student Awards in Aeronautics and Astronautics Written 12 November 2019


CONTACT: Michele McDonald

Students from Georgia Tech and Oregon State University

November 12, 2019 – Reston, Va. – AIAA is pleased to announce the two winners of the Zarem Graduate Student Awards for Distinguished Achievement.

Johnie Sublett, a Ph.D. student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, won the astronautics award for “Design and Testing of a Fault-tolerant Space Suit.” Sublett also won first place in the graduate portion of the student paper competition at the 70th International Astronautical Congress, held 21–25 October in Washington, D.C.

Cole Anderson, who graduated in June with master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University, won the aeronautics award for “A Test Rig for Wing Flutter Suppression via Distributed Propulsion.”

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. 

Johnie Sublett, a Ph.D. student at the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Sublett grew up in Pensacola, Florida and has always been fascinated by complex problems and smart engineering solutions. He is working on fault-tolerant space suits that can protect astronauts from many of the puncture risks associated with planetary surface operations.

“Space suits protect their occupants from the hostile environment of space by maintaining a safe breathing atmosphere, with a pressure bladder containing the requisite internal gas pressure,” he explained.

“If this pressure garment is punctured or damaged, the suit can quickly depressurize, leading to rapid loss of consciousness, asphyxiation, and death. However, if a puncture could be detected and isolated, even major suit punctures would become survivable. Thus, the suit system I'm working to demonstrate includes a distributed array of pressure sensors and inflation cuffs that can detect, seal against, and isolate any punctures in the limbs of the suit.”

Attending IAC 2019 put him in contact with subject-matter experts in the field of space suit design and extravehicular operations who gave him feedback about his designs. “I also had the chance to meet and chat with some of the leading experts in human spaceflight and Mars exploration, which was incredible,” Sublett said.

His career goal is to work on human planetary exploration and spaceflight operations, either on the moon or Mars. “I think we're entering a golden age of space exploration. There now exists the public desire, technological capabilities, and launch infrastructure to enable humans to venture further, and to stay longer. Humans that are alive today will be the new pioneers of our species.”

Cole Anderson, who graduated in June with master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University.


Jumping out of airplanes is what eventually led Anderson to pursue a career in aerospace engineering. He earned a skydiving license after one of his best friends introduced him to the sport.

“Spending time at the airport in small aircraft, talking with pilots, and learning about aviation fascinated me,” said Anderson, who was born and raised in Palo Alto, Calif. “I quickly enrolled in the Aerospace Engineering minor at Oregon State University and was immediately attracted to the engineering side of aviation. I signed up for the Design/Build/Fly team and met Dr. Roberto Albertani who later offered me a position in his laboratory for my graduate research. Dr. Albertani played a large role in the success of the aerospace engineering program at OSU and helped foster my curiosity for aviation.”

Anderson’s research is focused on investigating the potential for flutter suppression via distributed propulsion, meaning he is looking at how to use electric motors, instead of gas engines/turbines, along with cleverly designed wing structures, to increase aircraft efficiency and optimize cruise conditions.

“The inspiration for this idea comes from combining technology in two current NASA X-planes; the X-56 MUTT and X-57 Maxwell,” he explained. “The project was selected by NASA for USRC funding and was also funded by the Boeing Professorship at Oregon State University.”

Anderson said he’s interested in aircraft structures and controls for his career and has been working at Altech Aerospace as a Structures Engineer where he’s been doing structural substantiation and Fatigue & Damage Tolerance analysis.

“I am inspired by America's strong legacy of leading the world in aerospace technology,” he said. “The current research in commercial supersonic aircraft and aeroservoelasticity is especially exciting to me. I am proud to present the result of my research and contribute to America's prestigious reputation.”

For more information on the Abe M. Zarem Graduate Awards for Distinguished Achievement, please contact Merrie Scott at or 703.264.7530.

About AIAA 
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 85 countries, and 95 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.


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