AIAA Announces 2020 Undergraduate Scholarship and Graduate Award Winners Written 1 September 2020

September 1, 2020 – Reston, Va. –The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation has announced the 22 winners of its 2020 undergraduate scholarships and graduate awards.

Through its Foundation and supported by nearly 30,000 members, AIAA awards academic scholarships and STEM educational grants to support the next generation of aerospace professionals.

“Preparing the next generation of aerospace innovators is part of our community’s commitment to bringing the best minds to the task,” said John Langford, chair of the AIAA Foundation. “These students are our industry’s next leaders and problem solvers. We are proud to call them student members and look forward to seeing the contributions they bring to aerospace.”

The 2020 undergraduate scholarship winners are:

The $10,000 Daedalus 88 Scholarship, endowed by AIAA Immediate Past President John Langford, founder and CEO Emeritus of Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company, and founder and CEO of, was presented to Niloy Gupta, University of Maryland – College Park (College Park, MD).

The $10,000 David and Catherine Thompson Space Technology Scholarship, named for and endowed by former AIAA President David Thompson, retired chairman, chief executive officer, and president of Orbital ATK, Dulles, Virginia, and his wife Catherine, was presented to Linyi Hou, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, IL).

The $5,000 Vicki and George Muellner Scholarship for Aerospace Engineering, named for and endowed by the late Lt. Gen. George Muellner, former AIAA president, U.S. Air Force and president of advanced systems for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, and his wife Vicki, was presented to Matthew Mullin, Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY).

The $5,000 Wernher von Braun Scholarship, named in honor of the German rocketeer and founder of the U.S. space program, was presented to Rachel Cueva, University of Maryland – College Park (College Park, MD).

The $1,250 Leatrice Gregory Pendray Scholarship was presented to Kyra Warren, Trine University (Angola, IN).

Seven AIAA Foundation scholarships were presented by AIAA technical committees (TC) to students performing research in the TC’s area:

  • The Liquid Propulsion TC presented a $2,500 scholarship to Kiseuk Ahn, Bellevue College (Bellevue, WA).
  • The Space Transportation TC presented a $1,500 scholarship to Mark Magnante, University of Missouri – Columbia (Columbia, MO).

The Digital Avionics TC presented four scholarships of $2,000 each:

  • The Dr. James Rankin Digital Avionics Scholarship was presented to Carson Schubert, University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX).
  • The Dr. Amy R. Pritchett Digital Avionics Scholarship was presented to Laura Morejon-Ramirez, University of California, San Diego (San Diego, CA).
  • The Ellis F. Hitt Digital Avionics Scholarship was presented to Sean Dungan, Florida Institute of Technology (Melbourne, FL).
  • The Cary Spitzer Digital Avionics Scholarship was presented to Isaiah Fleischer, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI).

The 2020 graduate award winners are:

Kathrine Bretl, University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder, CO) received the Neil Armstrong Graduate Award. This $5,000 award honors the character and achievements of the late astronaut, military pilot, and educator, Neil A. Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon.

Elizabeth Blenk and Andrew Navratil, both from North Carolina State University (NCSU), are the recipients of the Dr. Hassan A. Hassan Graduate Award in Aerospace Engineering. Dr. Hassan established the award shortly before his death in January 2019 to entice top NCSU aerospace engineering seniors, who also are AIAA members, to earn their graduate degree (M.S. or Ph.D.) in aerospace engineering at NCSU. There are two $5,000 awards presented each year.

Alejandro Trujillo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA), received the John Leland Atwood Graduate Award. Established in 1999, the $1,250 award, sponsored by endowments from Rockwell and what is now The Boeing Company and named in memory of John Leland “Lee” Atwood, former chief executive officer of Rockwell, North America, recognizes a student actively engaged in research in the areas covered by the technical committees (TC) of AIAA.

Each academic year the AIAA Foundation presents the Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Awards. These $5,000 awards, given in memory of the Wright brothers’ contributions to the evolution of flight, recognize two full-time graduate students.

  • Elizabeth Benitez, Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), and Julia Mihalyov, Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD), each received the Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award.

Five AIAA TCs also presented graduate awards:

  • Maria Del Mar Cols-Margenet, University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder, CO), received the Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) TC’s $2,500 Guidance, Navigation and Control Graduate Award.
  • Julie Deutsch-Patel, Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA), received the Modeling and Simulation TC’s $3,500 Luis de Florez Graduate Award.
  • Umesh Unnikrishnan, Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA), received the Propellants and Combustion TC’s $1,250 Martin Summerfield Propellants and Combustion Graduate Award.
  • Andres Adam, University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA), received the Air Breathing Propulsion TC’s $1,000 Gordon C. Oates Air Breathing Propulsion Graduate Award.
  • Mayank Bendarkar, Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA), received the General Aviation TC’s $1,000 William T. Piper, Sr. General Aviation Systems Graduate Award.

Applications for the 2021 scholarships are being accepted from 1 October to 31 January. Please visit the AIAA Foundation’s Scholarship and Graduate Awards website for more information.

Media contact: Brian Talbot,, 703.980.4132

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 91 countries, and 100 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 AIAA on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.