Aerospace student joins ‘exceptional group of women’

Aerospace engineering student becomes UTA’s sixth Amelia Earhart Fellow

Tuesday, Jun 23, 2020 • Herb Booth :


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A doctoral student in aerospace engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington is one of 35 Amelia Earhart Fellows for 2020.

Katiyayni (Kati) Balachandran is the seventh UTA student selected by the Zonta International Foundation for the honor, joining Mousumi Ahmed, Jennifer Goss, Laura Henderson, Jolanta Matusewicz, Monica Hew and Wendy Okolo.

Balachandran works with aerospace engineering Professor Kamesh Subbarao in the Aerospace Systems Laboratory. Her research focuses on developing techniques to model the shape and estimate the attitude of space objects, such as asteroids or fragments of artificial satellites, using photometric light curves.

Characterizing these objects with classification algorithms helps researchers with identification and tracking. Balachandran is extending this modeling to a planetary atmosphere using data from several distributed sensors such as satellite constellations.

“I am deeply pleased and honored to receive the Amelia Earhart Fellowship,” she said. “This wouldn't have been possible without the immense support of Dr. Subbarao and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.

“I’m proud to join an exceptional group of women who have previously received this prestigious award, many of whom worked in the Aerospace Systems Lab. I’m appreciative of the support in this male-dominated industry. This fellowship allows me to focus on learning and sharing that knowledge with others passionate about the aerospace engineering field.”

The Amelia Earhart Fellowship was established in 1938 in honor of famed pilot Amelia Earhart. The $10,000 fellowship is awarded annually to up to 35 women pursuing doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering and space sciences.

Since the program’s inception in 1938, Zonta has awarded 1,603 Amelia Earhart Fellowships, totaling more than $10.3 million, to 1,174 women representing 73 countries. Fellows have gone on to become astronauts, aerospace engineers, astronomers, professors, geologists, business owners, heads of companies and secretary of the U.S. Air Force.

“Kati is very dedicated and highly passionate about all things space,” said Subbarao, who has helped mentor four other Amelia Earhart fellows. “She has a unique background—not a traditional aerospace engineering degree—and the way she took on the rigors of the program is inspiring. She is the kind of individual who will inspire generations of young women to pursue STEM for a career.”

- Written by Jeremy Agor, College of Engineering