Stephanie Gowell

Stephanie Gowell
Staff Assistant
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Space Systems Engineering

Education and Experience:

I remember drawing a masterpiece, or what I thought was a masterpiece, while in my elementary art class. It was a watercolor paint and crayon drawing of space with me portrayed as an astronaut in it. Clearly, I was drawn to space even as a child, but I didn’t consciously discover my passion for space until college.

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon my most rewarding campus experience, the Student Space Systems Fabrication Laboratory (S3FL), during my freshman year at the University of Michigan. S3FL challenged me over the past five years as a leader and a student. It opened my eyes to aerospace engineering, which soon became my major. My experiences on a CanSat project my freshman year and advising the CanSat project my sophomore year led me to CubeSat research and projects in S3FL for the rest of my undergraduate career. I had the privilege to project manage a CubeSat boom project my junior year, which I was lucky enough to fly with onboard NASA’s “Weightless Wonder” with my teammates. My senior year I focused on the administration side of S3FL and spacecraft operations for the University of Michigan CubeSats. In the past year, I started working towards my Masters of Engineering in Space Systems and focused my energies on leading S3FL as an organization and leading a CubeSat plasma thruster propellant tank research project in the Aerospace Department at U of M.

In the middle of my junior year, I also became heavily involved in the University of Michigan’s Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) Chapter’s council, which leads the SEDS’ initiatives on campus. Through my efforts with SEDS, I found a different view of space. Until I became involved in SEDS, I’d only focused on building/engineering projects because the “design, build, and test” process seemed interesting, not WHY space is amazing or needs these projects for exploration. Something changed in me after attending many of the campus lectures hosted by SEDS, but it was after Newspace 2011 that I completely understood that a career in the space industry is what I have to do with the rest of my life. I want to engineer spacecraft that enable science missions to explore planets and bodies and to learn about our origins and future.

SEDS has also offered me opportunities to be involved with congressional visits in Washington, D.C., which led to my fascination in space policy. I think it is important for everyone to be informed and to advocate for space exploration and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in congressional visits once a year for the past three years.

Interests & Expectations:

NASA Academy was and is my dream come true! I feel very privileged to have participated as an Academite last summer in the NASA Ames Academy for Space Exploration. I learned a lot about myself, leadership, teamwork, NASA, and engineering. It was an experience unlike any other. I am honored and excited that I was selected as a staffer to help others have a similar experience. I look forward to continued growth through experiences with students and staff.

Future Plans:

I plan on returning to the University of Michigan in the fall to finish my final semester in my master’s program. Upon completion of my masters, I plan to go work in the space industry as an engineer. At some point, I’d also like to be involved in space policy/advocacy. My ultimate goal, however, is to go to space myself one day!