Hello everyone! Hope you all are having a great week! We're back this month with another Macademics post. This week I'm featuring Naia Butler-Craig. Naia is a recent graduate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, a concentration in astronautics and a minors in computational mathematics. Since 2016, she has been working at NASA Glenn research center during my summer as a pathways intern. She is involved in many STEM outreach and volunteer organizations as well. Scroll down to read more about her journey to STEM.
What is aerospace engineering?
I’ve wanted to be an engineer for as long as I could remember. My parents always tell the story about how at age 7, I drew the complete underbody of a vehicle I was sure could run on oxygen. It wasn’t until 8th grade when I took a class called Earth Space Science that I was truly curious about space and decided to research a career that involved everything I loved: Science, Engineering and Space. This was aerospace engineering.
What were some of your favorite classes and why?
My favorite classes were space mechanics, and jets and rockets. That’s because they were the classes that covered the fields I was interested in studying for grad school.
You’re headed to Georgia Tech for your PhD! Congratulations! What led you to make that decision?
Thank you! I decided my sophomore year that I wanted to research electric propulsion systems and Georgia Tech is not only one of most equipped schools for that specific research area but is preceded by their name in the field of Aerospace Engineering.
What obstacles did you face pursuing your degree? How did you overcome them?
Externally, I faced professors telling me to change my major, I faced issues with one professor that had to be elevated to the dean, and I faced my own failures with some grades. Internally, I faced issues with anxiety and depression and imposter syndrome. I overcame them in various ways like: reaching out to mentors for help, leaning on upperclassmen and peers, praying and mediating, seeking counseling and accommodations.
What is some of the best advice you have received?
I have received so much amazing advice from all of my mentors but one of the things that helped me get through the end of my undergraduate degree was something I read in a book called, “Go for No”. In the book, it basically says that failure is on the way to success. Since failure is inevitable on the road to success, I learned to embrace failure and use it and channel the feelings that come with it into positive things.
Do you have any advice for anyone interested in Aerospace Engineering? Or Engineering in general?
I would say definitely start researching where in the industry you would like to go! There are many options within the field! If you don’t know that’s also perfectly fine. If possible, find/take classes on coding and computer aided design. Those are two fundamental skills in all of engineering which can give you a huge leg up when looking for internships etc. if you can get proficient at it early.