Graduate Student Advisory Committee

GSAC Links

GSAC Research Luncheons

Past Luncheon Speakers

Spring 2014 Speakers

Fall 2013 Speakers

Meeting Minutes


The Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC) is an informal group of graduate students from each of the 5 major focus areas in the Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Maryland. The committee was formed in the Fall 2012 semester in response to the requests of graduate students and department faculty, and seeks to foster camaraderie, growth and success among the graduate student body.

GSAC regularly hosts research luncheon speakers who discuss a variety of topics related to Aerospace Engineering.

Meet the current Graduate Student Advisory Committee

Elaine PetroElaine Petro
Past Education: B.S. ('10), M.S. ('15) , Aerospace Engineeering, University of Maryland
Adviser: Dr. Raymond Sedwick
Lab: Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory (SPPL)

President, GSAC
Elaine returned to graduate school at the University of Maryland in 2013, following three years of post-baccalaureate work at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She is pursuing an M.S. / Ph.D. with a focus on space propulsion and hopes to design systems that will enable the next wave of deep space exploration. The opportunities presented by the NSF Fellowship will be extremely valuable in that they will allow her to investigate fundamental problems related to space propulsion systems. In addition, Elaine is excited about the emphasis that the National Science Foundation places on international collaboration and science and engineering outreach.

lankfordJames Lankford 
Past Education:  B.S. (’11), Aerospace Engineering, Virginia Tech
M.S. (’14), Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland 
Adviser:  Dr. Inderjit Chopra 
Lab: Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center – Micro Aerial Vehicles Lab 

James Lankford is a Ph.D. student working under the advisement of Dr. Inderjit Chopra. In 2011, he received his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech and his Master’s in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland in 2014. While in graduate school, he was a member of the Aerospace department’s rotorcraft student design team which came in 1st place in the graduate division of the American Helicopter Society’s 30th annual student design competition. In addition, James was the recipient of the National GEM Consortium Minority Fellowship (2011-2013) and was awarded as an Alfred P. Sloan Scholar in 2014.  Lankford is currently performing research related to further understanding the fundamental principles associated with flexible flapping wing micro air vehicles (MAVs) through a multi-disciplinary approach. More specifically, he is developing and validating a coupled, high fidelity aeroelastic solver to model the fluid/structure interaction inherent to flexible flapping wings and determine how it influences wing performance. Ultimately, the goal of his research project is to utilize the aeroelastic analysis to aid in the design process of future flapping wing MAV concepts in order to improve aerodynamic performance and efficiency.

Thomas Pillsbury
Past Education: B.S. ('12), M.S. ('15), Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland
Adviser: Dr. Norman Wereley
Laboratory: CORE Laboratory

Thomas Pillsbury is a Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research in the UMD Smart Structures Lab is focused on robotic manipulation employing lightweight, soft Pneumatic Artificial Muscles for actuation. Thomas received his B.S in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland in 2012. His current research interests include robotics, soft actuation, and biologically inspired design. Winning a NSF Fellowship will allow Thomas additional freedom to pursue his research interests in soft actuation for robotics.

Nathan Shumway
Past education: B.S. (’13), Mechanical Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Adviser: Dr. Stuart Laurence
Laboratory: N/A

Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago with a clear view of the approach paths to O’Hare International Airport, Nathan has always been fascinated by flying things and how things fly. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he was involved with the Design Build Fly team, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and the local chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Since he enjoyed his opportunities to do experimental research as an undergraduate student, he chose to pursue a Ph.D. and is currently working with Dr. Stuart Laurence studying untethered dragonfly flight and their response to gusts.

William Staruk
Doctoral Candidate
Past Education: B.S. (’10), Aerospace Engineering, University of Notre Dame
Adviser: Dr. Inderjit Chopra
Laboratory: Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center

Will is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Maryland Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, studying under Dr. Chopra. Originally from Massachusetts, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2010, and then went straight to graduate school at Maryland. Previously, he served as the project manager for Maryland's Gamera Human Powered Helicopter Team before stepping back to focus on his own research into 3-D computational structural dynamics. Will is also a recipient of the NASA Aeronautics Scholarship Program graduate fellowship.