Aerospace engineers are putting really incredible technology and people into the sky

Growing up, Haley Patel really enjoyed math and physics. In high school, she decided that she wanted to pursue a field that encouraged innovation and focused on the development of new technology. Now, as a senior and an honors student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Patel can reflect back on her childhood ambitions and know she has achieved her goal.

Patel discovered aerospace engineering after her first semester and immediately knew it was the right fit. “Aerospace engineers are putting really incredible technology and people into the sky,” she said. Patel credits UMD’s First-Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE) program with introducing her to her passion. “In FIRE, I did things with swarm robotics that helped me get my first internship.”

Once Patel declared the major, she never looked back. To date, she has completed an internship at the Nyheim Plasma Institute as well as an internship with NAVSEA through the Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program. Her list of accomplishments doesn’t stop there. Patel is currently the Vice President of the senior Design, Build, Fly capstone team and the Public Affairs Officer of Sigma Gamma Tau, the aerospace engineering honors society. She is also an active member of UMD’s Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics and AIAA student chapters.

 “A lot of the opportunities happened because I was willing to put myself out there,” says Patel, a two-time recipient of the ARCS Scholarship and a recent recipient of the Emergent Space Technologies Scholarship. “I had so many awesome people help me out my freshman year, and I just want to do the same for others.”

As a peer mentor for the University Honors program and a peer advisor in the Engineering Career Center, she is doing just that. Under the direction of Dr. Stuart Laurence in the High-Speed Aerodynamics and Propulsion Lab, Patel is also busy working on her honors research thesis. “I’m really excited to apply what I’ve learned and start working in the industry next year,” she says.