Tech and Science

UAH aerospace engineering doctoral candidate Swarnalatha Kumar receives Amelia Earhart Fellowship


BYLINE: Ann Marie Martin

Newswise — Swarnalatha Kathalagiri Vasantha Kumar, who is pursuing her doctorate in aerospace engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has received an Amelia Earhart Fellowship from Zonta International, a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.

The $10,000 fellowship is awarded annually to up to 30 women worldwide who are pursuing doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering and space sciences.

“I am absolutely honored that my work at UAH is getting recognized,” says Kumar, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System. “I am so grateful to all my advisers and mentors at UAH – and also my family for their patience and moral support.

“The project that I submitted to get this fellowship was the nonlinear dynamics of acoustic wave model. I developed two different analytical methods to validate the test simulations, and these models are particularly helpful in the study of combustion instability of liquid rocket engines.”

Kumar says working in rocket science is “a dream come true” that began when she was growing up in Bangalore, India.

“I looked up to Kalpana Chawla and her presence in the astronaut corps.”

Chawla, an American astronaut and aerospace engineer who was born in India, was the first woman of Indian origin to fly to space. On her second flight, she was one of the seven crew members who died when the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated during re-entry in 2003.

Kumar says UAH has been a great learning experience.

“For my master’s thesis, I worked in the Propulsion Research Center, and I conducted cold flow experiments on fuel injectors, which is related to liquid rocket engines. At UAH you work on the actual engineering projects. I’m very excited that I’m also a part of it.”

Seeing women succeed in science, aviation and aerospace fields shows girls that they can aspire to that type of future, too.

“That’s how I was inspired,” Kumar says. “I would be very happy to be someone else’s inspiration.”

Zonta International established the Amelia Earhart Fellowship in 1938 in honor of the famed pilot, who was a member. The organization notes on its website that it has awarded 1,704 Amelia Earhart Fellowships, totaling more than $11.3 million, to 1,275 women from 76 countries. The fellowships aim to increase the number of women working in the aerospace industry, currently about 25 percent.


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