Sasha Valitutti selected as 2022 SMART Fellow
Sasha Valitutti, a junior aerospace engineering student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, has been named the recipient of a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship .
The award will fully fund his tuition for his remaining years of college; pay him an annual allowance of $25,000; provide mentorship through a DoD sponsoring facility; secure summer internships at a DoD-related institution each year she is an undergraduate student; and secure placement with the DoD or a DoD-related institution upon graduation. She will work for the DoD for one year after graduation as part of the award terms.
Valitutti says that when she began her studies as an aerospace engineering major, she knew very little about emerging aerospace technologies, let alone how they intersect with sustainable solutions to engineering problems.
“I had this preconception that all the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly ways to fly planes and launch rockets had already been invented,” she says. “It wasn’t until I took courses such as thermodynamics, mechanical/aerospace lab, and computational fluid dynamics that I was challenged to think about improving existing designs as I went along. as I learned the course material.”
Valitutti worked at the Skytop Turbulence Lab with Mark Glauser, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The lab aims to understand the flow rate from a rectangular jet nozzle and manipulate the flow rate for a more desirable product.
“I learned how to configure the fuel tanks and air compressors needed to run the tests, as well as how to use a computer program to capture data from high-speed cameras and render images for analysis,” she says. “Going forward, I look forward to contributing design ideas on modifying the jet splitter plate – a component of interest – as I perform further testing and continue to be supervised by experienced researchers. Learning to use the equipment confirmed my passion for testing – a path that earning a SMART scholarship will allow me to pursue. »
Valitutti gives a lot of credit to those she learned from. “I am extremely grateful to have had teachers such as Dr (Jeongmin) Ahn, Dr Glauser and Dr (Mehmet) Sarimurat,” she says. “They inspired me to change my thinking – that the ‘best’ solution for sustainable and affordable air travel or space travel has yet to be invented, and if I put my mind to it, I can be a small contributor to this Solution.”
After graduating in May 2023, Valitutti will be assigned to the 461st Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) assigned to the 412th Test Wing at the Air Force Test Center (AFTC) at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The AFTC is the center for research, test, development and deployment of aerospace systems for the US Air Force. “I feel really lucky to be placed at the center of all this innovation. I will join the Test Operations division, where I will help test the planes. Currently, the 461st FLTS is working on testing the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, so I’m excited to be involved when I join,” she said.
Valitutti says the SMART Fellowship and her subsequent employment with the Department of Defense will help her both pursue her research interests and fulfill her desire to serve the United States and its citizens. “As an immigrant, I saw the opportunities for my parents through our new lives in the United States, especially through employment with the federal government,” she says. Valitutti’s mother and father work for the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Transport respectively.
“Their faith in the United States offered us better living conditions and the chance for me to have educational opportunities that would not have been available in our home country. I feel an immense sense of gratitude and patriotism for the nation that changed the course of my life,” she said. “For these reasons, I believe that the Ministry of Defense is the ideal place for me. At the DoD, I can apply my aerospace engineering skills in a way that helps keep Americans safe and give back to the country that has given so much to me and my family.
In addition to her faculty mentors, Sasha worked closely with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) to apply for the SMART Scholarship. “Sasha’s desire to use her aerospace engineering background as a public servant is truly inspiring and makes her an ideal candidate for the SMART Fellowship,” says Melissa Welshans, ACSA Deputy Director. “We know that Sasha will have an outstanding career making innovations that will benefit society.”
ACSA will host a session on DoD-related scholarships and research opportunities, including SMART, with alumnus Steve Farr G’93 on Friday, April 29 at 10:30 a.m. at 331 Link Hall.