Shreya Chandra is the First UC Davis Student to Receive Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship
Shreya Chandra, a University of California, Davis, student majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering, is the first UC Davis student ever to be selected for the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship.
The fellowship, created in memory of Matthew Isakowitz who was devoted to space exploration, is geared toward college engineering juniors, seniors and graduate students who demonstrate academic excellence and a passion for entrepreneurship in the realm of commercial aerospace. Out of 250 applicants from 90 institutions, Chandra is one of 31 students selected for the 2024 class.
Despite being a second-year with a planned 2026 graduation date, Chandra was able to apply for the fellowship because she can be counted as a senior by the number of academic units she has accrued. She first learned of the fellowship in high school when she was looking for future opportunities to advance her aerospace career, keeping it in her mind for grad school. Applying for it this year was a bit of a shot in the dark.
"I didn't expect to get it at all," she said. "The first thing I did was text my mom, 'I got the Isakowitz fellowship!'"
During the rigorous application process, Chandra interviewed with Steve Isakowitz, the president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit organization that contracts with the federal government on aerospace research and development, and with Mandala Space Ventures, where she'll spend her summer interning.
For Chandra, the internship with Mandala is a perfect match for her future goals.
"I'm currently pursuing a certificate of entrepreneurship through our Student Startup Center, and Mandala Space Ventures is a venture capitalist company," said Chandra. "I'm excited to learn how to actually start a space company from the ground up in the commercial space industry because there's so much room for growth."
Elsewhere on campus, Chandra is involved in two research labs at the UC Davis Center for Spaceflight Research, one being the Bioastronautics and eXploration Systems (BXS) Laboratory, led by Rich Whittle, assistant professor of aerospace engineering. Chandra researches the physiological changes the space environment induces in the human body and develops tools, technologies, and countermeasures to facilitate operations and minimize risk in human spaceflight, like a space ambulance. Meanwhile, in Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Paul Erickson's Energy Research Lab, Chandra focuses on researching space radiation and propulsion.
As a former engineering intern at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Chandra isn't a stranger to space. By participating in this fellowship, Chandra looks forward to the opportunity to expand her knowledge of the aerospace industry and venture further into the unknown.
"In other engineering roles, you might feel like you're refining concepts that have already been developed, whereas working in aerospace engineering, you are working on things that humans have literally never done before. You essentially feel like you're inventing the wheel. We're facing uncharted territory. That's why I want to be a part of it."