February 8, 2024

Two aerospace engineering juniors at The University of Texas at Austin are recipients of the 2024 Brooke Owens Fellowship. Samantha Dolski and Wendy Rossi are among 47 women across the globe selected for the fellowship, which recognizes exceptional undergraduate women and other gender minorities studying aerospace engineering. Fellows are paired with space and aviation companies where they complete an internship. The program also offers senior mentorship and a lifelong professional network.

The Class of 2023 “Brookie” Fellows are the eighth class to date. Dolski and Rossi join six Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics recipients from past years.

Learn more about Dolski and Rossi, including why they chose to study aerospace, where they will do their internship and advice for women pursuing STEM degrees:

Why did you choose to study aerospace, and why at UT Austin?

photo of Samantha Dolski
Samantha Dolski will be working on the systems engineering and integrated performance team at Relativity Space for her Brooke Owens internship.

Dolski: Ever since I was in middle school, I was drawn to investigating the mysterious concepts of the universe – blackholes, exoplanets, and fascinating theories about wormholes and multiverses. Aerospace engineering is the bridge between humanity and exploration of the universe; it is the key to uncovering the truth about what our place in the universe is! UT Austin has the top aerospace engineering program in the country, especially in control engineering, which is the discipline I hope to work in. I also look forward to mission planning and contributing to designing the instrumentation that will put our humanity into greater perspective.

Rossi: My fascination with space began with Flat Stanley. In elementary school, we had to send a paper Flat Stanley into the world, so I sent mine to my aunt Becky in Alpine. A week later, she mailed me an overly full binder of his adventures, one of which was to The University of Texas McDonald Observatory’s star party. It was an adventure I personally pined for over a decade after the fact – I finally road-tripped there last year. But in the meantime, I knew I wanted to go to UT because clearly, space was their forte. By college, I had developed a love for engineering as well, so I merged both my loves, and thankfully, here I am. 

What will you be doing for your “Brookie” internship?

Dolski: I will be working on the systems engineering and integrated performance team at Relativity Space. I will help organize design reviews and system integration for their Terran R vehicle.

Rossi: I will be a propulsion intern for Hermeus. 

How do you think your experience with this internship will help shape your future career?

Dolski: This internship will give me a high-level yet detailed view of all the different systems of an industry-grade rocket. Furthermore, this experience will build my intuition on how all of them fit together. Systems may be developed, but if their misalignments are not corrected, there is no product. I look forward to resolving technical inconsistencies and creating channels of communication to foster technical progress and create successful integration of the Terran R vehicle.

photo of Wendy Rossi sharing research
Wendy Rossi will be working as a propulsion intern for Hermeus for her Brooke Owens internship.

Rossi: This internship is exactly what I want to do with my life. I’ve always wanted to work on super-fast planes and Hermeus is doing just that. Every time this summer crosses my mind, I get almost giddy thinking about how (for lack of better words) awesome the experience will be. I grew up around airplanes and my family would take road trips just to see a flight museum or be at fly-ins, so my passion is inevitable. It’s definitely going to be a full circle experience.

Tell us about your involvement in extracurricular student team projects at UT.

Dolski: As the director of operations for the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab (TREL), I oversee the technical progress of our liquid bipropellant rocket, Halcyon. I set the pace for technical decisions by creating an integrated master schedule for all engineering teams so that integration happens in a timely matter and all systems are ready for launch. Furthermore, I oversee all lab operations internally and externally. I communicate regularly with our stakeholders to update them on lab progress and communicate any needs for mentorship or hardware required for a successful launch.

Lastly, I am responsible for streamlining all processes in the lab and connecting different departments of the lab together. During my term, I have implemented a risk mitigation system to determine our critical path and have started a partnership with the UT’s MBA Aerospace club to further develop our project management and corporate relationships.

Rossi: Currently, I’m an undergraduate researcher with the Akinwande Lab with a focus on 2D materials, specifically using graphene electronic tattoos for underwater electrophysiology applications. My group is developing a research paper based on experiments begun last summer, and we now spend hours finalizing measurements and processing data. 

In TREL, I’m a payload co-lead, leading the integration of four payload subteams: avionics, structures, fluids, and recovery, in preparation for the launch of our rocket, Halcyon, this upcoming fall. We’re bringing a proof-of-concept weather balloon to life, and this semester has required a lot of spreadsheets, accountability and urgency in order to bring everything together successfully. It has been a blast so far, so I can’t wait until we literally blast off. 

What advice would you offer to girls or other gender minorities interested in pursuing a STEM degree?

Dolski: Never stop asking questions and never doubt that you do not belong. Take up space! STEM is full of endless opportunities for discovery. Without women, STEM would not be where it is today. Be the next woman to reshape the discipline!

Rossi: I feel imposter syndrome like it’s a second skin I wear. Whenever I would express my doubts while applying for this fellowship, my best friend would make me repeat after him, “I am capable. I am incredible. I am amazing. I am qualified.” Safe to say, I think the affirmations worked. All this is to say, that the way you speak about yourself matters. Don’t let your own words set you back.