Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship provides unique opportunity for AAE graduate student

Calvin Phillips was 'blown away' when he learned he was selected as a Matthew Isakowitz Fellow.

The call came while Calvin Phillips was standing in Walmart.

And he could hardly contain himself.

The first time he’d applied for the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship, he wasn’t selected. But the second time? He was in, the person on the other end of the call told him.

AAE master's student Calvin Phillips

“I was blown away,” said Phillips, a master’s student in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and one of only 30 students in the country selected as a Fellow. “I called pretty much everyone on my contact list.”

The national fellowship is rare in that it offers graduate students a complete experience: Not only setting them up with a 10-12-week internship from one of its “host companies” but also pairing them with an influential mentor in the field of aerospace engineering, as well as offering networking opportunities that can impact professional careers.

That’s why Phillips was so intent on applying: He knew how incredible the opportunity was after hearing about it from friends who’d been selected while he was an undergraduate at Georgia Tech.

Having recently completed his first year as a master’s student in AAE, Phillips started his internship with The Aerospace Corporation on June 1. Even though Phillips only has been in the internship for a few weeks and he's working remotely, he called it “the best internship I have ever had so far.” (And he’s already spent summers at NASA and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.)

“For the first time I am spending my entire summer designing and analyzing rocket engines, which is what I have been working forward to for six years,” said Phillips, a non-thesis master's student whose faculty advisor is Raisbeck Engineering Distinguished Professor for Engineering and Technology Integration Stephen Heister. “I have been tasked with two small sat propulsion projects that are testing completely new concepts for engines of that size. My team implements my design improvements for the lab in California and gives me test data that I can use to further iterate the design. I am also working on new solar sail concepts from the ground up. It's so exciting, and I love it all so far.”

During the Fellowship’s virtual speaker series, Phillips has a video chat with the CEO every other week. He also interacts with his personal mentor, Dave Thompson, the former president and CEO of Orbital ATK.

The internship wraps Aug. 14, and three days later, Phillips will move into his apartment in Indiana.

By then, Phillips is hoping he significantly added to his network of connections within the aerospace industry, as his ultimate career goal is to work in the private space industry and climb his way into upper management.

“The people I have met virtually so far are leaders and celebrities in the aerospace industry. It is amazing to talk to people who have the same ambitions as you and can back it up with all of the technical know-how,” Phillips said.