AAE student selected for Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship, secures Virgin Orbit internship

Junior Maor Gozalzani was one of 30 students selected nationwide for the fellowship.

Maor Gozalzani had to stifle a scream.

When he saw the number pop up on his cell phone Jan. 11 and knew it was from a representative from the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program, he quickly answered.

Maor Gozalzani

Every time his phone had rung that week, he was disappointed it wasn’t that call. But this was it.

And when Sirisha Bandla told him he was selected as part of the prestigious nationwide fellowship, Gozalzani had to contain himself.

“I was absolutely ecstatic,” said Gozalzani, a junior in AAE, of hearing the news from Bandla (BSAAE '11). “I started the application process back in November, and I could not believe I made it through.”

Gozalzani was one of 30 students chosen in the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program’s Class of 2021, announced February 4. Since the fellowship’s inception in 2018, Gozalzani is the fourth AAE student selected for the program that provides college juniors, seniors and graduate students with a paid summer internship and mentor at commercial spaceflight companies.

He’ll have a 12-week internship at Virgin Orbit and will be paired with an industry mentor.

“I am focused on gaining two things from the fellowship. The first is building connections and relationships with like-minded student leaders and learning from some of the greatest minds in industry,” he said. “The second is focused on the internship, where I’m looking forward to getting more hands-on experience, diversifying my skill set and preparing for a future career in advancing commercial space.”

Gozalzani initially heard about the fellowship as a sophomore — so too early to apply — but his interest piqued last summer. During an internship at Rocket Lab, two of his fellow interns and roommates were Matthew Isakowitz Fellows.

“I saw how much it affected their lives and careers, and I was determined to apply,” he said. “The opportunities the program presents are so unique. Pairing members with an invested and insightful mentor, connecting fellows with other passionate young professionals, and providing them with hands-on experience at all the exciting companies in industry is something I couldn't pass up. I just felt like it would be the next step towards building my career in commercial space.”

The application process was extensive, including interviews with a representative to determine a potential “host” company match and then with that company to see if it truly was the right fit. 

Days after Gozalzani’s interview with Virgin Orbit engineers that secured his spot, the company had its first successful test flight into space, launching its LauncherOne rocket from the wing of a 747 airplane Jan. 17. No other orbital class, air-launched, liquid-fueled rocket had successfully reached space before, Virgin Orbit’s website said.

Gozalzani said he’ll be working for the Integration Manufacturing team at Virgin Orbit headquarters in Long Beach, California. As of now, the internship is scheduled to be in person, and it’s set to start May 24. He’ll wrap Aug. 16.

“I am thrilled to join Virgin Orbit this summer,” he said. 

He’ll return to Purdue for his senior year soon after, and beyond that, Gozalzani isn’t quite sure what his future in aerospace engineering holds. He’s considering pursuing a master’s from AAE in propulsion. “Sooner or later,” though, he said he’d like to work in either test and operations or mission management within commercial space.

Publish date: February 4, 2021