Bandla receives Young Engineering Alumni Award

Sirisha Bandla (BSAAE ’11) was honored at the Purdue Engineering Alumni Association dinner and awards presentation in September.
Photo of Steven Collicott and Sirisha Bandla
AAE Professor Steven Collicott nominated Sirisha Bandla for the award.

Sirisha Bandla (BSAAE ’11) was honored with the “Young Engineering Alumni Award” at the Purdue Engineering Alumni Association dinner and awards presentation in September.

She is the fifth AAE alum to be selected for the award, first presented in 2012.

“It has a really big meaning to me because Purdue was such a changing point in my trajectory in my career,” Bandla said, “so to be honored by the (College) itself is very special.”

Bandla was chosen by the EAA board before July 2021, which is significant because that’s when arguably the true “giant leap” of her career occurred. As a mission specialist for Virgin Galactic’s suborbital flight, Bandla became part of Purdue’s Cradle of Astronauts. But, as underscored by the award, Bandla was considerably accomplished before becoming a commercial astronaut.

After graduating from Purdue, Bandla secured her first engineering job designing components for advanced aircraft at L-3 Communications Integrated Systems. Her second move was a bit unexpected, but at the prompting of AAE Professor Steven Collicott, Bandla opted for a job in space policy with the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. Perhaps the most important piece of Bandla’s time at CSF was her lengthy labors supporting the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act that became federal law in 2015. 

CSF became a springboard to executive levels at Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic was one of CSF’s member companies, and Bandla joined the company in 2015. She built up a team that grew the company’s presence in D.C. and its research portfolio through work with the science and technology community.

Now, as vice president for government affairs and research operations at Virgin Galactic, Bandla leads all of the company’s interactions with local, state and federal governments and is involved in their work with the FAA, NASA science research and technology advancement, including the start of human-tended suborbital research, among other things.

“My trajectory was not a straight line that I intended to reaching my goal. There were a lot of curves, a lot of turns, but eventually I got to work for the company I really wanted to work for,” she said.