Angie Zhang and Daniel Mayper selected for Aviation Week 20 Twenties Recognition
Two recent Purdue graduates were identified as individuals on course "to change the face of the aerospace and defense industry," according to the Aviation Week Network. This is the sixth consecutive year that at least two of the Aviation Week 20 Twenties winners were Purdue AAE students.
Angie Zhang and Daniel Mayper are among the top 20 aerospace-bound students out of an international field of candidates. Aviation Week’s selections are based on academic performance, an ability to contribute to a broader community, and to communicate the value of the design/research they’ve undertaken
“The nomination process for 20 Twenties is quite extensive," said Zhang, "requiring three letters of recommendation and responses to multiple essay questions focusing on previous experience in the aerospace industry, involvement in one's larger community, and obstacles overcome in pursuit of an aerospace degree."
Overcoming Adversity and Flying High
Zhang's initial rejection from the AAE program didn't stop her from securing an academic career at Purdue and landing her dream job. After missing the cut from First Year Engineering into the AAE program, she called AAE Professor Karen Marais for guidance.
Zhang worked hard to significantly raise her GPA, and found her support network through student organizations like the Purdue Student Engineering Foundation. Zhang made it into AAE, led Purdue's largest engineering organization as president of the 600-member Society of Women Engineers, and took multiple internships at Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Zhang's Purdue experience came full circle when Marais nominated her for the 20 Twenties award just before her graduation in the spring of 2022.
"Angie exemplifies the best of AAE and Purdue,” says Marais. “She is already an outstanding engineer, but, more importantly in my mind, her genuine and abiding concern for others will make her an inspiring manager. Sooner rather than later, she will be a true leader making positive, significant change in the world."
Zhang is now living the dream she had in mind since coming to Purdue: being a flight test engineer for Boeing. “This has been my dream job since high school,” she says. “I even wrote about it in my college application to get into Purdue.”
Recognizing Self-Worth Through Perseverance
Mayper also saw significant personal growth during his undergraduate education. He served as an UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter technician in the Army National Guard during his Purdue education, but he also faced an internal battle that continued beyond graduation.
“I had nearly crippling imposter syndrome throughout my education there [at Purdue], and even needed to have some conversations with professors to help me get back on track,” he said. “Being nominated by Dr. [Steven] Collicott was an honor, but I was sure I wouldn’t win.”
His uncertainty was in spite of his stellar credentials: He began research with Professor Alina Alexeenko in 2019 under the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program, where he helped determine why experimental thrust capabilities of the FEMTA project weren’t matching theoretical capabilities. The findings, published in 2020 with Mayper as co-author, led to Mayper earning the Best Oral Presentation award at SURF, and carried him to additional research with Alexeenko.
Mayper also served as president of Purdue’s Student Veteran Organization, organizing group trips and helping other veterans adapt to collegiate life.
AAE Professor Collicott decided to nominate Mayper after having him in a design-build-test research class. “I learned of two important things in [Mayper's] college life – his unpredictable call-up for service in the Middle East and his subsequent volunteer work at Purdue in support of veterans, especially veterans enrolled at Purdue,” Collicott wrote. “His dedication even when it was tough to be a good student, and his generosity with his time after military service, are admirable.”
Having graduated in the spring, Mayper is now a systems engineer at Raytheon and is finishing out his military contract. He hopes his experiences will lead him to research in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations, but it was recognition through this high-profile Aviation Week award that gave Mayper the boost he needed to realize his potential:
“Actually winning the 20 Twenties award made me realize something that friends and family have been telling me for years: I am a capable engineer, and if I put in the work, I will be able to make waves.”
Story by Alan Cesar. Photos provided.