Two Purdue AAE students receive Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship

Therese Malinowski and Mark Paral are both itching to reap the networking benefits the program provides.

Portraits of Mark Paral and Therese Malinowski

Therese Malinowski and Mark Paral are both pumped to meet other aerospace pros. As recipients of the 2023 Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship, the Purdue AAE majors are itching to reap the networking benefits the program provides.

Therese and Mark each received a call from A.C. Charania, Chief Technologist at NASA, just before winter break to tell them of the award – more than a month before the official announcement. Therese was in her car, driving home for winter break, and her seat belt was just about the only thing containing her excitement. Mark spent the evening celebrating with his parents and sisters, but the shock of having actually made it hit once again when the announcement went public.

“That was another really proud moment for me and something that made me appreciate how incredibly fortunate I am to have this opportunity,” Mark says.

It’s an impressive win for a competitive and prestigious program: The pair is among just 30 winners from an applicant pool of 250, representing 90 universities. In addition to an internship at one of the program’s partner commercial space companies, fellows receive one-on-one mentorship from accomplished members of the space community, including astronauts, engineers and executives. The program also features a summit where fellows can network with top industry leaders alongside the other 28 fellows.

Bringing ethics to rocket science

Therese Malinowski
Therese Malinowski

For Therese, this award marked the end of a stressful time filled with many experiences, positive and negative. During her summer 2022 internship, which was granted through the Brooke Owens Fellowship, the company where she was working went bankrupt. The Brooke Owens program offered her a follow-up internship at Virgin Orbit, and those experiences at radically different companies gave her “a deep look at both the good and bad bits of commercial space.”

“I came out of this summer with a learned resilience, new perspective, and strength, even with everything that happened being completely unplanned,” she says.

Applying for the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship, which is a “sister program” to the Brooke Owens Fellowship, she felt uncertain as the end of 2022 approached. Therese, who is double-majoring in AAE and music, had interviewed for internships with several companies in the interim, only to receive polite rejections. But she did ultimately receive the call. For summer 2023, she will be interning at Rocket Lab.

Therese believes her focus on engineering ethics – along with her well-rounded academic focus – is what made her stand out among the other aerospace-loving candidates. “I bring an effect-focused perspective to technical work in propulsion. I think this industry needs a reinvigorated focus in sustainability and ethics, especially with how quickly it’s moving, and I like to highlight that when I interview.”

“I’m not out of it yet!”

Mark Paral
Mark Paral

Mark heard about the Isakowitz fellowship through Purdue’s 2021 winner, Maor Gozalzani. Mark and Maor both have contributed to rocket projects through the Purdue Space Program (PSP). Mark’s previous internship experiences — with Firefly Aerospace and Blue Origin — alongside his extracurricular experiences with rockets cemented his desire to work in commercial space.

Throughout the lengthy application and interview process, he wondered if he’d be advancing. “There were a couple of interviews, and every time I was emailed asking to schedule another time to be interviewed I thought, “Awesome, I’m not out of it yet!’” Mark says.

He believes his involvement with energetics research, PSP, and building his own rockets may have set him apart from the other candidates. Mark will be working this summer at Lynk, a company that is striving to provide global broadband connectivity by directly connecting mobile devices to satellites, but he’s also fired up for the professional connections he’ll make.

“I think it will definitely help me with networking, personal development, and hopefully carry forward into my career,” he says. “I will be lucky enough to interact with influential people in this industry which is a truly awesome opportunity.”