Julia Bigwood '21 has gone where no other WPI student has gone before—into the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program.
She is the first WPI student to be appointed a Matthew Isakowitz Fellow, an internship and mentorship program for college juniors, seniors, and graduate students who are passionate about commercial spaceflight.
“This will be my first internship at an aerospace engineering company, so I’m really excited to apply what I’ve been learning in my classes here at WPI,” says Bigwood, an aerospace engineering major and astrophysics minor. “Through the fellowship, I’m hoping to get a better idea of what I’d like to focus on for a PhD program.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, fellows were scheduled to take part in a 10-12 week in-person summer internship at a commercial spaceflight company; however, due to health and safety concerns, some fellows are completing the internship remotely (others were able to complete their internship in person, depending on the company). Before starting the internship, fellows were paired with a mentor from the space industry for guidance on how to make the best of the internship experience and their future careers.
Bigwood's mentor was Suzi McBride, chief operations officer of Iridium Communications, who leads operations of the Iridium network, which includes its satellite constellations and ground gateways and terminals. Bigwood’s internship originally was to take place at an aerospace company (in McLean, Va.), where McBride previously worked; unfortunately, the pandemic forced the company into bankruptcy.
Instead, Bigwood is doing her internship remotely with Bryce Space and Tech, an analytics and engineering firm in Alexandria, Va., that works with space and satellite, cyber, and research and development clients. She is working on the company’s start-up space report, which includes recording new investments in start-up space companies worldwide, and analyzing investments and aerospace industry trends.
Regardless of the unexpected switch, Bigwood says she loves the internship so far, and it is something she always wanted to try. She’s just as excited to work with McBride, too.
“Where McBride has such a diverse background within the aerospace engineering field," she says, "I’m hoping to gain some insight into different aerospace options and what her experience has been.”
Bigwood is currently attending a virtual summit for networking opportunities to participate in different webinars on the aerospace field, and to digitally connect with other Matthew Isakowitz fellows.