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Lehigh aerospace alum honored by Aviation Week and AIAA

As a child, Geoffrey Andrews ’15 dreamed of being an aerospace engineer. “I was one nerdy ten-year-old,” he admits.

But there’s nothing nerdy about the modern push toward hypersonic transport and affordable space access―and Geoffrey, a product of Lehigh University’s aerospace program, has launched himself right into orbit.

Currently a doctoral student at Purdue and a co-op with the NASA Glenn Research Center, Andrews has been named to the 2017 roster of the prestigious “20 Twenties” list as published by the magazine Aviation Week in collaboration with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Winners will be honored during Aviation Week's 60th annual Laureates Awards, scheduled for March 2 at the National Building Museum, Washington, DC.

According to AW, the list recognizes top students in the field and connects them with established aerospace and defense leaders also to be honored at the Laureates Awards. Students were nominated by engineering programs at 37 universities throughout the world, and the final 20 were selected by a panel of judges.

Geoffrey’s research focuses on computational modeling of combined-cycle rocket engines for launch vehicles. “Improvements in materials and computational abilities give us the potential to develop paradigm-shifting vehicles and technologies,” he says. “The difficulties are large, but our abilities to engineer around them are only increasing!”

Along with his work at Purdue and NASA, Geoffrey currently serves as chief maintenance officer of Purdue Pilots Inc., a student-run flying club and nonprofit based at the Purdue Airport, and is heavily involved in AIAA outreach activities aimed at K-12 students.

“As a graduate student, I find that it's easy to develop a case of tunnel vision focusing on coursework and research,” he says. “To be recognized in this way is a humbling reminder of what it means to be a member of the broader aerospace community.”

An incredibly major minor

According to Dr. Terry Hart ’68, Lehigh alumnus, former astronaut with NASA’s Space Shuttle program, and director of Lehigh’s Aerospace program, Geoffrey is a “stellar” example of the opportunities available to the program’s students.

“Starting in 2006,” says Hart, “we began to offer a solid, but somewhat limited, Minor in Aerospace Engineering. Since then the program has grown dramatically, and we’ve been able to strengthen it with several new courses that get right to the heart of modern aerospace concepts and principles. Our program, coupled with the rigor of the Lehigh engineering degree, now provides an undergraduate experience one would expect at a university that offers a major in aerospace engineering. Geoffrey is among a group of talented recent alumni who prove the program is bearing fruit.”

Hart reports that other recent graduates have gone on to find success at organizations like NASA, JPL, SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and many other aerospace companies.

“We think we’ve assembled a powerful curriculum, and we surround it with a host of hands-on and co-curricular projects that bring it all to life for our students,” he continues. “Students have opportunities to participate in ongoing research in aerodynamics, composite structures, and control systems, as well as designing and fabricating their own aerospace vehicle designs.”

Hart believes that one of Geoffrey’s most important contributions to the program was his efforts in bringing the student branch of the AIAA to Lehigh. Chartered in 2014, the group is comprised of a mix of graduate and undergraduate students from a range of majors and disciplines, and aims to connect the program’s students with each other, alumni in the field, and anyone in the Lehigh community interested in space travel or the aerospace industry.

“Our student Aerospace Club was created over ten years ago by Dr. Joachim Grenestedt, who continues today as its faculty advisor. More recently, through the efforts of Geoffrey and other students, AIAA approved a student chapter at Lehigh, which has now been merged with the Club to help promote and extend our aerospace studies.”

“Lehigh's aerospace program was great preparation for a career in aerospace because it offered me so much flexibility,” says Geoffrey. “I was able to choose courses which aligned with my interests in aerodynamics, preparing me for a graduate degree in aerospace. Thanks to my strong education at Lehigh, I was offered a fellowship at Purdue and shortly after arriving, a co-op position at NASA's Glenn Research Center. While I have learned a lot since leaving Lehigh, I credit the excellent mechanical engineering professors I encountered there with helping me develop a strong knowledge of the fundamentals.”

Making a mark at Lehigh

Andrews, a self-described “lifelong tinkerer,” was a force to be reckoned with during his time as a Lehigh mechanical engineering student. Along with his founding of the campus’ AIAA chapter, he was a Research Assistant in the Wind Tunnel Lab, an Undergraduate Research Fellow, and a finalist for the 2015 “I Prize” award for the campus’ best student idea, invention or innovation. A member of the mechanical engineering honor society Pi Tau Sigma and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Geoffrey also served as an engineering tour guide and an Admissions Fellow.

Amazingly, he still found time to be deeply involved in the campus music scene: first horn in the wind ensemble and the orchestra, a member of the famed Marching 97 who also served as its publicity manager and on its executive board, and variously involved in Lehigh’s pep band, choir, glee club, symphonic band, and even as part of a faculty-led wind quintet.

When asked about his passion for aerospace, Andrews grows reflective: “None of us are anything more than a conglomeration of atoms, a random assortment of materials that somehow managed to gain self-awareness. And yet here we are, a bunch of over-evolved monkeys, harnessing the forces of nature to explore the heavens themselves. That’s a pretty incredible thing to try and wrap your head around.”

-Chris Larkin is Director of Marketing and Communications for Lehigh University's Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

February 24, 2017

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