Fellowship helps College student launch career in aerospace industry

Third-year Audrey Scott one of 51 undergrads to earn competitive Brooke Owens Fellowship

Rising University of Chicago College third-year student Audrey Scott has earned a highly coveted Brooke Owens Fellowship, awarded annually to women and other gender-minority students studying aerospace. 

Founded in 2016 to honor the memory of the accomplished pilot D. Brooke Owens, the fellowship matches selected students with executive-level mentors in the aerospace industry who support and work with the Fellows – or “Brookies”– to launch their careers. 

Scott is the first “Brookie” selected from UChicago, and College alum Sasha Warren, AB’17, in the program this year. Warren is currently a Ph.D. student in planetary sciences at UChicago.

An astrophysics and anthropology double major, Scott was one of 51 students selected from a pool of over a thousand applicants worldwide. This month, she joined the rest of the fellows at the annual Brooke Owens Summit in Washington, D.C., inducting her into a network of 198 “Brookie” alumni in various space and aviation related fields. 

While there, she learned from speakers and mentors that define the industry, including former and current Deputy Administrators of NASA, Lori Garver and Pam Melroy, Emmy Award-winning SpaceX engineer and broadcaster, Kate Tice, the National Space Council, and more.

“To know that the Brooke team believed in me enough to invest in my future means the world to me,” she said.

Since June, she has spent her time in Boulder, Colorado, as an intern with Ball Aerospace, a technology company that has worked on projects such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the iconic mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Her work this summer focuses on electrical power distribution systems for satellites, though she has also participated in the Ball Intern Remote Sensing Team. With the team, she will work to develop a payload for different flight platforms, where she will gain valuable experience by seeing an aerospace project all the way through from design phases to flight.

Scott said she always knew that she would find herself studying the cosmos, having grown up in Houston, which she said takes its nickname of “Space City” seriously. She points to childhood trips to NASA’s Johnson Space Center and tours of Mission Control as moments that solidified her interest in aerospace. 

“My fascination with it persisted, but as I got older, it was joined with an equal fervor for studying the universe itself,” she said. “In all of the universe’s vast infinity, the knowledge to be gained is truly limitless.”

Her diverse interests culminate in a variety of on-campus activities. Whether she’s thumbing through books at the Interlibrary Loan Department, engaging with like-minded students at 3CT’s Future Café, or building model rockets with UChicago’s Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Scott considers herself an “aspiring polymath.” 

The most important campus activity she’s been a part of, Scott said, is her work, under the direction of professor Richard Kron, to mine astrophysical data from the Yerkes Glass Plates, a collection of roughly 175,000 images of astronomical objects collected by Yerkes Observatory. 

“I’ve found my home in a lot of the University’s niches,” she said. “Dr. Kron and the Glass Plates team have been such incredible mentors. I can’t thank them enough for their kindness, encouragement and support.”

This is just one of many experiences at UChicago that Scott cites as preparatory for her future career, including the Core curriculum’s emphasis on a well-rounded education. 

“You’re really prepared for anything, and I think there’s a lot to gain from entering an engineering field with a liberal arts background,” she said. “Though I don’t have formal engineering education under my belt, I do have an interdisciplinary skill set, a thriving curiosity and the desire to take on a challenge – all of which is fostered here.”

She said she is still considering what her career path will look like after this summer, but is open to either pursuing a Ph.D. in astrophysics, or putting her education temporarily on hold to pursue career opportunities. 

Whatever she ends up deciding to pursue, she’s certain her work this summer will prepare her for it. 

“The Brooke Owens Fellowship is just as much of a community as it is an opportunity for career advancement,” she said. “I’m so glad to now be a part of a lifelong network of some of the most brilliant, kindest, supportive people in aerospace.”

—This story first appeared on the UChicago College website.