Spotlight: Honors Alumni Emily Judd’s Success After Graduation
When I applied to UCF, I wanted to be a music teacher. That goal changed after seeing a NASA rocket launch. Fortunately, my advisors and professors helped me pursue both of my passions, which led to double majors of Music Performance on horn and Aerospace Engineering.
Designing, building, and launching rockets with Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) got me hooked on aerospace. As a SEDS officer, I toured NASA centers and met with congressional staffers to discuss space policy. A chance encounter at a National Merit event led to a research position investigating mechanics of materials. These experiences, along with a National Science Foundation internship, shifted my career goals again, going from an industry focus to research and development.
After graduating from UCF in 2016, I interned at NASA Langley Research Center developing nanocomposite materials for aerospace structures. It was especially fun since most of the other interns were material scientists or chemists, so they were looking at the samples from a molecular point of view while I was looking at the larger picture of aircraft and spacecraft structures.
This past year was my first in the PhD program at the University of Michigan. I'm in the Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering department rather than Aerospace. Besides working more closely on space-specific projects, I can learn more space physics and atmospheric chemistry. This past year, I contributed to a couple of CubeSat missions, doing data processing for one and running solar power and orbit analyses for one that will launch next year. My current research project is developing a global model of the atmosphere on Venus. This is great practice for learning new programming skills! This summer, I presented my progress at my first research conference. Listening to the speakers opened my eyes to what all is going on in my new field of interest. In addition, my experience as a UCF Scholars Program Assistant paid off as I've been selected as a department student ambassador this year. It's basically the same type of work we did with Luke van Blaricom but scaled down to just our department; I will miss driving a golf cart around for campus tours!
Of course, I'm still playing music. With Michigan's fine music school, there are plenty of ways to keep involved. I'm playing horn in the Michigan Pops Orchestra and the Campus Symphony Orchestra. We had fantastic repertoire this past year, and I played the solos for Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Princess and Brahms' Symphony No. 2. Pops has a space theme for this fall's concert–I love when I can blend my two interests!
From performing at the Dr. Phillips Center to getting VIP passes for the Orion EFT-1 launch at Kennedy Space Center, UCF gave me the opportunity to explore my interests and succeed, no matter which career path I chose. Even though it was a big step for a rural Iowan to move to Florida and attend such a large school, I am so glad that I did.