Earlier this year, undergraduate student Supreet Kaur (ISE ‘19) was officially named a Brooke Owens Fellow. The fellowship, founded in honor of notable pilot and space industry pioneer Dawn Brooke Owens, selects promising female students and supports them as they pursue a career in aerospace engineering. Kaur’s personal history and passion for space exploration made her an ideal candidate.
Because of her conservative cultural background, Kaur is the first woman in her whole family to pursue an education and a career in science and technology. Despite difficulties, she persisted and supported herself through local community college courses and, now, her education at San Jose State University. She credits these experiences as the reason she was able to discover engineering and develop an excitement for the field.
"By going to college, I was being defiant," says Kaur. "When it came time to choose a major, I thought I’d go the extra mile and choose something in STEM, which is seen as a male-only industry in my culture."
Her time at the Davidson College of Engineering has been filled with a variety of academic and professional experiences that prove her seemingly arbitrary choice was in fact the right one to make. Currently, Kaur is an undergraduate research assistant in the Human Factors Laboratory. In 2017, she was named a Dean’s Scholar and, a few years later, an Engineering Leadership Pathways Scholar. She acts as mentor through the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program and as a programming board member at SJSU’s Gender Equity Center. And, for the past year, she has been a systems engineering intern at the NASA Ames Research Center, enabling her to marry her “love of bringing big processes together” and her passionfor space exploration.
It was through this NASA internship that she heard about the Brooke Owens Fellowship, which has not only given her a network of supportive women engineers but an additional internship at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. The new role will bring her to Washington, D.C. this summer, where she will participate in research focusing on issues related to space security, air dominance, and infrastructure.
"The work aims to inform future legislation on how we should conduct ourselves in space," explains Kaur. "It’s the nature of human beings to explore. We are meant to face the prospects that frighten and excite us and everybody deserves the opportunity to do so. And that means everybody, no matter your socioeconomic status, gender, or cultural background."