Aerospace Engineering Major Earns Prestigious Scholarship

Hope Elmer’s fascination with space led her to pursue aerospace engineering from an early age.

Aerospace Engineering major Alexis Elmer (‘24) in the materials lab at Embry-Riddle's Aerospace Experimentation and Fabrication Building (AXFAB) building. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Connor McShane)
Aerospace Engineering major Alexis Hope Elmer (‘24) in the materials lab at Embry-Riddle's Aerospace Experimentation and Fabrication Building (AXFAB) building. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Connor McShane)

An Early Start in Aerospace

Alexis Hope Elmer (‘24) is an Aerospace Engineering major from Northern Utah who has had an interest in engineering for as long as she can remember.

"My interest in aerospace is deeply influenced by my grandpa, who worked in the aerospace industry and helped to retrieve and restore airplanes which are on display at the Hill Aerospace Museum,” Elmer said. “Growing up with his love for aviation and aerospace really made me interested in this field.”

That interest brought her to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Arizona, campus, where Elmer was recently selected as a 2023 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship & Excellence in Education Foundation.

Elmer’s journey to becoming a Goldwater Scholar from Embry-Riddle's Prescott Campus was daunting at times. However, with the help of Embry-Riddle staff and faculty, combined with Elmer’s aspirations for her future, she is now using her passion for aerospace to soar to new heights.

What was it like applying for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship?

I first learned about this scholarship thanks to one of my research mentors, Dr. Kaela Martin, [who] encouraged me to apply.

Looking at the overall application process was daunting, however with the help of Dr. Anne Boettcher (Undergraduate Research Institute) and Dr. Brittany Davis (Office of Awards and Fellowships) the process became less so. They also provided good feedback on ways I could strength my application.

Alexis Elmer (‘24) standing at a workbench in the materials lab on the Prescott Campus. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Connor McShane)
Hope Elmer (‘24) standing at a workbench in the materials lab on the Prescott Campus. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Connor McShane)

How did it feel when you learned you had been awarded the scholarship?

When I read the email, I was in disbelief and shock. The scholarship is very competitive and prestigious. I immediately wanted to share the news with my parents and the professors who wrote letters of recommendation on my behalf.

What brought you to major in Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle's Prescott Campus?

I decided on Embry-Riddle because of the unique opportunity to pursue Aerospace Engineering with an Astronautics track as an undergraduate. Most undergraduate programs are mechanical engineering with an aerospace track, so not only am I getting an Aerospace Engineering degree, but it is more focused on what I am interested in. I selected the Astro track because of my fascination for space and the infinite possibilities for exploration.

I chose Prescott because it is physically closer to home. The mountainous environment of Prescott is also superior.

Have you had a favorite research project you have worked on?

Outside of my coursework, I contribute to two research projects which I have enjoyed. The first research project is titled “Investigation of Stress Concentrations in Parts Manufactured with Fused Deposition Modeling,” demonstrating how stress concentrations affect the strength of Fused Deposition Modeling (3D printing) materials. This study seeks to help engineers and FDM users manufacture parts with stress concentrations to reduce part failure.

The second project is an assessment of Designing the Moonshot which is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which introduces undergraduate and graduate students to multi-body gravitational dynamics.

What internships have you participated in?

I have had internships over the past two summers. The first was with Janicki Industries, I was a manufacturing intern and got hands on experience in post-operation machining of aerospace components. I also trained as a metrologist, which I hadn’t ever heard of before then, but I learned a lot about how to make precise measurements.

Last summer I interned at Northrop Grumman in the Aeronautics Systems as a Manufacturing/Process Engineer, where I will be returning this summer as an intern. In this position I get to apply both the skills I learned during my technical certificate and the engineering skills I have gained from Embry-Riddle to better improve the process of manufacturing advanced composite parts.

What is your aerospace engineering dream job?

My dream job is to conduct research to advance manufacturing methods and structural health monitoring techniques of aerospace components. Advances in these areas could lead to a reduction in time, cost and material waste during manufacturing. Better structural health monitoring would lead to early detection of cracks and fatigue, leading to early interventions to mend the structure to hopefully reduce catastrophic failures.

Launching into an Aerospace Career

Since earning her Goldwater Scholarship, Elmer has been busy. She is positioned to graduate a semester early and is already at work on her capstone project.

“My capstone project is in conjunction with the Eagle Space Flight Team,” she said. “We have been tasked to build the upper structure of a rocket whose mission is to reach the Kármán Line.”

When asked where she sees herself in the future, she reiterated what she had put on her Goldwater application: continuing her education by earning a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering with a concentration in structures and materials.

“The aerospace industry is always evolving, and space is being accessed more frequently than ever before,” she added. “This has led to many innovations and the need for more advances in existing technologies. Two areas that most fascinate me include smart/self-sensing composites and additive manufacturing methods (i.e., 3D printing) for rocket component development."