Aerospace Engineering Student Charts a New Course Toward Her Dream

Aerospace Engineering major Maya Benson is actively overcoming a rare blood disorder to pursue her dream of working on space missions.

Aerospace Engineering freshman Maya Benson
Aerospace Engineering student Maya Benson inside one of the aerospace labs at Embry-Riddle. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Connor McShane)

Being an engineer was never the plan for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University freshman Maya Benson.

Instead, she wanted to be astronaut, explore every galaxy, discover every unknown thing. But, being diagnosed with sickle cell beta thalassemia shortly after birth meant that she was unable to take part in strenuous activities.

So, over time, her dreams began to change shape. Now an Aerospace Engineering major on Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus, she has found a new way to play a key role in space missions. She strives to help others travel outside of Earth’s orbit and into outer space.

“I love designing parts as well as other things in CAD (computer-aided design) software,” she said. “Something about being able to create my idea and actually see it makes me happy.”

But the road to her undergraduate program wasn’t always easy.

“Because of my condition, there would be times when I got really sick and I would miss school for weeks or months at a time,” said the Columbia, South Carolina native. “That caused my grades to drop drastically. When I got better, I would have to work hard to learn and complete everything I missed in order to get back on track.”

She’s often thought of giving up, she admitted, but her mother and other family members have always been there to encourage and inspire her.

“What drives me to pursue my dreams is knowing that there are other people out there who have a much harder life than I do, and they are obtaining their dreams,” she said. “So I just think to myself, It will get worse before it gets better. I just need to ignore whatever excuses I make for myself and continue on.”

Benson was one of 13 high school students chosen to be part of the 2020 Boeing Scholars cohort.

What is an Aerospace Engineering degree?

With leading-edge resources and experienced faculty, this respected Embry-Riddle program provides the skills to meet challenges related to the design and operation of aircraft and spacecraft.

The degree equips students with skills to solve even the most complex challenges in design, propulsion, and systems for aircraft or spacecraft. For more than 17 years, the Aerospace Engineering undergraduate program at Embry-Riddle has held the top ranking in the nation among schools whose highest degree is a master’s, according to U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges Guide.

The prestige of this program doesn’t end there. Students benefit from the most modern, state-of-the-art resources available today — the same tools in use by aerospace engineering professionals around the globe.

No other Aerospace Engineering program in the United States attracts more students.

What can you do with an Aerospace Engineering degree?

After graduation, Benson envisions moving on to graduate school and possibly earning her Ph.D. to hone those design skills even further. From there, a job at NASA or JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is the goal — maybe she will even launch her own engineering firm specializing in robotics and deep-space flight.

Other graduates have gone on to work for major aviation and aerospace companies that include Boeing, Lockheed Martin and SpaceX.

Ready to chase down your dream? Apply at Embry-Riddle today.