Cadigan first Aggie to participate in Stanford's U.S.-Russia Forum

Maura Cadigan, a third-year aerospace engineering honors student, recently became the first Aggie to participate in Stanford University’s U.S.- Russia Forum — a program that aims to bring together the brightest students in the U.S. and Russia to collaborate on research.

UnknownThe Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native said she almost didn’t apply when she looked at the accomplishments of past delegates.

“It was pretty intimidating,” she said, adding that many former delegates attended Ivy League schools or elite technical institutions. “I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s not me.’ I decided to apply anyway.”

Her decision paid off. According to the program’s website, 40 students were selected from 550 applicants from 157 universities in 37 countries.

On Sept. 4, Cadigan departed for Russia, where she met the other delegates in the program. The students were split into 10 groups, with four people on each team — two Americans and two Russians.

The delegates spent half the week in Moscow, Russia’s capital, and half the week in Tyumen, Siberia.

The purpose of the trip, she said, was to meet their mentors. For Cadigan’s group, the mentors were representatives from Boeing Russia.

Her group was tasked with researching efficient ways for Russian aviation manufacturers to break into emerging markets.

“They used to have a strong aviation industry, but when the Soviet Union collapsed, everything collapsed,” she said. “There’s a lot of prestige that goes into having an international carrier.”

One emerging market they are researching is China.

“China has a rapidly developing middle class, so their plan is to break into the Chinese market,” she said.

Over the next eight months, Cadigan’s group will be researching China’s needs based on their routes, the airline specifications and technology needed on the planes.

They will be using Skype and other messaging technologies to interact with their Russian teammates.

In April, all of the delegates will present their research at Stanford University.

Unknown -1Cadigan said the experience was rewarding.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “You get to meet a lot of really cool people and do really awesome work.”

The delegates also met with government officials, including the Russian Deputy Director of Department of North America Alexey Korzhlev, along with U.S. ambassadors and other officials.

Cadigan said she also has the travel bug now.

“Moscow is absolutely gorgeous,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that. Moscow was built to impress.”

This spring, Cadigan did a public policy internship program and worked at the US Embassy in Paris, France. Before that, she had never been abroad.

“I think that was really key for me being able to work with the Russian team,” she said, adding that her experience boosted her likelihood of being selected. “It showed that I’m not just a one-trick person. I can do it all.”

During the summer months, Cadigan works in the propulsion department at United Launch Alliance in Colorado. She also has worked as a lab assistant and teaching assistant for Engineering 111 at Texas A&M.

Cadigan said ultimately her career goal is to launch rockets into space.

“I think that, as far as careers go, it’s a pretty important one,” she said. “Space really is the final frontier.”