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Akanksha Baranwal and Alexandar Gross
Akanksha Baranwal and Alexander Gross were chosen as American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics award recipients. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering Communications
Two students in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University have received prestigious awards from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Akanksha Baranwal received the 2021 Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award, and Alexander Gross received the Cary Spitzer Digital Avionics Scholarship.

Baranwal is a doctoral candidate pursuing research in high-speed turbulent boundary layers and thermal nonequilibrium under the supervision of Dr. Diego Donzis. The main focus of her research is simulation and modeling of momentum transport and nonequilibrium energy transport processes in high-speed turbulent flows. She holds Bachelor of Technology and Master of Technology degrees in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India, and was previously selected as a 2020 Amelia Earhart Fellow.

The Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award, which includes $5,000, is given annually to two graduate students conducting research in fields of science and engineering encompassed by the technical activities of AIAA.

“I express my deepest gratitude to AIAA for offering recognition to my research,” said Baranwal. “The award acknowledges my dedicated endeavors and sincere guidance of my professor, Dr. Donzis, as well as his collaborator, Dr. (Rodney) Bowersox, at Texas A&M. I feel elated and inspired to continue my best efforts toward my research and contribute to the advancement of the field of aerospace.”

Gross is an Engineering Honors undergraduate student pursuing his degree in aerospace engineering with minors in mathematics and computer science. In addition, he is an undergraduate researcher in the Vehicle Systems & Control Laboratory at Texas A&M under the guidance of Dr. John Valasek. His goal is to work in the aerospace industry as a vehicle guidance, navigation and control engineer for spaceflight vehicles.

The Cary Spitzer Digital Avionics Scholarship is an award of $3,000. Gross received the scholarship for his research contributions on the “Aided Threat Recognition from Mobile Cooperative and Autonomous Sensors” project and in applications of the “Cycle-of-Learning” methodology for training of Mars rover vehicles and their interaction with human operators.

“Throughout my collegiate career, I have always pursued avenues to continue my educational and professional development,” said Gross. “Receiving this scholarship greatly reduces the financial burden necessary to continue my education, allowing my goal to enter the aerospace industry to become increasingly real every day.”

AIAA distributes over $70,000 in scholarships and graduate awards yearly to students studying aerospace engineering at accredited colleges and universities throughout the United States.