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Making an Impact

So You Want to be an Astronaut? Or Help Explore Space?



The Clark School has the only neutral buoyancy research
facility on a college campus.

Here are some additional sites to explore this and related topics:

Department of Aerospace Engineering

Center for Hypersonics and Research

Advanced Propulsion Research Laboratory (APRL

Composites Research Laboratory (CORE)

Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel (GLMWT)

Space Systems Laboratory

“Satellite Radio” Whiting-Turner Lecture by Sirius Satellite Radio founder Robert Briskman

Maryland’s Place in Space



Engineers play a vital role in space exploration—just watch “Apollo 13” if you want to see how engineers in space and on the ground extend our reach beyond our planet and solve challenging, life-threatening problems.

Watch video from a discussion with three astronauts from recent International Space Station expedition missions. (Video courtesy of NASA) more»

As a student at the Clark School, you can be part of a long tradition of space exploration. One of our alums, Michael Griffin, ran NASA during the George W. Bush administration; three alums have served as astronauts (one tragically giving her life for her work); and many more contribute to the success of space missions as employees of NASA and other organizations.

The Clark School’s location so near to the NASA Goddard facility, and the close connections our faculty members have formed with space-focused government and private organizations, make related internships, co-op experiences and full-time employment real opportunities for many Clark School students.

The Clark School’s NASA Administrator

Michael GriffinMichael D. Griffin (Ph.D. '77, aerospace engineering) was the administrator of NASA under Pres. George W. Bush. Griffin was recently honored with the National Space Trophy.

Clark School Alumni Astronauts

Judith ResnikJudith Resnik (Ph.D. '77, electrical engineering) became the second female astronaut in space in 1984. She perished aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. The Resnik Crater, which is located within the Apollo impact basin on the far side of the Moon, is named in her honor. The Clark School named a lecture hall in Glenn L. Martin Hall in her honor.

Paul RichardsPaul Richards (M.S. '91, mechanical engineering) flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery on a mission to the International Space Station in 2001, logging more than 300 hours in space. Later that year, he presented UM President C. D. Mote, Jr., with a banner that had flown with him on the mission.

Jeanette EppsAerospace engineering alumna Jeanette Epps (M.S. '94 and Ph.D. '00) has been selected as an astronaut in the NASA 2009 candidate class. She trained for space flight at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Watch an interview with Jeanette to learn what it was like to train to be an astronaut.

A Selection of Clark School Alumni at NASA

  • Richard Day (B.S. '79, aerospace engineering) is assistant center director for management systems at Goddard Spaceflight Center.
  • Keith Chamberlin (B.S. '88, electrical engineering) is an aerospace engineer for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center.
  • John Ruffa (B.S. '84, electrical engineering) is lead systems engineer on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.
  • Brent Sherwood (M.S. '88 aerospace engineering) is an assistant division manager for mission concept development in the Systems and Software Division of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Florence Tan (B.S. '86, electrical engineering) works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where she is the lead electrical engineer for the Sample Analysis at Mars module that lifted off in November 2011.
  • Timothy Wilcox (B.S. '91, aerospace engineering) has served as mission planner lead and flight dynamics analyst for the Landsat-5 and Landsat-7 flight operations teams at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Clark FlagA Piece of the Clark School Lifts Off

A Clark School flag accompanied astronaut Robert Satcher on space shuttle Atlantis flight STS-129 in November of 2009. view story...

A Clark School experiment to study how boiling works in a zero-gravity environment launched aboard STS-133 in February 2011, headed for the International Space Station. view story...

NASA Alumni Spotlight: Hubble Telescope Terps

Shuttle AtlantisA number of Terps played a role in the 2009 NASA mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Pictured in the Shuttle Atlantis payload bay in preparation for launch at Kennedy Space Center are (from left to right): Mike Oetken (B.S. '99, mechanical engineering), Mark Peden (B.S. '87, aerospace engineering), Kathy Mascetti (B.S. '86, mechanical engineering), Jackie Johnson (B.S. '94, mechanical engineering) and Steve Hoyle (B.S. '89, aerospace engineering).

Other Clark School alumni involved in the mission include: Meg Meehan (B.S. '06, aerospace engineering), Steve Leiter (B.S. '82, aerospace engineering), Charlie Bacon (B.S. '05, aerospace engineering), Torchia Kelly (B.S. '89, aerospace engineering), Albert Larsen (B.S. '99, mechanical engineering, Wes Ousley (B.S. '77, mechanical engineering, Josh Yeager (B.S. '07, electrical engineering) and Mark Behnke (B.S. '83, aerospace engineering).

Thanks to Russ Werneth (B.S. '64 and M.S. '68, mechanical engineering), who also worked on the mission, for sending us the above photo and information!



Also involved with the Hubble mission were:

  • Jonathan Chung (current undergraduate student)
  • Michael Cortina (B.S. '08, mechanical engineering)
  • Kevin Eisenhower (B.S. '04 and M.S. '08, aerospace engineering)
  • Jon Kraeuter (B.S. '04, mechanical engineering)
  • Mike Liszka (B.S. '04, mechanical engineering; M.S. '07, aerospace engineering)
  • Matt Ashmore (B.S. '01, aerospace engineering)
  • Brendan O'Leary (B.S. '08, mechanical engineering)
  • Daniel Senai (B.S. '04 and M.S. '07, aerospace engineering)
  • Russ Stein (B.S. '01, mechanical engineering)
  • Greg Brinkley (current undergraduate student)
  • Will Majette (B.S. '01, mechanical engineering)
  • Matthew Sammons (B.S. '08, mechanical engineering)

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Clark School students and faculty are always in the news for their work on space exploration projects


Clark School a Finalist in NASA X-Hab Competition

Students from the Clark School made up one of three teams selected by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to build potential habitats for astronauts traveling to the moon or Mars. The aerospace engineering students, led by the Clark School’s Professor David Akin, competed in the eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge. Watch the "NASA Edge" program clip above, featuring interview with the team.

Clark School Wins at NASA Competition
Clark School aerospace engineering students won in the undergraduate category and placed second in the graduate category at this year's NASA Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) student design competition. The goal of this year's contest was to design a lunar flying vehicle.

Moon Vehicle Project Receives Award
Brandon Hall, an aerospace engineering senior and Clark School ambassador, has received this year's NASA Academy Research Award at Goddard Space Flight Center, which goes to a project that made a significant contribution to GSFC research. The project, "A Dust Mitigation Vehicle" is a prototype paving system for the Moon that utilizes only resources available in-situ. Hall has been working with Goddard engineer Eric Cardiff for over a year developing and testing the prototype vehicle.

studentStudent, professor fly on ‘Vomit Comet’
Imagine a roller coaster that simulates the experience of feeling twice your normal weight, then drops you into a freefall, all while going out over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Now imagine hopping on that roller coaster 30 times a day, for three straight days. Feeling queasy yet? Despite the frequent changes in gravity on the European Space Agency version of NASA’s “Vomit Comet” – changes that often cause stomach ailments among the flight’s passengers – graduate student Rishi Raj didn’t get sick. Raj and ME professor Jungho Kim traveled on the flight recently to study heat transfer at different gravity levels.

Project TURTLE Wins NASA Competition
A team of aerospace engineering students won first place in the undergraduate division of NASA's Revolutionary Advanced Systems Concepts - Academic Liaison (RASC-AL) student design competition in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Project TURTLE (Terrapin Undergraduate Rover for Terrestrial Lunar Exploration) beat out nine other designs including teams from the University of Washington, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Laura MeyerClark School Ambassador Visits Congress
Laura Meyer traveled with 35 students and 111 other representatives on behalf of Citizens for Space Exploration (CSE), to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to support a robust space exploration program.

Maeling TappTapp Wins NASA Scholarship
Materials Science and Engineering senior Maeling Tapp has been named a 2006 NASA Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology (MUST) Program Scholar. MUST is funded by a $1.75 million grant from NASA and is administered by a consortium lead by the Hispanic College Fund (HCF), with the support of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corporation (UNCFSP). The MUST Program awards scholarships of up to $10,000 and internships to undergraduate students of science, technology, engineering, and math. MUST Scholars also have access to tutoring, summer research programs, and lectures, as well as academic, industry, and peer mentors.

Clark School Wins CANSAT
A team of Clark School aerospace engineering students have won the 2009 American Astronautical Society and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics CANSAT competition in only their first year in the contest, topping a field of 18 schools from around the world.


SSLSpace Systems Lab Awarded NASA Contract
The Clark School is the only university program in the country to be selected for NASA's Constellation Program to develop ideas for how astronauts will live and work on the moon. The Clark School's Space Systems Lab (SSL) and 11 companies will work independently to develop concepts for the program.

Dean Darryll PinesClark School Leads NASA Project
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has renewed a research agreement worth $22.8 million over three to five years that involves 20 universities, including the University of Maryland as the lead institution.


Greg BaecherBaecher Appointed to NASA Committee
Gregory Baecher, G.L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering, has been appointed to the Planetary Protection Subcommittee of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The committee, which includes representatives of industry, academe and government, assesses issues and risks of biological contamination for planetary missions, and for biological contamination associated with the launch and return of spacecraft in interplanetary missions and their potential failure modes.

Baras, Gu and Jiang Receive NASA Patent Application Award
Professor John S. Baras (ECE/ISR) and ECE/ISR alumni Junfeng Gu (M.S., EE, 1999) and Yimin Jiang (Ph.D., EE, 1999) recently received a Patent Application Award from the NASA Glenn Research Center, Technology Transfer & Partnership Office, for an invention disclosure and patent titled “3D Wavelet-Based Video Codec with Human Perceptual Model: A Method and Apparatus for Conditional Access in Broadcast/Multicast Systems.”

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SSLThe Clark School's Space Systems Laboratory includes:


Below are examples of engineering coursework at the Clark School for those interested in pursuing a career supporting space exploration.


  • ENAE404 Space Flight Dynamics
  • ENAE441 Space Navigation and Guidance
  • ENAE457 Space Propulsion and Power
  • ENAE483 Principles of Space Systems Design
  • ENAE484 Space Systems Design


  • ENAE601 Astrodynamics
  • ENAE602 Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics and Control
  • ENAE691 Satellite Design
  • ENAE694 Spacecraft Communications
  • ENAE697 Space Human Factors and Life Support
  • ENAE743 Applied Nonlinear Control of Aerospace Vehicles
  • ENAE788X Selected Topics in Aerospace Engineering: Planetary Surface Robotics

Past Events

Here is a selection of past talks by former astronauts and NASA officials:

February 2012: Discussion with three astronauts from recent International Space Station expedition missions. The crew members gave a video presentation about their mission and then answered questions from the audience.

August 2009: Twelfth International Mars Society Convention

More than 200 space enthusiasts and scholars descended on the University of Maryland for this convention to encourage the human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet within our lifetime. The four-day conference -- sponsored in part by the Clark School -- featured presentations by scientists from the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, roundtable discussions with noted authors on Mars and a tour of the Clark School's facilities that are dedicated to human space exploration.

May 2009: Maryland’s Place in Space

Researchers from the Clark School of Engineering's Space Systems Laboratory were on hand at the Baltimore Convention Center to talk with visitors and state leaders.

February 2009: "Aeronautics and Space Research at NASA"

Presented by Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., Director, NASA Glenn Research Center

The presentation focused on technology developments that will enable the aviation industry to enhance aircraft safety, reduce its impact on the environment, increase the capacity of the airspace, and allow the movement of people and goods farther and faster. In addition, the goals of NASA's space exploration efforts will be presented and technologies that will allow human and robotic exploration of the solar system will be discussed.

October 2006: "Fire in Space"

Presented by Gregory T. Linteris, Payload Specialist Astronaut, Columbia STS-83 and STS-94, and Mechanical Engineer, Fire Science Division, NIST

This talk focused on NASA’s Microgravity Sciences Missions STS-83 and STS-94, which were the first space shuttle missions with a large emphasis on combustion science. Linteris helped perform over 150 combustion tests on these flights. In this talk he will share his experiences on his 20 days in orbit.

October 2005: Clark School alumnus and then-NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, Ph.D. '77 aerospace engineering, returned to campus on October 5th to share his vision for the space agency and its plans to return to the moon and beyond.

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Hinman CEOs Success Benefits UM Alumni


TERPBlog, an online forum created for Maryland alumni, uses technology from Squarespace, a company founded by a Hinman CEOs alumnus.

Squarespace is a web- publishing service created by Anthony Casalena (B.S. '05, computer science). Casalena is a graduate of the Hinman Campus Entrepreneurship Opportunities Program (Hinman CEOs), run by the A. James Clark School of Engineering.

Engineering and...babies?


Through the Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program (MIPS), Martek Biosciences Corporation teamed up with the Clark School's Bioprocess Scale-Up Facility to make formula better for babies around the world. Learn what else Bioprocess Scale-Up can do.

Providing an entrepreneurial ecosystem to help innovators translate great technology into successful ventures is a top priority for the Clark School and its Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech). From entrepreneurial education, including both undergraduate- and graduate-level courses and a pioneering living-learning program to personal mentoring and an on-campus incubator to help start-ups grow, the Clark School and Mtech programs are national leaders in spurring technology-based entrepreneurship.

For Faculty and Students

  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program
    The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program provides freshmen and sophomores from all majors the opportunity to learn and live entrepreneurship and innovation. Students develop the entrepreneurial mindsets, skill sets, and relationships to launch successful concepts with startup companies and corporate ventures.
  • Hinman CEOs
    An award-winning, living-learning program offered to undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurial ventures; includes an incubator-style, high-tech environment, weekly seminars by experts, mentoring and a community that fosters innovation.
  • Entrepreneurship Courses
    There are a variety of entrepreneurship classes available to students. Whether you’re in middle school, high school, an undergraduate, a graduate student, or a corporate executive, Mtech offers a broad array of entrepreneurship and innovation courses tailored for you. Visit the complete course listing for more information.
  • Master of Technology Entrepreneurship
    As the #1 public university in technology entrepreneurship, the University of Maryland’s Online Master of Technology Entrepreneurship pairs an enriching academic experience with the skills and relationships of one of the world’s best startup incubators. This 100% online offering is delivered on a 15-month schedule. Learn more.
  • Technology Start-Up Boot Camp
    An annual day-long workshop on how to start your own company, taught by venture capitalists, legal and marketing experts, investors and successful entrepreneurs.
  • Hillman Entrepreneurs Program
    The Hillman Entrepreneurs Program is an innovative educational initiative for transfer students who begin their study at the Prince George’s Community College and complete their bachelor’s degrees at the University of Maryland. This four-year scholarship program is targeted at students driven to be successful entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities.
  • University of Maryland $75K Business Model Challenge
    The University of Maryland Business Model Challenge takes finalist teams through a challenging process where they hypothesize their value proposition, get out and talk to a minimum of 25 potential customers, and pivot based upon the feedback they receive.
  • Minor in Technology Entrepreneurship
    The Minor develops the entrepreneurial mind-set and functional skillsets of students to improve their ability to create, launch, and manage technology ventures. Students earn the minor by completing coursework which focuses on entrepreneurial opportunity analysis, marketing high-technology products, strategies for managing innovation, and international entrepreneurship and innovation.
  • Online Entrepreneurship Courses on Coursera
    These courses assist aspiring entrepreneurs in developing great ideas into great companies. Using proven content, methods, and models for new venture opportunity assessment and analysis, students will learn how to enhance their entrepreneurial mindset and develop their functional skill sets to see and act entrepreneurially.

Technology Ventures

  • Technology Advancement Program (TAP)
    The Clark School is home to the state's first and most successful incubator, a program designed to help technology-based start-ups grow. Companies such as Martek Biosciences, Digene Corporation (now part of Qiagen), and (now part of Dun and Bradstreet) all started at TAP.
  • VentureAccelerator
    A hands-on consulting, mentoring, and resources program for faculty and students seeking to commercialize research and innovations through new venture formation.
  • Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program (MIPS)
    Cost-shared product R&D for Maryland companies, including startups, to speed new technologies to market. Revolutionary technologies such as MedImmune's Synagis, Hughes Network Systems' DIRECWAY, and Martek's infant formula additives, each improving our health and the way we live, were supported by MIPS.
  • UM Ventures
    UM Ventures is an initiative between the College Park and Baltimore UM campuses to channel the tremendous technical resources and research expertise of the University of Maryland to engage partners in industry and social ventures and expand our real world impact.

Additional Resources

Campus Entrepreneurship Portal


Visit the new campus entrepreneurship portal!

Beyond the Classroom

Gemstone Camp 2009Some would argue that real learning takes place only when students experience firsthand the requirements of real engineering practice and research—and must apply and test what they've learned in the classroom.

The Clark School is highly regarded as an innovator in developing such experiences for its students, placing them in advanced labs, problem-oriented living/learning environments and internships with employers large and small. Here is a small sampling of our programs:

The Gemstone Program
Gemstone is a unique, multidisciplinary, four-year research program for selected undergraduate honors students of all majors. Under the guidance of faculty mentors and Gemstone staff, teams of students design, direct and conduct significant research exploring the interdependence of science and technology with society.

Hinman CEOs
The Hinman Campus Entrepreneurship Opportunities (CEOs) Program is an award-winning living-learning program offered to undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurial ventures.

Research Opportunities
The Clark School offers extensive research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, with major research programs in (among many others): bioengineering; communications and networking; systems research; embedded computing; rotorcraft technology; launch and reentry vehicles; space robotics; intelligent transportation systems; advanced materials; nanotechnology; electronic packaging; and energy systems.

Engineering Co-op & Career Services
What better way to experience real engineering practice than to participate in an internship or co-op opportunity? Each year in the Clark School of Engineering, hundreds of students gain invaluable professional-level work experience with employers in private industry and the federal government. In addition, students build mentoring relationships, integrate classroom theory and practical application, confirm career choices, and earn a competitive salary. Our office is dedicated to helping you find a position through one-on-one advising, weekly workshops, online job listings and interviews, employer seminars, networking receptions, career fairs and much more.

College Park Scholars
College Park Scholars is a community of twelve special living-learning programs for academically talented first- and second-year students. Each program focuses on a specific theme—such as Science, Technology and Society, Science and Global Change, or Science, Discovery and the Universe—and offers specially designed courses and experiences that relate to its theme. Students take classes together and live together in selected residence halls.

The Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) Program
QUEST is a quality management program with a dynamic learning environment. This innovative, three-year program invites high-achieving students to progress in team-based courses led by an interdisciplinary faculty. QUEST is a collaborative effort between the Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Clark School, and admits students from those schools as well as the College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

International Opportunities
Employers seek engineers who are aware of global business practices and possess cross-cultural communication skills and language fluency. Students can prepare to work in the global marketplace by participating in one of the Clark School's study abroad programs. Students engage in experiences that develop the knowledge, skills and abilities employers seek.

Cross-Disciplinary Structures

Lab StudentsAt the Clark School we have long recognized the value of cross-disciplinary engineering. Our method is to create special structures to facilitate cross-disciplinary work while maintaining traditional departments in which the individual disciplines are taught, researched and advanced.

Under the auspices of the University of Maryland, we have established three institutes that for more than two decades have brought together experts from multiple disciplines to tackle selected technical and entrepreneurial challenges:

Many of our faculty members hold joint appointments with the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST).


We have also created numerous centers and programs to address technical challenges on a smaller scale. A representative sampling of these would include:


Most recently we have built the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, designed specifically to foster cross-disciplinary engineering not in one technical area, but across all.