Aerospace engineering student named fellow for international program


By Tessa M. Pick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jason Cornelius, doctoral student in aerospace engineering, has been selected as a Stanford United States-Russia Forum (SURF) fellow for the 2020-21 program.

Cornelius joins the group of 51 SURF fellows selected from a pool of 700 applications from 215 universities across the world. The 2020-21 class of fellows represents 11 countries and 39 institutions and speaks more than 25 languages. As part of this program, the SURF fellows will collaborate on research projects exploring United States-Russia relations. The fellows come from an array of disciplines including security and arms control, economic development, ecological collaboration in climate and environment, media and humanities.

“I developed a strong connection to the Russian culture and people when I spent winter 2018 in St. Petersburg for an intensive Russian language program,” Cornelius said. “Ever since then, I knew that I wanted to somehow incorporate improving relations between our two countries into my career.”

In previous years, SURF included a series of conferences that were aimed at bringing together graduate and undergraduate students to explore research areas that promoted the U.S.-Russia dialogue and encouraged key stakeholders to collaborate on mutually beneficial solutions. This year, the program’s mission remains the same, but will shift to a series of virtual roundtables and seminars with leaders from both countries.

“The program comes with many benefits, from making new friends and colleagues across the globe to better understanding the relationship between the U.S. and Russia as it pertains to space cooperation,” Cornelius said. “My main goal is to develop the tools that will help me improve the relationship between our countries moving into the future.”

Cornelius will serve on a team comprised of three fellows who will specifically focus on space cooperation in relation to the privatization of space and how it benefits both the U.S. and Russia. Cornelius’ teammates are from the University of Illinois and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow.

“I am most excited about the cross-cultural exchange that comes with working on an international team,” Cornelius said. “My team is small at only three students, but we are quite diverse.”

While working to obtain his doctorate at Penn State, Cornelius has conducted research related to vertical lift technology and planetary aerial vehicles in the Penn State Vertical Lift Research Center. Cornelius was a rotorcraft aeromechanics intern as part of the Rotorcraft Aeromechanics Pathways Program at NASA Ames Research Center. He was named a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in 2018. He also contributes to the Penn State research project focusing on the design and analysis of the Dragonfly planetary aerial vehicle that is part of the upcoming NASA New Frontiers Mission.


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