Aerospace engineering graduate student recognized by Aviation Week Network


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Kriston Ramdass, an aerospace engineering master’s student at Penn State, recently received the Aviation Week Network’s 2021 20 Twenties Award. Ramdass will be honored at the 64th Annual Laureate Awards ceremony on Oct. 18.

Each year, this award, sponsored by Hexcel, is presented to 20 students worldwide who are earning degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. A total of 136 colleges and universities from across the globe have participated in the 20 Twenties Award program since its inception in 2013. These institutes have nominated 553 students who have demonstrated exceptional academic performance, broader civic contributions and impactful research or design projects, according to the Aviation Week Network’s website. Of these 553 nominations, 160 students have been recognized.

“Upon hearing that I was chosen as one of the 20 Twenties recipients for 2021, I was in disbelief,” Ramdass said. “This award was open to contenders from numerous countries and universities — but soon after my initial disbelief, immeasurable joy followed.”

Ramdass’ research focuses on spacecraft and satellite propulsion. He is currently working to modify gas thrusters to perform as plasma thrusters that can produce higher thrusts than the traditional cold gas thrusters currently used on satellites and rockets.

“I am working on developing the plasma thruster design, determining its efficiency and compiling results,” Ramdass said. “These results can eventually inspire many future spacecrafts to use plasma thrusters similar to what I am researching.”

Ramdass has held numerous internships throughout his collegiate career. In 2018, he worked as a failure investigation and prevention specialist at Moog Space and Defense, where he contributed to the propulsive unit for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Crew Module. In 2019, he interned in the Product Development Systems Integration sector at The Boeing Company. Ramdass worked as a propulsion engineer for Blue Origin and Momentus Space in 2020, and during the summer of 2021, he served as a ground support and test equipment engineer for SpaceX.

“At each internship, I had a new role, which gave me a complete understanding about my interests in the industry and what positions I gravitate toward,” Ramdass said.

After he graduates, Ramdass plans to work full time at a space company that has a strong focus on making an impact in the aerospace industry.

“Kriston’s talents and achievements throughout his young career are truly extraordinary,” said Amy Pritchett, head of aerospace engineering at Penn State and Ramdass’ nominator for this award. “In academics, in research projects in the lab and as a leader amongst underrepresented groups in engineering, he has proven that he is a role model for young aerospace engineers.”

During his time at Penn State, Ramdass has been involved with many organizations that have helped him gain leadership skills and promoted diversity and inclusion, something Ramdass said he is very passionate about.

Ramdass participated in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Student Transition Engineering Program to University Park and the Multicultural Engineering Program.

“In these organizations I took on leadership roles that allowed me to reach the members of each group individually and teach them the wisdom that I accumulated during my time as a student,” Ramdass said.

Ramdass said he wants to continue to help other engineering students, inspire future engineers and contribute to the growing diversity in the engineering field.

“I hope to be placed in positions where I can serve to inspire other children of color into knowing that they, too, are capable,” Ramdass said. “This award gives me that opportunity. The chance for minorities looking for someone who looks like them to see that they can strive to one day be an Aviation Week 20 Twenties recipient.”


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College of Engineering Media Relations

a man wearing a suit and bowtie stands in front of a rail overlooking a body of water in a city

Kriston Ramdass, an aerospace engineering master’s student at Penn State, received the Aviation Week Network’s 2021 20 Twenties Award. IMAGE: PROVIDED BY KRISTON RAMDASS