Mechanical engineering doctoral student named 2023 Amelia Earhart Fellow

July 6, 2023

By Tessa Pick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jennifer Colborn, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at Penn State, has been selected to receive the Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship for the 2023-24 academic year. This $10,000 fellowship is awarded annually to up to 30 women around the world who are conducting research applied to aerospace engineering or space sciences.

Colborn was recognized for her academic record and demonstrated initiative, ambition and commitment to pursuing a career in aerospace engineering and space sciences and for her work in gas turbine engines. 

According to the Zonta International website, the Amelia Earhart Fellowship was established in 1938 in honor of the world-renowned pilot Amelia Earhart. Since the fellowship’s creation, Zonta International has awarded 1,275 women in 76 countries with fellowships, totaling more than $11.3 million in award funds. 

The fellowship program was created to empower women through encouragement and financial support for those pursuing doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering or space sciences. The program also allows for the fellows to be introduced to successful women in the field who are further along in their careers, according to Colborn.

“Amelia Earhart fellows have gone on to become professors, business owners, astronauts and even the secretary of the U.S. Air Force,” Colborn said. “Being a part of this international community of incredible women is a valuable opportunity to reach out to young women who are interested in pursuing a career in aerospace engineering. I look forward to serving as a mentor for future potential applicants and members.”

Colborn was one of 30 individuals chosen for this year’s fellowship. The 2023 fellows were chosen from universities and institutes around the globe, spanning eleven countries. 

“Fellowships like this connect women across the multitude of subdisciplines in aerospace sciences,” Colborn said. “This allows people to learn about the research being performed by other fellows, as well as lead to potential collaborations.”

Colborn’s research focuses on quantifying convective and radiative heat transfer to the combustor liner in gas turbine engines, which have uses in both power generation and aviation. By progressing the understanding of engine heat flux, Colborn seeks to increase the engine’s efficiency and life span by allowing for better engine designs that require less fuel and reduce their carbon footprint. 

Colborn is advised by Jacqueline O’Connor, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Gas Turbine Research, Education, and Outreach. Colborn conducts her research as part of the Reacting Flow Dynamics Laboratory, which is led by O'Connor.

O’Connor nominated Colborn for the Amelia Earhart Fellowship and noted her numerous accomplishments and contributions to the laboratory, including Colborn’s research contributions to the nationwide collaboration, the National Jet Fuels Combustion Program.

“Jen has made significant contributions to my laboratory from her very first day,” O’Connor wrote in the nomination letter. “She is one of the most productive students I’ve had in the eight years my group has been working at Penn State… Jen has a rare combination of talent, academic excellence and leadership that few people possess. I am very excited to see the great strides Jen will undoubtedly make during her graduate studies.” 


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