Every year we say goodbye to a new generation of engineers and leaders. Before leaving the Forty Acres, some students from the Class of 2018 reflected on their experiences in Texas ASE/EM before continuing on to the next part of their journey. We can’t wait to see what they do next.

Siddarth Kaki, B.S., ASE

Siddarth Kaki photo

Having spent time growing up near the Austin area, Siddarth Kaki said he couldn’t have imagined what he signed up for when he applied to UT Austin’s aerospace engineering program.

Kaki seized his first opportunity to do research as a freshman when he joined the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) team, eventually becoming the programming sub-team lead. The same year, hei joined Associate Professor Todd Humphreys' Radionavigation Lab where he has remained throughout his undergraduate career. Kaki has also worked on a project called Machine Games for which squadrons of quadcopters are able to play games with one another and on a multi-lab collaboration called Project Mercator, which involves using quadcopters to perform 3D mapping. He now considers his area of expertise to be guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) which can be applied from UAVs to spacecraft, self-driving cars and robotics.

After graduation, Kaki won’t leave the forty acres just yet as he plans to pursue his Ph.D. in spacecraft autonomy under the tutelage of Professor Maruthi Akella, for which he was awarded a highly competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Kaki believes his work is important to the development of robotics, including lifesaving technology.

 “We are on the cusp of a revolution with autonomy,” Kaki said. “There’s a lot of development going to that end whether it’s artificial intelligence or even self-driving vehicles. We are able to achieve things that we couldn’t do before for science and the betterment of society.”

Alto Ono, B.S., ASE

Alto Ono photo

Unlike the typical aerospace engineer, Alto Ono, is taking his degree to the track, not the sky.

Coming to UT as an international student from Japan, Ono looked for a way to make friends in Austin and reinforce what was taught in his engineering classes. He joined Longhorn Racing, a team that designs, builds and competes with a single-seater formula-style racecar. The team is housed under UT’s Collegiate Chapter of SAE International, and competes against 80+ other universities across the U.S. and internationally. The car is fully designed and built by students over the course of the academic year.  

Ono also spent some time abroad as an undergraduate research assistant in Metz, France, developing a simulation model for the physical properties of a newly developed resin. He looks to continue broadening his horizons by pursuing his graduate education in the United Kingdom studying Advanced Motorsport Mechatronics at Cranfield University.

Reflecting on his experience as an undergraduate, Ono credits his extra-curricular activities at UT for helping him combine his passion for engineering with his passion for  motorsport.

“I went in wanting to do rockets but I ended up finding the Longhorn Racing team and sticking with it. I got a lot of exposure to industry experts in engineering, a lot of race engineers, and a lot of experience working at races,” Ono said. “I kind of fell in love with having this challenge every year of not only competition against other teams, but also trying to find an innovative solution within a set of rules.”

Nicole Vieger, B.S., ASE

Nicole Vieger photo

As an entering freshman at UT, Nicole Vieger was anxious to catch up to her peers.

“I came in with no engineering experience and it seemed like everyone had engineering experiences,” Vieger said.

In order to propel herself forward on the track to success, Vieger sought out a student organization that could help her gain the experience she wanted as an aerospace student. She found WIALD, Women in Aerospace for Leadership Development, and never looked back, climbing the ranks as a member, historian and then president.

“All the student groups are good about welcoming you in, but WIALD’s really great.” Vieger said. “It was a good group of women that I could see in my classes as well as women I could look up to and who mentored me. Another important part of WIALD is also getting hands-on experience.”

Vieger’s confidence in her engineering ability shines through her work as a research assistant in the Texas Spacecraft Lab as part of the Guidance Navigation and Control team, which helped her lock in a position at Lockheed Martin, where she will begin working this summer.

“It is basically my dream job,” Vieger said. I really wanted to work at Lockheed and I really wanted to work in Colorado so I’m getting the best of both worlds. I think my official title is satellite systems engineer so I’ll be an operator for some of the Airforce communication satellites that they’re going to be launching in the next couple months.”

Peng Wang, Ph.D., EM

Peng Wang photo

Engineering mechanics Ph.D. candidate Peng Wang dedicated his time on the Forty Acres researching the properties of graphene — a two-dimensional, atomically thin material that is excellent for electronic and mechanical engineering. Graphene is formed from the popular rock, graphite, though the properties of graphene and its exceptional capabilities have baffled scientists. Because graphene is so thin, it is susceptible to changes based on whatever substance underlies it. Wang’s research is advised by Professor Rui Huang and focuses on theoretical and numerical study on the adhesive interactions relationship between graphene and its substrate.

“I hope my work can improve existing theoretical models to provide better explanations and predictions for graphene experiments,” Wang said. “More importantly, I hope my work, as a fundamental study of graphene, can help people to understand the mechanism behind the adhesive interactions between graphene and substrate. It is a vital step for the application and fabrication of graphene and other 2-dimensional materials in the real industry.”

Wang plans to move to Seattle and work as a research scientist for Facebook after obtaining his Ph.D.

“There are lots of challenges working at Facebook and the ‘move fast’ culture really fits my personality, both of which make me very excited to work there,” Wang said.

View photos from our graduation reception and commencement.