April 27, 2023

photo of NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson

Alumna and NASA Astronaut Stephanie Wilson will give the keynote address at the 2023 Cockrell School of Engineering Undergraduate Student Commencement Ceremony on May 5.

Wilson, who received her master’s in aerospace engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 1992, has blasted off on three NASA space missions during her career.  Over those three missions – STS-121 in 2006, STS-120 in 2007, and STS-131 in 2010 – she spent more than 42 days in space.

“Studying engineering gave me a path to becoming an astronaut,” said Wilson. “For these students, their academic accomplishments and their perseverance put them squarely on the path to achieving their goals.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree in engineering from Harvard and her aerospace engineering master’s from UT Austin, Wilson went to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she was a member of the Attitude and Articulation Control Subsystem team for the Galileo spacecraft, and worked in sequence development and testing as well. In 1996, she was chosen to become a NASA astronaut.

Wilson became the second Black woman to travel to space, after Dr. Mae Jemison, who served as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992.

“Stephanie is an inspiration to all of our students, and we’re so excited to have her at commencement this year,” said Cockrell School Dean Roger Bonnecaze. “I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.”

Wilson’s research at UT Austin, sponsored by NASA’s Langley Research Center through a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Fellowship, focused on the control and modeling of large, flexible space structures, culminating in a thesis comparing structural dynamics methodologies and controller designs. She received the Outstanding Young Texas Ex award in 2005, and she was elected to the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics’ Academy of Distinguished Engineers in 2019. 

Cockrell Commencement will be held at the Moody Center, starting at 5:30 p.m.