photo of anna wei

Anna Wei

Major

Aerospace Engineering

Technical Area

Space Flight

Hometown

Houston, TX

What made you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree? 

I hadn’t really thought about pursuing a degree in engineering until senior year of high school. When I was trying to figure out what major I wanted to pursue, I was really all over the place. I thought about psychology, business, astrophysics, and dance. Then I stumbled across aerospace engineering, and it felt like the stars had aligned and my perfect major had fallen into my lap. Aerospace is the intersection of so many of my interests; technically, it has physics and astronomy, which were two of my favorite classes in high school. In practice, there is no way for one person to do an aerospace project by themselves. So, aerospace also brought in the people and communication aspect that I really wanted.

What has been your biggest reward while pursuing your aerospace degree at UT?

Before I came to UT, the fact that I could design, build and fly my own rocket as a freshman completely blew my mind. Now, not only have I done that, but I’ve watched countless rocket flights, designed rockets to fly to 30,000 feet, tested a habitat that will be flying to the International Space Station and worked on Guidance, Navigation, and Control for a vehicle that will be going to the moon. Often, I am so focused on a small part of the project that the significance of what I’m doing doesn’t really hit me. But when I step back and look at the things that I’ve already been able to accomplish, I can’t really believe that I’ve played even the tiniest part in furthering human spaceflight. It is really rewarding that I am starting to see where I fit in humanity’s journey to explore space.

Who has been your most influential ASE or EM professor and why?

Dr. Mahalingam has definitely been my most influential ASE professor. I have taken his Low Speed Aerodynamics and Compressible Flow classes and will be taking Electromechanical Systems and Propulsion with him next semester. Not only is he a brilliant man and a great professor, but it is so easy to see how much he cares about his students. He will change the course schedule to spend more time on topics that the class finds harder to understand and add extra office hours if we need them. He even takes the class on field trips and indulges our requests for pictures of his cat!

What has been your most influential ASE or EM course and why?

My most influential ASE course was Spacecraft Dynamics with Dr. Jones. Although the topics were challenging, I always walked out of class excited about what we were learning. Dr. Jones really pushes his students to gain complete understanding of the material and apply that understanding to solve difficult problems. There were many times when my study group felt like we were on the brink of delirium trying to solve one of our SpaceD problems, and I spent A LOT of time in office hours. But in the end, I came out of SpaceD as a much more capable engineer, with a lot more confidence in my abilities.

How has being involved in student groups and/or organizations made a difference in your education?

I have been in LRA since my first semester of freshman year, and it has made a world of difference for me. Academically, LRA really accelerated my aerospace/technical learning curve. As a freshman, I was applying propulsion, flight dynamics, and materials concepts that most students only learn as upperclassmen. At the end of my freshman year, I successfully launched a rocket that I had personally designed and built through the certification group. As a sophomore, I became the president of LRA. This position once again put me on an accelerated learning curve, this time in my soft skills. I quickly learned the full value of leadership, teamwork, and communication in addition to concrete skills, like managing a budget, project timelines, and corporate and academic relationships. All of these skills opened doors professionally for me; my experiences in LRA have led to internship offers, which have subsequently given me even more valuable lessons. Lastly, LRA has just added so much more enjoyment to my college experience. It gave me a strong community to be a part of; many of my closest friends now are people who I met as a freshman in LRA. We balance hard work and having fun, and I have so many good memories from LRA.

How do you plan to use your degree in the future?

I plan to be in the space industry, working on flight dynamics, test, or vehicle integration.

Where is your favorite place to study?

The ASE! Although it gets loud and I end up talking to friends passing through every 5 minutes, there are always people to work with and upperclassmen who are happy to help out if I get stuck on a problem. Also, snacks are readily available from the AIAA office, which allows me to really camp out there.

What are some things you really enjoy about living in Austin, TX?

There’s always lots to do! I like to run the hike and bike trail on Lady Bird Lake, volunteer at Austin Pets Alive, go to concerts and get dinner with my friends downtown.

List three things that most people don't know about you.
  • I almost dropped out of high school to pursue a career as a professional ballet dancer.

  • I won $200 from a poetry contest in middle school and spent it all on Bath & Body Works

  • I don't eat beef because it's bad for the environment!