photo of courtney hodgson

Courtney Hodgson


Aerospace Engineering

Technical Area

Space Flight

What made you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree? 

Aerospace engineering fuels my affinity for astronomy, fluid mechanics, environmentalism, physics and mathematics, all while kindling my passion to partake in the global initiative towards advancing human discovery. I am drawn to the multifaceted aspects of aerospace engineering, including fluids/thermodynamics, orbital mechanics, systems engineering and mission planning. All throughout my life, I was interested in the breath of space, and got my first experience in the field by serving as an astronomy guide at a local observatory. With an aerospace degree, I plan on gaining the technical knowledge in space-related engineering mechanisms in order to help the pioneering mission to space.

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

My biggest reward was becoming a NASA Pathways intern after freshman year. NASA has always been a dream of mine, so I am very grateful that my UT education along with my experience from TREL (Texas Rocket Engineering Lab) has helped me land this co-op in a branch of ASE that I could see as my future.

Who has been your most influential professor in your ASE career and why?

My most influential professor has been Dr. Martines, who teaches Vector Calculus. As a teacher, she was able to convey theoretical topics in a conceivable way in order to engender a better conceptual understanding of the subject and it’s uses, which is no easy feat for an advanced math course. Additionally, Dr. Martines has made class enjoyable by always having a positive attitude and by making math seem approachable. Inside and outside of class, Dr. Martines always expressed care for her students and made herself available whenever possible. For her, being a math professor was not just about assigning math problems, but rather about helping students along a journey to not only understand, but enjoy math. 

Her class really has furthered my ASE career by bridging the gap between theoretical math and applicable physics and engineering. I plan to use this vector calculus knowledge in aerospace research and theoretical work, such as test data analysis and orbital navigation.

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

My most influential ASE/EM course has been Thermodynamics. This class has laid the foundations for my fluid rocketry work in TREL (Texas Rocket Engineering Lab) and NASA. As a hybrid of physics and chemistry, Thermodynamics has allowed me to apply theoretical knowledge to help design the fluids system for TREL’s bipropellant, pressure-fed rocket, as well as to analyze fluid and thermal properties for my work at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

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

Involvement in student groups has definitely made a difference in my education. For instance, I joined the fluids team of TREL my freshman year before taking any fluids or thermodynamics classes. After delving into the design and application aspects of the fluids team, I went into Thermodynamics familiar with many technical terms, variables, equations, and an idea of the real-world implementation of the class; therefore, I was able to quickly pick up the theory of thermodynamics. In addition, my work in TREL gave me the technical qualifications to be selected as a Fluids and Cryogenics NASA Pathways Intern at Glenn Research Center. This incredible opportunity to co-op in the Fluids and Cryogenics division, has encouraged me to shape my ASE degree plan to supplement my knowledge in this area. Likewise, the opportunity to be a team lead in organizations like AIAA, the ASE/COE/EM Undergraduate LUNAR Council, and TREL have developed my professional education, which has better prepared me for the professionalism of industry.

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

Because I am tailoring my ASE degree to take the space flight track, along with a concentration in fluids and orbital mechanics, I plan to use my degree by working at NASA on space-related missions in the future.

Have you participated in study abroad?

I have not studied abroad due to COVID-19, but I hope to put my French minor to use by studying in France!

Where is your favorite place to study?

My favorite place to study is on the second floor of the Texas Union and in the Flawn Academic Center. Also, studying on the UT front law with some friends is highly underrated and I definitely recommend it.

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

I really enjoy the cuisine scene of Austin. The city has so many unique, locally-owned restaurants, cafés, and food trucks. Some of my favorite places include Halal Bros, 512 Pepitos Venezuelan Street Food, Don’s Japanese Cuisine, Cabo Bob’s, Cartel Coffee Lab, Fleet Coffee and Texas French Bread. Also, the hiking and walking trails are scenic in Austin, especially during sunset. My favorites include Lady Bird Lake for running and the Greenbelt for hiking. Additionally, I really appreciate the welcoming, culturally-diverse environment that Austin has to offer.

List three things that most people don't know about you.
  • My mom is from Hawaii, so I grew up with the Hawaiian culture.

  • I play the violin and ukulele.

  • I have a passion for learning languages, so I aspire to become a polyglot one day. I love the simultaneous analytical, yet creative mindset it takes to learn a language, in addition to opening the door to better understand other cultures around the world. After taking Spanish in high school, I am currently working towards a French minor while learning Korean on the side.

What is helping you stay positive during the pandemic?

To stay positive and destress during the pandemic, I have started to go on walks and runs around Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Since this COVID-19 era is the perfect time to focus on physical and mental health, getting out of the house and into a spacious, outdoor area really helps with Zoom fatigue and improves my mood. Another way to remain positive has been mentoring in the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) and in the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab (TREL). Being a mentor has introduced me to new friends and has allowed me to help incoming students/members get to know the environment better. In addition, I have taken up gardening, and it is always fun to hear that many others I know have as well!