Aerospace engineering undergraduate student receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rachel Axten, an aerospace engineering undergraduate student who will receive her bachelor of science degree in May, has been selected for a 2018 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.

Axten will begin her graduate studies towards a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at Penn State in fall 2018 under the advisement of Eric Johnson, professor of aerospace engineering. Her research focus will be on vehicle dynamics and controls.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recruits high-potential, early-career scientists and engineers and supports their graduate research training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Two thousand awardees were selected in April from more than 12,000 applicants and come from all 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Axten, a Schreyer Scholar, has been an undergraduate researcher for Mark Maughmer, professor of aerospace engineering, since August 2017, focusing on the design and performance of a sailplane using a slotted, natural-laminar airfoil and comparing performance data against an existing, competitive sailplane. Her thesis was titled “Performance Gains of a Standard-Class Sailplane Using a Slotted, Natural-Laminar-Flow Airfoil.”

While earning her undergraduate degree, Axten has been an active member of several organizations, clubs and societies, including the Penn State chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), for which she served as secretary from May 2016 to May 2017); the Penn State Soaring Club; the Penn State Human Powered Aircraft project; Sigma Gamma Tau, the National Aerospace Engineering Honor Society Engineering; the AIAA Design/Build/Fly competition team; and Engineering Ambassadors.

Axten has been the recipient of multiple scholarships and awards while at Penn State: the Brian Chappel and Marion Stone Chappel Scholarship, the Boeing Company Scholarship, the Aero Pioneers Class of 1944 Scholarship in Aerospace, the NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Scholarship and the NHA (Naval Helicopter Association) Scholarship.

Outside of the classroom, Axten serves as a physics instructor at Grace Prep High School.

Launched in 1952 shortly after Congress established the NSF, GRFP represents the nation's oldest continuous investment in the U.S. STEM workforce. GRFP provides three years of financial support to award recipients within a five-year fellowship period. That support is for graduate study that leads to a research-based master's or doctoral degree in a STEM field.


Share this story:

facebook linked in twitter email


Chris Spallino



The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, established in 1961 and the only aerospace engineering department in Pennsylvania, is consistently recognized as one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation, and is also an international leader in aerospace education, research, and engagement. Our undergraduate program is ranked 15th and our graduate programs are ranked 15th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, while one in 25 holders of a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in the U.S. earned it from Penn State. Our students are consistently among the most highly recruited by industry, government, and graduate schools nationwide.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry. Through an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction that reflects current industry practice and embraces future trends, Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduates emerge as broadly educated, technically sound aerospace engineers who will become future leaders in a critical industry

Department of Aerospace Engineering

229 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2569