Mechanical engineering student Lauren Bansberg ’20 is one of four students from across the U.S. who have been selected for a Women in Aerospace (WIA) scholarship — making her the first UCF student to be honored by organization. WIA is a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to increasing the leadership capabilities and visibility of women in the aerospace community around the world.

All students were selected by a committee of industry, government and education professionals for their academic merits and promising leadership abilities in the aerospace industry. Honorees receive $2,000 in funding and will be recognized by the organization at its awards dinner and ceremony in Arlington, Virginia, this Thursday.

“It is an honor to be a recipient of such a prestigious award,” Bansberg says. “I have worked very hard to get to where I am today in the aerospace industry through the research and programs I have been involved with. Being recognized for my achievements by WIA is special because it means a lot to me to represent women who are pursuing a career in aerospace.”

Earlier this year Bansberg was part of a UCF team that won second place in the NASA MUREP Innovate New Designs for Space (MINDS) competition, which is a hands-on learning experience that encourages students to work on a technology of their choosing that relates to the Artemis program. Bansberg’s team studied the properties of lunar regolith. Bansburg was also part of a UCF team that presented a research paper at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Regional Student Conference this year.

Bansberg has always had an interest in space, but she originally earned a bachelor’s degree in health sciences at UCF before switching career paths. During her time in the health sciences program, she traveled to Jamaica to conduct STEM-related experiments with her classmates and associate lecturer Danielle Webster. The experience reignited her own passion for STEM, and also inspired the students to pursue the same path.

“Many of the young girls in my group absolutely loved the experiments, and the best part about it was finding out the students we worked with had a significant increased interest in pursuing a STEM-related career,” Bansberg says. “I think it is moments like that and receiving this scholarship where I want to serve as an inspiration to other young women and show them that STEM is interesting and fun.”

Just as Bansberg inspired others, she also had women who inspired her throughout her college journey. She credits Webster for introducing her to research, as well as Aerospace Engineering Professor Seetha Raghavan and graduate student Perla Latorre-Suarez ’21 for encouraging her to challenge herself. Raghavan, who received the WIA Aerospace Educator Award in 2019, says that Bansberg has been a great example for other students to follow.

“Even as a beginning researcher, Lauren has shown her capacity to mentor other undergraduate students in her team,” Raghavan says. “Her interest in engineering goes beyond her own development. Arguably, the best part about Lauren is that she will motivate and influence countless students, bringing them along with her on the ride to success.”