A Lifelong Dream Come True

A Lifelong Dream Come True
Jaylon Uzodinma
Jaylon Uzodinma

As a physics major during his undergraduate years at Jackson State University, Jaylon Uzodinma spent every summer doing some sort of research or internship, which included participation in the 2019 Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering/Sciences (S.U.R.E.) program at Georgia Tech.

The S.U.R.E. program is an undergraduate summer research program committed to increasing the number of qualified students who are traditionally under-represented in STEM fields. Uzodinma vividly recalls his first time on campus.

“From my very first visit, I knew I was at a top-tier research university,” said Uzodinma. “There was so much going on at Georgia Tech and so much cutting-edge research. During my summer in S.U.R.E., I was paired with an amazing mentor, like Dr. Ellen Mazumdar who works in hypersonics and combustion,” said Uzodinma. “She was just spectacular, and I continue to lean on her as a mentor today.”

Uzodinma was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship – one of the nation's most prestigious fellowships for students pursuing graduate school in science and engineering. He says his participation in the S.U.R.E. program helped him prepare for the NSF Fellowship application process. Ultimately, he opted to return to Georgia Tech to pursue his graduate studies.

This fall, Uzodinma begins the second year of his Ph.D. program in aerospace engineering. Uzodinma is advised by Dr. Dimitri Mavris, whom he met during a visit at Tech when he participated in the Focus Program, an initiative to increase the number of master's and doctoral degrees awarded to underrepresented minorities not only at Georgia Tech but nationwide. Mavris is a Regents’ Professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering and director of the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL).

“When I first met Dr. Mavris during the Focus Program, I had already applied to Tech for grad school,” said Uzodinma. “I already knew I was interested in aircraft design, and he’s the guy for aircraft design. He’s one of the top names in the world when you look at the amount of research he’s published in the area.”

Uzodinma’s research work during his first year at Tech was focused in three areas. One project involved the conceptual design of an advanced aircraft concept for military purposes. Another project involved modeling and simulation, studying how uncertainty can affect the development process in aerospace systems. And, the last project involved fleet modeling by looking into advanced aircraft concepts and their fleet level impacts as far as emissions.

Uzodinma’s current and past research work earned him a spot in the inaugural cohort of Diverse Rising Graduate Scholars, chosen based on standout scholarship thus far and their current trajectory toward a very promising future inside and outside of academia.  

This year, Uzodinma will be focused on taking prerequisites for his doctoral qualifying exam in systems design and optimization. He will also take a qualifying exam in either structural mechanics or aerodynamics, though he’s not 100% certain yet. His long-term goal is to go directly into industry after he completes his Ph.D. However, he wants to provide mentorship to others regardless of what comes after graduate school. Throughout the entirety of his career, he wants to give back and encourage under-represented students in STEM fields.

“I will always be heavily involved in mentorship,” said Uzodinma. “I don't see myself ever really getting too far away from mentorship, whether that means mentoring high school students and recruiting them for internships, or mentoring college students and doing things in the community.”

As recently as last year, Uzodinma has already been involved with the Atlanta community, helping fourth graders at the Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy learn how to design glider aircraft. Georgia Tech provided project kits that included materials and supplies for the glider project and a specially-designed project workbook. This particular mentorship initiative felt very close to home for Uzodinma. 

“I've been interested in airplanes for a very, very long time,” said Uzodinma. “I was eight years old when I first became interested in airplanes. And it's like a dream come true that this is what I work on all day.”

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