University of North Dakota student from Shoreview, Minn., wins prestigious international fellowship
Sydney Menne, a physics and mathematics major, is on Cloud Nine after earning highly competitive Brooke Owens Fellowship
Sydney Menne, a junior double-majoring in physics and mathematics at UND, hasn’t quite come down to the ground after learning she was selected as a 2022 Brooke Owens Fellow.
More than 1,000 students — many from Ivy League schools and top research institutions worldwide — applied for the prestigious international fellowship, but only 51 were chosen for the 12-week summer program that pairs students with experts at 36 top aerospace industries.
Menne of Shoreview, Minn., will join the propulsion engineering team at Virgin Orbit in Long Beach, Calif., during her fellowship. More specifically, she’ll be working on the liquid oxygen rocket engine that shoots satellites into space from the wing of a 747 aircraft.
She’ll also have a hand-picked personal mentor who’ll help her launch her career.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic. It’s such an honor to be selected,” Menne said Thursday. “It really is a dream come true, and it’s going to be life-changing. I’m still kind of in shock with how this is going to propel my future career.”
Mentor Tim Young, for one, isn’t as shocked by the latest achievement by Menne, who also is an Honors student, McNair Scholar, US MASTER Scholar and a member of the NASA Student Launch program. The physics and astrophysics professor has worked with Menne on several projects.
“Sydney is prolific in so many different areas,” Young said. “I guess I’ve known her for two years now, but it was pretty immediate that I knew she was going to do a lot of great things.
“Her learning ability is exceptional. Her communication skills and initiative are beyond anything I’ve seen. She’s incredibly efficient but also very caring. It’s a unique set of character traits.”
Yee Han Chu, academic support and fellowship opportunities coordinator, is another who speaks highly of Menne.
“Sydney is the epitome of a successful student. She arrived at UND with the capacity to understand advanced content,” Chu said. “She enrolled in upper-division coursework as a freshman, and she’s shown her skill as a self-starter by reaching out to campus resources for help in enhancing her learning experience.”
For example, Menne secured a support network by getting to know organizations such as the North Dakota Space Consortium, Chu said.
“She’s not afraid to test her learning in real-world situations, and she’s continually challenged herself to develop research skills that contribute meaningfully to her field,” Chu said. “This constellation of traits makes Sydney unique among college students in general and particularly among students at UND.”
Young agreed, adding: “It’s students like Sydney who put UND in the forefront. We have a lot of great students at UND. They just need to be recognized. Sydney has given us one opportunity to do that.”
About the Owens Fellowship
The Brooke Owens Fellowship was founded in 2016 to honor the memory of industry pioneer and accomplished pilot D. Brooke Owens, who died of cancer at age 35.
A news release said the fellowship celebrates its ongoing mission to disrupt the historical gender imbalance in the aerospace industry by providing opportunities and access to talented young professionals from historically underrepresented genders.
Emily Calandrelli, host of “Emily’s Wonder Lab” on Netflix and a member of the fellowship’s executive team, said: “We’re thrilled to have our most diverse class yet. Aerospace is a challenging field with global impact and an insatiable demand for talent.
“These 51 students represent a vital influx of skill, creativity, passion and purpose. We look forward to watching them make their mark on the aerospace industry.”