UAH doctoral student honored at JANNAF Committee meeting

Rawlins Best Student Paper
UAH doctoral student Samantha Rawlins won an award for the best student paper at the recent JANNAF meeting. (UAH)

Samantha Rawlins, a doctoral student majoring in aerospace systems engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, recently received an award for the best student paper at the Joint Army Navy NASA Air Force meeting held Dec. 5-9 in Huntsville.

Rawlins won after presenting her paper, “Nuclear Thermal Propulsion System-Level Uncertainty Reduction Through Reliability-Driven Design.”

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Samantha Rawlins’ award-winning paper

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Samantha Rawlins is a UAH doctoral student in the College of Engineering. (UAH College of Engineering)

Rawlins’ paper investigated various ways that considering reliability early in the engineering process can immediately impact a nuclear thermal propulsion engine’s design and test program to improve confidence that the engine will operate successfully in space.

She made her presentation to a standing-room-only crowd.

“There were probably around 60 attendees for my presentation. The vast majority of the attendees had some connection to the space nuclear industry, either through NASA, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, or as a contractor, and it was encouraging to see how much the community has grown. I received a great deal of enthusiastic questions, comments and feedback afterward my presentation.”

UAH doctoral student Samantha Rawlins

This general topic of reliability engineering applied to space nuclear systems is “vastly underexplored,” according to Rawlins. She said there are plenty of opportunities for those interested to get involved.

About Samantha Rawlins

Samantha Rawlins
UAH doctoral student Samantha Rawlins has won several awards since arriving at UAH. (UAH)

Rawlins, is from Los Angeles, Calif., and is advised by Dr. Dale Thomas, a professor and eminent scholar in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Engineering Management.

Thomas says that Rawlins has won several awards since arriving at UAH for her doctoral studies and this best student paper award at the JANNAF Committee Meeting is just the most recent.

“She is investigating methods for designing and testing a safe and reliable nuclear thermal propulsion engine, and people are listening to what she has to say. When NASA flies its first nuclear thermal propulsion engine, it will have Samantha’s fingerprints on it.”

UAH professor Dr. Dale Thomas

In her fifth year as a UAH doctoral student, Rawlins says that after graduation her goal is to find a company that will allow her to keep doing what she’s been doing.

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Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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