Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. I came to the US in 2018 to pursue higher education in the field of Aerospace Engineering.
What do you like most about engineering at UB?
Engineering at UB provides plenty of opportunities outside of the classrooms for students to engage in. Students can join engineering clubs, such as the UB chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), to work in a team environment to complete projects. There are also a lot of professors who are accepting students to join their labs to perform research. Students can also become tutors or teaching assistants to improve their communication skills.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
Ever since my parents brought me to the annual Children’s Day air shows back in Thailand, I dreamed of working with aerospace technologies for a living. It was astonishing to see objects that people constructed soar up into the sky and take flight among the birds. Learning about aerospace became my passion. In elementary school, while others my age were reading comic books, I read about the history of aviation and spaceflight. This feeling of awe inspired me to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering.
However, as I entered the final year of my undergraduate education, I realized that there is still a great amount of knowledge for myself to obtain. Additionally, my undergraduate research experience reveals that I am also capable of contributing new knowledge to the field of aerospace engineering. From my aspiration to both learn more and append knowledge to the field of study, I determined that having a career as a university professor is the correct decision moving forward. As a result of this goal of mine, I decided to continue my education at UB as an aerospace engineering PhD student.
What is your favorite place on campus?
I enjoy spending time at the Charles B. Sears Law Library. The library is well-designed, comfortable, and conveniently located near the center of the campus, making it a good place to study in between classes.
What are you working on right now?
Since summer 2020, I have been performing research supervised by Dr. Eleonora M. Botta. One of the proposed solutions to the issue of ever-increasing amounts of space debris is to use tether-nets which are deployed by chaser spacecraft to capture and remove the debris from orbit. Tether-net systems possess great promise, due to their capabilities in capturing immense objects, such as launch vehicle upper stages, from a secured distance. To gain a better understanding of such systems before real in-orbit missions, the usage of dynamics simulation software is a cost-efficient method to perform research on the systems. My research concerns simulator validation and robustness analysis for tether-net systems.
What else do you do on campus and in the community?
I worked as a mathematics tutor at the Thomas J. Edwards Undergraduate Learning Center for two and a half academic years, where I enjoyed sharing my passion for mathematics with fellow students while helping them achieve their academic goals. I was also the undergraduate teaching assistant (UGTA) for Thermodynamics 1 for the Fall 2021 semester. For the position, I assisted students with questions about the course materials and their weekly assigned homework. During the Spring 2022 semester, I worked as an UGTA for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Laboratory 1, where I led a laboratory section and guided students in conducting the weekly microcontroller workshops and experimental data collection. Lastly, I served as one of the board members of the University at Buffalo Pilots Association for two academic years. My duties included, but were not limited to, instructing club members on how to fly light general aviation aircraft on the RedBird flight simulator and teaching students about the physics of flight per the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook and Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. It is very satisfying to see others enjoy learning about the subject area in which I am passionate about.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
I am proud the presentation of my research, which was made alongside the co-author of my technical papers, at the AIAA SciTech Forum 2022. The forum is the world's largest annual event regarding aerospace research and technology development. At the event, industry professionals and students of aerospace-related disciplines discuss their research in technical sessions, obtain up-to-date information from guest speakers, and grow their professional connections. I am also equally proud of my internship experience as an Aircraft Line Maintenance Mechanic under Cathay Pacific Airways (Bangkok Engineering Department). There, I worked under the guidance of a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME) to inspect and troubleshoot systems onboard both passenger and cargo aircraft to ensure that they can safely travel to their destinations.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about technological developments in the field of aerospace engineering. I try my best to keep up with the latest innovations in the field, along with reading books about the field’s historical evolution in my spare time. I wish one day to become the person who pushes the boundaries of what humanity can accomplish in regard to space travel and exploration.
What are your future plans?
After obtaining my doctoral degree, I plan to become a university faculty member to build a career upon my commitment towards aerospace engineering innovation and STEM instruction. Later on in my career, I will also be open to performing research for public or private institutions in regard to disciplines related to my graduate education.
Has there been a particular faculty or staff member that has been formative during your time at UB, and how so?
I owe my success in research to Dr. Eleonora Botta. Dr. Botta guided me through the challenging process of producing technical research publications. I was able to learn the mindset required to solve research problems and how to present the conclusions I obtained from my work through different mediums. For graduate study, I am continuing to perform research with her within the Space Systems Dynamics and Control Laboratory.
What is your advice for prospective students?
Grades for classes are important, but it is also important to find experiences outside of the classroom to allow yourself to grow professionally. Whether it be club activities, research projects conducted within a lab, or internships with companies outside of UB, all these experiences will enable students to learn how to implement their knowledge into practice, work with others in a team environment, and build up their professional network.
Achira Boonrath received the Dean's Undergraduate Achievement award in 2022.