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  • Brooke Owens Fellow, Class of 2017

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, AeroAstro, ‘18

  • Host Institution: Virgin Orbit

  • Mentor: Indra Hornsby

Piper Sigrest recently graduated from MIT with a Bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering and a minor in Russian and Eurasian Studies. Piper also completed the two-year MIT-Gordon Engineering Leadership Program. Outside of class, she loved working with the MIT Rocket Team on recovery systems and custom composite structures. She has begun her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in Aerospace Engineering, researching bio-inspired morphing aircraft.

Piper grew up in a household filled with pilots and space enthusiasts. On her 17th birthday, she earned her private pilot license and became her family’s third-generation pilot and first aviatrix. In high school, several life-changing opportunities introduced Piper to the wonder and beauty of space: watching the final launch of Atlantis in 2011, talking with astronauts at the 2012 State of STEM Address in D.C., attending Space Camp, and competing in the 2012 International Space Olympics in Korolev, Russia. Piper learned that her love of flight encompassed both atmospheric and space flight.

Piper loves sharing her excitement for space with others. She has volunteered at outreach events with the MIT Rocket Team and taught abroad in Russia and Kazakhstan through MIT’s Global Teaching Lab program. When she isn’t building rockets or admiring aircraft, Piper loves crocheting, reading, solving Sudoku puzzles, and listening to musicals. Piper has interned at NASA Langley, Aurora Flight Sciences, SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, and is currently interning at Blue Origin. As a Brooke Owens Fellow, Piper worked at Virgin Orbit as a second stage structures team member, conducting extensive testing of composite coupons. Piper designed several test fixtures and components and produced prototype parts during her internship. Her other internship projects have touched a wide range of areas including fluids systems, propellant management devices, systems engineering, and mission management. Piper aspires to promote and normalize human space exploration as both an engineer and an astronaut in the future, and wants to inspire everyone to reach for the stars!