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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

“I was surprised there is such a strong alumni network. There are so many instances where alumni are continuing to collaborate, support incoming students, and join Rutgers celebrations.” Sarah Terracina 

Aerospace engineering major Sarah Terracina is passionate about space and has complemented her classroom experiences and developed her knowledge of extreme environment engineering with summer internships at Northrop Grumman and Boeing. After graduating, she will travel to Peru and Sicily, where she will connect with her Italian and Peruvian heritage before beginning work as a spacecraft electronics integration and test engineer at Draper Laboratory.   

Young college student stands with one hand on her hip posing in front of a lunar rover. She is wearing jeans, a light blue blouse unbuttoned over a white shirt. She has long dark hair.

Why Rutgers? 

I was drawn to Rutgers for the sense of community and acceptance, especially in the School of Engineering. The diversity in cultures, range of professional opportunities, and supportive atmosphere made Rutgers stand out among other schools.  

What drew you to aerospace engineering? 

As a child I loved astronomy and wanted to work in science for space exploration, but then I found out how long and competitive PhD programs in astrophysics were. I wanted to work hands-on, collaboratively, and as soon as possible in ‘the room where it happens’ – spacecraft high bays and mission control centers. Aerospace engineers are who work there, so I chose that as my major and kept astrophysics as my minor. 

Do you have a favorite professor? 

Professor Haym Benaroya, who is a supportive advisor for the Space Technology Association at Rutgers (STAR) that I’ve been involved in since my freshman year. He also taught Spacecraft Mission Design in a way that synthesized knowledge across different engineering disciplines.  

Have you been involved in any special projects? 

In my freshman year, I began working in Assistant Professor Laurent Burlion’s Nonlinear Control Systems Laboratory with the STAR CubeSAT of Rutgers team to build Rutgers’ first cube satellite, or CubeSat. I learned foundational skills in systems engineering and testbench development as a payload engineer. As CubeSat Program Manager, I’ve been challenged to harmonize the strengths of each team member as we fulfill our mission’s needs. 

What about extracurriculars? 

I was outreach lead in STAR and am now its president. I focus on equipping my peers with supplies and professional skills to collaborate with faculty and industry mentors. This has led to our dedicated laboratory space – the Rutgers Satellite Laboratory – a  satellite integration facility that complies with industry best practices.  

I have also been involved with – and held leadership roles in – the Rutgers Society of Hispanic Engineers as well as the Rutgers Catholic Students Association (CSA). 

What would you tell future students? 

The smartest person in the room is the one who doesn’t give up. 

What three words best describe your SoE experience? 

Fast-paced. Teamwork. Trail-blazing.