When Allegra Farrar was admitted to GW four years ago, she originally planned to study in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. During the summer orientation program, however, she discovered that SEAS offers a mechanical engineering degree with an aerospace option—and that changed everything.
“I called my mother and said, ‘I gotta get into the engineering school,’” she recalls. “I called the admissions office and said, ‘Please, I promise to be a student worth investing in if you invest in me and allow me to follow my dreams.’”
GW gave Allegra the chance, and she has made the most of it. “I remember thinking, ‘This is your chance, don’t mess anything up. Make the most of it.’ I’m pretty sure I have,” she pronounces.
By anyone’s account, Allegra has made the most of it. She has sought out opportunities, taken risks, worked diligently, and exceled. Her achievements begin in the classroom, where she has performed exceptionally well, earning the 2020 SEAS Distinguished Scholar Award.
In part because of her academic promise, Allegra was selected as a Clark Engineering Scholar her freshman year. Through the program, she’s benefited from a number of opportunities, including study abroad, research experiences, internships, and learning from mentors and fellow Clark Scholars.
She credits the program with helping her understand how important internships are and with introducing her to other student leaders. “I wanted to be part of a group of peers who want to be leaders in engineering,” Allegra says.
Allegra honed her research and engineering skills in a number of internships and research positions, beginning with summer positions at MIT Lincoln Laboratory after her freshman and sophomore years.
“I really wanted to learn how things orbit,” she says. “They put me on a NASA program to simulate an orbit from Earth to the Psyche Asteroid, and my mentor pushed me to stretch and work through the task, which has been pivotal in me being able to perform research.”
During the summer following her junior year, Allegra worked at an internship with Northrop Grumman, where she conducted telemetry data analysis for the James Webb Space Telescope program. She also did research throughout her junior and senior years in Dr. Taeyoung Lee’s Flight Dynamics and Controls Laboratory, where she worked on integrating proximity sensors into the control system of a drone.
On campus, she has found engineering leadership opportunities as a teaching assistant for Dr. Lee’s orbital mechanics and spacecraft dynamics course, as a volunteer in the SEAS student-run Atoms to Astronauts after-school education program, and as a team leader for the GW chapter of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Design, Fly, Build competition.
In addition to all of this, Allegra also has won a number of awards, most recently the Universities Space Research Association’s Distinguished Scholar Award, and the Walter and Christine Darden Scholar Award.
Looking ahead, Allegra plans to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering at MIT. She hasn’t yet decided whether she wants to stay in academia or move into industry following her PhD, but she is very certain of what she wants to do along the way.
“I know for the next little girl like myself, I want to get involved with or initiate a program to help students develop their goals and dreams. There have been people who have given me such knowledge, encouragement, and opportunities, so I want to do that for someone else.”