By Zoe Elledge
Rising stars Rikhi (Rukmini) Roy and Oscar Klempay accepted into prestigious program
Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering graduate student Rikhi Roy and alumnus Oscar Klempay have been selected for this year’s Aviation Week Network’s 20 Twenties program. The prestigious honor is awarded to top young students and graduates in the field of aerospace and defense engineering. The program, according to the network, brings together students, technology hiring managers, and faculty worldwide to recognize what’s needed for business and academic growth and success.
Aviation Week Network selects from students around the world, who are nominated by their universities, to join the annual program. Winners are chosen based on their research and educational contributions to their communities, academic performance, and aerospace-related career aspirations.
Roy and Klempay will be honored at an October event in Virginia with their fellow recipients. The goal of the program, according to the organizer, is to allow award winners to build a network of technical experts who have built the aerospace industry, while introducing them to hiring managers looking for the next generation of aerospace talent.
AE ’20; AE ‘21
While completing his master’s degree in aerospace engineering, Klempay worked at Georgia Tech Research Institute with the Air National Guard Program Office (ANGPO). The lab plans and analyzes flight tests on military aircraft such as the C-130, F-16, and A-10. Klempay helped plan flight tests and analyzed results using Python coding to identify the best test points based on performance statistics and test requirements.
Outside the lab, Klempay participated in Air Force ROTC, which provided him with many opportunities, including a summer study abroad in Latvia and Lithuania and group Air Force Field Training. As part of the Yellow Jacket Flying Club, Klempay earned his pilot’s license and grew his interest in the technical and practical aspects of aerospace while surrounded by a community of like-minded students.
“One of my favorite things about aerospace at Tech is the pilot community,” said Klempay. “In the flying club, everyone is constantly pushing each other to get better. When we debrief after a flight, we go into it with the mindset of becoming safer, better pilots.”
Klempay identified Associate Professors Joseph Saleh and Brian German as two mentors who were instrumental in shaping his academic experience at Tech.
“They know how to take any topic and turn it into the most interesting thing in the world,” said Klempay. “I think that everyone should take their classes.”
Klempay credits his family and close friends in aerospace engineering with his success at Tech and acceptance into the 20 Twenties program, and he believes that the program will help him as his career plan continues to unfold.
For the next step of his career, Klempay is on track to start his 55-week Air Force pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base later this month and will train in the T-6 Texan and T-38 Talon aircrafts. After pilot training, he aspires to go to test pilot school and potentially apply to be an astronaut for NASA or work at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
“In college, it can be easy to lose sight of yourend goal and get caught up in the stressful moments,” said Klempay. "Now that I’m stationed at Sheppard waiting for my training to start, I can look up in the sky every day to see the planes and aerospace engineering I studied at Georgia Tech in action. I can hardly believe that’s where I’ll be in a few short months.”
AE ’20; AE ‘22
Roy is an aerospace engineering master’s student sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration who works in the Aerospace Systems Design Lab. Currently, the lab is working on a project to use data analytics and machine learning methods to study aircraft braking on contaminated runways, an important safety issue.
Away from her research, Roy is passionate about advocating for the success and well-being of international students and underrepresented minorities studying aerospace. With help from the School of Aerospace Engineering Student Advisory Council and the school’s department chairs, Roy has hosted an international student speaker series and founded Singapore’s first Women Leaders in Aerospace conference. The latter was inspired by her participation on the organizing committee for the Women’s Leadership Conference at Georgia Tech and her status as the only Singaporean recipient of the Brooke Owens Fellowship, two experiences that encouraged her to provide resources for students in her home country.
“I share well-being and mindset resources on my social media platforms to help de-mystify the process of applying to aerospace engineering programs and succeeding in those fields, especially for international and underrepresented minority students,” said Roy. “While this journey has not been easy, prioritizing my mental health has helped me find the energy and courage to receive awards like Aviation Week’s 20 Twenties.”
Roy’s favorite aspect of aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech is the people – from the student organization members who continually work to improve the student experience and make their voices heard to her mentors in the Aerospace Systems Design Lab.
“The structure, organization, commitment to teaching, and open lines of communication that I’ve found in my graduate research feel unparalleled,” said Roy. “I’ve felt incredibly valued as a student researcher and am fortunate to have a group of gender-minorities in aerospace to lean on.”
After graduation, Roy plans to work on systems safety in the electrical vertical take-off and landing industry. Additionally, her plans for advocacy won’t end after leaving Georgia Tech. She aims to collaborate with women leaders in aerospace and astronauts for an Instagram Lives series called “Wellness for Leadership in STEM,” build a non-profit for international aerospace students, and continue her advocacy and outreach through the organization Women of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
“To me, winning Aviation Week Network’s 20 Twenties allows me to become an example for international aerospace students — to become a representation of something that I had wish I had seen during my undergraduate years,” said Roy. “To anyone reading this, I hope you come to see that your well-being and mental health are your greatest assets!”