garimabhatiaGarima Bhatia, an ISEEM graduate research assistant and Ph.D. student, is one of 30 recipients of Zonta International’s Amelia Earhart Fellowship for women pursuing doctoral degrees in aerospace-related sciences or engineering. Under academic advisement from Dr. Bryan Mesmer, Bhatia’s research is centered on representing value models in SysML, a model-based systems engineering language, in order to improve decision-making in system design.

Much of her research takes place in Dr. Mesmer’s ImagEnS lab where she is part of a collaborative research effort—namely, the SPoRT project with NASA and Brazil’s Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica and Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais. Together, the group is developing a small satellite to study ionospheric scintillation, a phenomenon that can negatively impact transmission of communication and navigation signals. Last fall, Bhatia traveled to Brazil to share her modeling expertise, introduce model based systems engineering approaches, and gather additional data for integration into the model. Sometime early next year the satellite will go to Brazil for integration and testing prior to its launch by NASA in 2020. In the meantime, Dr. Mesmer and Bhatia will do some simulations to see how the satellite behaves, check out its systems, and gauge how it responds to signals while in orbit.

Bhatia has dreamed of being part of a NASA mission since reading a biography of Indian-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla as a middle school student. "Aerospace has always been my passion," she says. "Working on this project, especially for an international student, is really exciting."

Bhatia attained her Bachelor of Technology in Aerospace Engineering from Indira Gandhi National Open University in 2014. She earned her Master’s at Iowa State in 2016, and joined UAH later that year to begin her Ph.D. in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Industrial & Systems Engineering.

In addition to her collaborative research, writing, and travel to industry conferences, Bhatia is, of course, immersed in the daunting research involved in her dissertation. She’s looking at the roles of systems engineers in the systems engineering life cycle. “By developing axioms that characterize the role based on project scope and organization size, the systems engineering role may bring more value to an organization and project,” says Bhatia.

Bhatia acknowledges that sometimes the literary reviews and data collection required for such an intense project can become tedious. But, she says, the Amelia Earhart Fellowship “reignited my motivation because it reminds me that I can do it and it is valuable.”