two women pose next to a Women in Defense banner
Paige Berg, left, and Michaela Hemming, Ph.D. candidates in aerospace systems engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), were recognized as two of the nine nationwide recipients of Women In Defense (WID) scholarships for academic year 2023-2024 at the WID Scholar celebration and workshop held June 13-14, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy Women In Defense

Two engineering students at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), Paige Berg and Michaela Hemming, are among nine nationwide who received scholarships in academic year 2023-2024 from Women In Defense (WID), a National Defense Industrial Association affiliate founded to engage, cultivate and advance women in all aspects of national security.

Berg, Hemming and the seven other honorees were recognized at the WID Scholar celebration and workshop held June 13-14 in Washington, D.C.

Berg said she appreciated the opportunity to interact with her fellow WID Scholars and expects the connections made through WID to have a long-lasting impact on her career.

“Part of the scholarship was networking with leaders in defense, and I was able to grow my community through the networking. In addition, we learned about our strengths and how to use them to our advantage in our careers and further professional development.”

Hemming said she considers the WID award to be one of her great achievements as a graduate student.

“This award means that I will get to extend my fundamental research experiments to a full-scale application that would have a direct and more profound impact on research and development of advanced propulsion systems.”

Berg completed her master’s degree in aerospace systems engineering at UAH before beginning her Ph.D. in the same program. In academic years 2022-2023 and 2023-2024, she received scholarships from the WID Tennessee Valley Chapter.

As a graduate research assistant, Berg has led ground testing for various small-scale solid and liquid propulsion systems at the UAH Propulsion Research Center. Her research focus is characterizing different fuels for solid fuel ramjets by determining regression rates and combustion products.

Dr. Robert A. Frederick Jr., director, UAH Propulsion Research Center, and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UAH, describes Berg’s research and praises her abilities:

“She is now working on a new Department of Defense hypersonics research program that uses solid fuels to feed rotating detonation engines for hypersonic applications. Her unique combination of skills will undoubtedly enable her to become a leader in a defense-related industry. She has already made significant contributions in our DoD-sponsored ramjet fuel and rotating detonation engine programs, and has an excellent aptitude for research, collaboration and leadership.”

Hemming is also a Ph.D. candidate in aerospace systems engineering at UAH, where her adviser is Dr. Gabe Xu in the Plasma and Electrodynamics Research Lab. She is a NASA Space Technology Graduate Opportunities Fellow conducting research on injector performance and recovery of multiphase propellants in a rotating detonation rocket engine.

She is the technical development chair for the national chapter of Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics and serves on the outreach committee for her local Greater Huntsville Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Thomas W. Teasley, ER13 Combustion Development, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, lauds Hemming’s achievements:

“Not only did she meet the moment and break records for NASA, but she also added to the test project by making recommendations for test conditions and post-test observations. Her contributions will benefit NASA and the scientific community for decades to come.”

Since 1988, Women In Defense has awarded more than $1 million to more than 200 recipients pursuing degrees ranging from law to engineering to math to public policy. These awards are based on academic achievement, participation in defense and national security activities, field of study, work experience, statements of interest, recommendations, and financial need.

Women In Defense was incorporated in 1985 to provide women a business environment for professional growth through strategic networking, education and career development. Through its scholarship program, it encourages women to pursue careers supporting U.S. national security with a focus on defense or foreign policy.