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Jonathan Gitzendanner developed his passion for aviation at an early age. In second grade, his Cub Scout pack had the chance to sleep aboard the USS Yorktown, a naval aircraft carrier in South Carolina. Just two years later, he discovered the field of aerospace engineering – a field he’s about to start a career in.

Gitzendanner is one of the 9,000 students graduating from the University of Central Florida this spring. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and is also a Burnett Honors Scholar. He’s worked in the Computational Biomechanics Lab, completed projects with the student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers and was selected for a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship by the College of Undergraduate Studies.

His interest in space led him to UCF, which has helped him gain access to the industry.

“I chose UCF because of the industry connections our university has,” Gitzendanner says. “Our proximity to the space coast has allowed me to meet incredible people in the space industry, and our partners at Embraer made it possible to go to Brazil to study manufacturing.”

The Knight says his study abroad trip to Brazil is one of his favorite memories of UCF. The program, offered through the College of Engineering and Computer Science, takes students to Sao Paulo during Spring Break to tour aerospace manufacturing facilities and to meet with professionals in industry and academia.

“Traveling to Sao Paulo was a formative experience during my degree,” Gitzendanner says. “Having the ability to tour manufacturing facilities in Florida and in Sao Jose dos Campos helped me understand how the designs I want to create are realized in metal.”

After commencement, Gitzendanner will head to Virginia to work for the Office of Navy Research and then plans to pursue a doctoral degree. He attributes his success to his courage to ask questions something he encourages current UCF engineering students to do.

“Even in today’s world, never be afraid to ask,” Gitzendanner says. “We often hear the advice from much older mentors that ‘if you want something, just ask.’ However, I’ve been fortunate to receive a summer internship and two graduate school offers simply by doing just that.”