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NASA has selected mechanical engineering student Nancy Zheng ‘23 to be part of a distinguished fellowship program. The 2024-2025 NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium Masters Fellowship Program will support Zheng’s research project with a $10,000 stipend. 

“It is an honor to be one of the several students to receive this prestigious fellowship,” Zheng says. “It was also an amazing experience to propose a research idea and compete with other Florida proposers for this award.”

During the duration of her fellowship, Zheng will be working to increase reusability of hypersonic vehicles by adapting volumetric 3D printing to print with ceramic resin, which can be applied to thermal protection systems to prevent ablation on the wing’s leading edge.

“I hope to challenge myself in managing the project from start to finish and accomplish my objective,” Zheng says. “That includes modifying the design of a volumetric 3D printer to adapt to printing with ceramic resin, thermal simulation, material testing of prototype properties after furnace treatment, and following up with thermal testing to identify effective cooling of material and prototype design.”

Zheng is no stranger to NASA, having worked with them for two different apprenticeships during the spring and fall of 2022. She also is a member of the Composite Materials and Structures Laboratory led by Professor Jihua Gou, who encouraged her pursuit of the fellowship.

Zheng first began her UCF journey in 2019. After finishing her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, she decided to pursue her master’s degree in the field, citing her excellent undergraduate education as her reason for returning to UCF to focus on the mechanical systems track. 

“I have set two career paths to take after finishing my master’s degree,” Zheng says. “The first one is to go into the industry and work in testing systems and ultimately work toward becoming a research and development engineer. The other direction is to pursue a Ph.D. and then enter the industry. The fellowship provides an opportunity to work as a researcher with relation to the research and development of thermal protection systems and applications to space.”