Mission to Aerospace

By Francisco Alberdi

Mission to Aerospace

By Francisco Alberdi
Danielle Coogan interned with both NASA and Boeing during her undergraduate career at the College of Engineering.

From student team leader for NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition to president of the University of Miami’s section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Danielle Coogan seems to have been involved in just about everything in the College of Engineering. 

A graduating senior who will earn her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in mathematics, Coogan is not one to shy away from challenges. 

“What motivates me is that I really like a challenge. It requires a lot of effort, but I find that when you work hard, and you get results, it’s really rewarding,” she explained. 

Coogan’s readiness to overcome a challenge was made clear early on when she began her undergraduate research during her first semester in college. 

“I remember that I was at Spark Night with SWE,” she recounted. “I was a freshman who only had two weeks of college under my belt and a professor I sat next to said, ‘If you are interested, I am looking for an undergraduate to help me with my research.’ I took the position as an undergraduate research assistant in the Simulation and Optimization Research Laboratory in the Department of Industrial Engineering. Since then, I have transitioned to the Advanced Nano Systems Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to learn about mechanical engineering.” 

During the summer of 2016, Coogan headed to Huntsville, Ala., for an internship at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center – the U.S. government’s civilian rocketry and spacecraft propulsion research center. There, she worked with physicists who needed her as a mechanical engineer to create CAD drawings of key components of a plasma discharge system, as well as to support the design and fabrication of those mechanical systems. 

The following summer, Coogan interned at the Boeing Company in Ridley Park, Penn., as a Boeing Defense, Space and Security Platform Structures Design Engineer Intern. She was responsible for maintaining and modifying structural systems and their components by integrating the design changes and requirements into the structure’s design. 

“The ability to intern at both NASA and Boeing were very rewarding and motivating. These internships have given me an understanding of what an engineering career in the aerospace industry entails,” she explained. “I’ve also learned how important it is to develop a network to be able to explore these different opportunities.” 

As a leader on campus, Coogan serves as president of SWE, representing the section’s 208 members at all events, including conferences, meetings, and professional and social affairs.

“I joined SWE my freshman year, and it has been an incredible four years,” Coogan said. “I was originally an undecided engineering major, but I chose to major in mechanical engineering thanks to a SWE event I attended my freshman year.” 

Coogan also led the College of Engineering’s return to NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition after a two-year absence. The team consisted of students studying everything from mechanical engineering to physics to music, making the project a cross-disciplinary effort. 

“Aside from the technical and practical skills learned from projects such as these, project management was a huge part of the process of designing the mining robot,” Coogan said. 

“I plan to continue pursuing my interest in mechanical systems and controls with aerospace applications, and will be starting a MSME [Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering] in Fall 2018 with the goal of eventually working in the aerospace industry.” 

As she edges closer to a degree in engineering, Coogan is focused on life after graduation and credits the College of Engineering for getting her ready. 

“Being part of the College of Engineering has prepared me for my future. I’ve grown as a person and a professional in a network that not only wants me to succeed but has also given me the tools to do so.”