Many people dream of being an astronaut and rocketing into outer space, but senior Sidney Boakye just landed an opportunity that launches him closer to that long-standing dream.
Boakye, a mechanical engineering major, is the first George Mason University student to be awarded the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship, a highly selective internship, mentorship, and networking program for students interested in spaceflight.
“I am incredibly honored to be the first Mason student and the first Black male fellow in the Matthew Isakowitz program,” says Boakye. “I have dreamed of becoming a rocket engineer since I was 10.”
Former recipients of the fellowship have hailed from schools across the country such as Columbia University, MIT, Princeton University, Georgia Tech, and more. “The list of former fellows is impressive, and I’m excited to be a part of the 2021 group of fellows,” says Boakye. Once selected, fellows receive a paid summer internship at one of the program’s host companies. They are also paired with a notable commercial space industry leader who provides mentorship.
What drew Boakye to this fellowship was how the program embeds recipients within the commercial space industry by providing mentors, internships, and networking opportunities. “I know I will learn a lot from this experience,” he says. “This is a unique opportunity to learn a lot and apply your knowledge. At the end of the summer, there is also a big networking event where we get to meet other fellows and commercial spaceflight professionals, so I will also get to meet like-minded people."
Boakye has dreamed of being an astronaut since he was 3 years old, and when he came to Mason, he knew he wanted to pursue mechanical engineering. Since freshman year, he has immersed himself in Mason Nation through student organizations and community involvement.
“I am graduating in three years instead of the traditional four years, but it was important for me to plan in time to get involved in clubs,” he says. In addition to being a community assistant for Mason Housing, he has served on five different executive boards across organizations like Mason’s collegiate chapters of the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, and for Engineers for International Development, and SatCom GMU.
As a project lead for SatCom GMU, Boakye channeled his fascination with space into devising and building a CubeSat. “Large satellites have a lot of functions, but CubeSats are much smaller and have more limited capabilities,” says Boakye. “We got to design and build one that actually hitched a ride into space on NASA’s NG014 in October 2020.”
Boakye hopes that through the Matthew Isakowitz fellowship, he can gain more experiences like this, and he urges all students to seek out opportunities on and off the Mason campus. “I hope that I’m not the only Mason student to receive this amazing fellowship, but there are plenty of opportunities like this out there to go for,” he says. “And if you dig a little at Mason, you can find clubs and opportunities that can also give you experience in what you enjoy and expose you to new things.”