Career Liftoff – University of Missouri College of Engineering


MAE student Mark Magnante at Arches National Park in Utah.

Mark Magnante’s internship at Northrop Grumman in Ogden, Utah is helping him learn the role of a test engineer.

“For my internship, I am creating flight test plan contingencies for the flight testing of next generation rockets,” Magnante said. “I am gaining insights into methods and procedures to prevent slippage in schedules in terms of meeting goals and other key dates for major projects.”

Magnante, a student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) from Newbury Park, California, stated classwork at Mizzou Engineering is assisting with this internship.

“I have to understand every system of this rocket to effectively make contingencies, so we don’t leave any potential risks without a plan for mitigation,” Magnante said. “The coursework gave me a better understanding of certain components used for the flight tests.”

Taking Flight at Mizzou

Magnante credits the Mizzou Space Program (MSP) in helping him land his internship with Northrop Grumman. Magnante is the Propulsion Lead for the group’s rocketry projects.

“Being a member has exposed me to topics and opportunities that are not available inside the classroom,” Magnante said. “Gaining hands-on experience working on and designing rockets and space balloons, continuing the development of solid rocket motors for competition projects, and handling composite materials are just a few of the many opportunities I have taken advantage of by being a member of MSP that I couldn’t do outside this organization.”

MSP is open to all Mizzou students and participates to impact space exploration. The organization attends STEM conferences to develop students’ professional networks and conducts its own research and propulsion development. MSP members also compete in competitions like the Spaceport America Cup and the University Student Rocketry Competition.

Olivia Vitale, another MAE student from St. Peters, Missouri and outreach coordinator for MSP, agrees gaining hands-on experience as a student is very beneficial.

“I’m a rising junior, and I haven’t entered my higher-level aerospace classes yet. However, MSP has allowed me to jumpstart my learning and experience with rocketry,” Vitale said, “Just being in the lab is such a cool experience. Everyone is working on a different project with some people doing homework, and it really feels like a community.”

Developing Personal Identity

Olivia Vitale with her rocket

MAE student Olivia Vitale with her rocket created in the Mizzou Space Program.

Community is the theme of Vitale’s volunteer work this summer. Her planned internship was canceled due to COVID-19. However, she found an opportunity with a Columbia-based organization that is helping her grow personally and professionally.

“I am volunteering with AAAAchange, specifically in their Virtual Shelter program, where we provide in-person assistance to the local homeless community,” Vitale said. “Our main goal is to give our clients the assistance to get them back on their feet. That assistance includes daily check-ins, apply for permanent housing and assist in job searches, among other support.”

Although this is not a typical engineering internship or experience, Vitale believes her work is important to her career.

“No matter where I end up, I’ll have the greater good in mind, whether it’s green energy or innovative affordable housing or cleaner fuel. This experience is reinforcing my belief in working toward the good of the many and not my own personal gain.”



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