National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Elizabeth Colleen Pickering

Elizabeth Colleen Pickering

Elizabeth Colleen Pickering

Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, Math minor, Biology minor, 2015

NASA Academy Research Project:
Real-time, multi-modality, multiple cognitive state monitoring to improve aviation safety

Principal Investigators:
Dr. Beth Lewandowski, Dr. Tristan Hearn, and Angela Harrivel

Hometown: Richmond, VA


Very few people ever get anywhere by staying in their comfort zone. If you want something, you have to take the initiative to go for it, because in most cases it won’t come to you. Sometimes it is as easy as taking a class outside your major, sometimes it requires moving to a different area or state with where you know no one. But almost all the time it is worth it to take that step in terms of the reward and the experience. I strive not to limit myself by stereotypes of what others think I can/should or should not do and try to be the best I can be at whatever I put my efforts toward. In that respect, it is my goal to be the best student, researcher, engineer, communicator, and person that I can be and hope that in so doing I influence others around me in the best way possible.


I am a rising junior at Virginia Tech and will be returning in the fall after taking a year off to intern at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. As an aerospace engineering major I have taken basic courses such as Statics, Dynamics, and Aircraft Performance and am looking forward to taking some more involved AE classes in the coming semester such as Aero/Hydrodynamics, Astromechanics, Thin-Walled Structures, etc. My internship over the last two semesters has focused on CAD design and preliminary modal and static analysis of a small satellite multiple-deployer, the purpose of which is to accommodate several payloads which are contained and ejected in sequence once the system has reached its destination in space. With regard to NASA Academy, I am very excited to be working on a project that is not strictly engineering based, but will utilize some of my biology and science background, as I am pursuing a minor in Biology and Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering as well. The Biology minor is purely out of my own curiosity but I would like to eventually use that in my career as an engineer someday. The second minor is a unique opportunity at VT that I think is a useful way to tie my science and engineering interests, something I hope to do in future work.


Besides my major and minors, I am a personal trainer at VT and serve on the Health Education and Awareness Team to educate other students about topics ranging from nutrition to contraception to sun protection. I am passionate about helping others reach their health goals and lead healthy, active lifestyles, and sometimes the best way to do this is to raise awareness of issues they might not have even thought about. I know that both of these endeavors have also benefited me by giving me experience working one-on-one with others as well as speaking to large and small groups. I am an avid exerciser myself and really enjoy group fitness classes. I love water-skiing, snow-skiing, and running, and reading, mostly science-fiction, fantasy, and the occasion romance novel. The most surprising thing to others when I first meet people is the fact that I have a motorcycle – a blue Kawasaki Ninja – which I love riding and showing off.


Beyond completing my undergraduate education, I’d like to get a job right out of college and perhaps pursue my master’s degree part-time or through a co-op program. After working at Wallops I have gotten a feel for NASA and have talked to many people about private industry as well, and I think I would take whatever opportunity presented the most interesting work and forward direction. I’ve been exposed to engineering design work and basic analysis, but I know there is much more than that in the field of aerospace engineering. I am looking forward to taking more advanced classes that might help me decide what I most enjoy doing and am best at and will move on from there. Right now it seems as though all roads are open and I am looking forward to spending time with and learning more about NASA.