Sophia Papp Honored as One of Aviation Week Network’s 20 Twenties class of 2024 Recipients

Aerospace instructional aid honored as future leader in aerospace and aviation industry

With an outstanding academic resume, Aerospace Engineering student Sophia Papp has been recognized as one of four University of Michigan students to be honored with the Aviation Week Network’s 20 Twenties class of 2024 distinction. As her knowledge and research experience continues to grow, she has continued to soar within the Michigan Aerospace Department, and is one of 12 women included in this year’s Aviation Week Network’s 20 Twenties cohort.

Papp is one of 20 students from around the world who were selected for the Aviation Week Network’s 20 Twenties honor. This award recognizes individuals who are on track to be leaders of the aerospace, aviation and defense industries. Nominees are evaluated on their academic performance, civic contributions, personal challenges and the value of their research.

This year, each winner was invited to a luncheon in their honor on March 14, 2024 at The National Press Club in Washington, DC as well as invited to attend Aviation Week Network’s 66th Annual Laureate Awards gala at the National Building Museum. Each student had the opportunity to network with other winners from around the world, all pursuing STEM degrees at the university level.

Sophia Papp was the first to chart a path towards the University of Michigan for her family, opening the door for her siblings. Since she has joined, she has led the way for her younger sister who is in the Ross Business School, a brother entering his freshman year at the College of Engineering in the fall of 2024 and a brother in middle school, “hopefully a future wolverine,” she explained. 

“I have known I wanted to be an aerospace engineer since I was in elementary school. My dad used to take my family to see the Thunderbirds and between my fascination with the incredible aircraft and my natural affinity for STEM, I was sold on designing planes,” commented Papp.   “Another major influence on my interest in aerospace has been the numerous science fiction books I have read growing up, of which Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is my favorite.”

During her time at U-M, Papp has been involved in a variety of different labs, student organizations and student-run teams. She is currently an Aerospace 288/388 instructional aide, participating in an independent study course under Professor George Halow. Through her independent study course, she is writing labs and teaching students to use Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and digital simulation tools in a lab setting. With this role, she helps students learn the tools they need to be successful systems engineers, teaching them to apply the skills they learn in the lab towards their own projects. 

“This [being an instructional aid] includes writing a lab about using Cameo to model requirements and systems, using MATLAB to conduct design experiments and conduct statistical analyses and using Simulink to build a PID controller.”

As an instructional aide for the x88 courses, she has helped lead multiple industry partnerships within the MBSE ecosystem, recently helping with the MathWorks software programming partnership. Papp stated that having a minor in computer science, in addition to using MathWorks tools, has been a motivating factor in pursuing a career in autonomous controls and she’s excited for their continued participation in the courses. She continued on by saying her favorite part of being involved in the x88 course series is getting to interact with students in the lab sections she teaches, and helping them learn about the tools that will guide them through their systems engineering projects.

“I have really enjoyed using these tools in my own educational and professional experiences so I am happy to help students learn these instrumental programs and apply them to their own projects,” stated Papp.

Through her minor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department, Papp is a member of the amateur radio club and currently has a technicians license. “I enjoy learning a new skill and learning how the communication systems in aircraft work,” she commented.

Additionally, she was previously the founder and lead for one of the project teams, the Michigan Aerospace Cybersecurity Team (M-ACT), participating in the x88 course series. While she is not currently a full-time member, she continues to mentor the team on areas such as technical and systems engineering approaches.

Not only is she actively involved in the MBSE and x88 course series, she is also an active member in the Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics (WAA) student organization and former vice president, as well as a member of the Sigma Gamma Tau (SGT) Honors Society. In WAA, she explained how she has enjoyed participating in mentorship events and supporting the incoming generation of future women in aerospace. 

“I have really enjoyed being a part of the tight-knit community and learning from my super talented peers,” commented Papp. “My professors have been very supportive — I like when I have the opportunity to learn from professors outside of the classroom, such as at the SGT hosted Student Professor Dinner.”

Papp plans to spend the summer of 2024 as a Software Engineer at Aurora Flight Sciences before returning to U-M for her one-year Master’s in aerospace autonomous systems and control. “I am excited to continue learning about the technology and operations behind autonomous aircraft in my future roles in industry. I am interested in seeing how the future of autonomous air taxis and other civil aircraft unravels; it is exciting to be a part of developing the future of air transportation,” explained Papp. “I want to contribute to a safe and secure future of air travel that is accessible and enjoyable to all.”

Since its inception in 2013, the 20 Twenties Program has received a total of  635 student nominations from universities worldwide, 180 have been recognized as 20 Twenties winners, and notably, previously seven of those winners have hailed from the University of Michigan. This year, these three Michigan Aerospace students, José Luiz Vargas de Mendonça, Sophia Papp and Maria Reitz, along with Nick Tran from the U-M Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE), joined that esteemed list of U-M winners.

Photo Credit: Chris Zimmer Photography