Samhitha Varsha is one of two recipients of the Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) Women in Aviation Scholarship fund, in partnership with Cranfield University. Here, Samhitha, who is studying for an MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design, shares what led her to Cranfield, what winning the scholarship means to her, and her aspirations for the future.
What sparked your interest in the aerospace/aviation industry?
My fascination with the aviation industry was sparked by the mesmerising sight of aeroplanes soaring high in the sky. Whenever I saw an aircraft fly in the sky the only question that would pop up in my mind was, “How can a man-made machine fly so high in the sky just like a bird?” Residing close to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (an Indian-state owned aerospace and defence company) and the Aeronautical Development Establishment (India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation) in India and watching the aeroplanes fly every day increased my curiosity towards the subject. This interest drove me to choose it as my profession and pursue my B.E. in Aeronautical Engineering at MVJ College of Engineering, which is regarded as one of the best colleges in Karnataka.
Can you tell us a little bit about your life before coming to Cranfield?
I am an Indian citizen, raised in Bengaluru, India. Following the completion of my bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, I worked as a graduate trainee at the Aeronautical Development Establishment guided by scientists for six months, contributing to the flight mechanics and control systems team. This experience provided valuable insights into flight controls and hands-on experience with flight testing. Subsequently, I transitioned to the role of Mechanical Systems Design and Analysis Engineer at Boeing, where I dedicated a year and a half to verification and validation activities for the 777x. This opportunity allowed me to work alongside a diverse and seasoned team of professionals in the aerospace industry, enriching my professional exposure.
Why did you choose Cranfield?
In the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023, Cranfield University is ranked in the global top 30 for Engineering – Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing. I felt that to pursue my higher education at such an esteemed organisation would be an achievement. The Aerospace Vehicle Design MSc has been tailored in a unique way making it as one of a kind in the world. During the course, we are trained to apply the knowledge we gain through lectures and apply them to real time problems from the aerospace industry, thereby bridging the gap between theory learning and practical experience.
What does winning the NAC Women in Aviation scholarship mean to you?
Receiving this scholarship is not just a financial aid; it is a recognition of my dedication and passion for aviation. It motivates me to continue working hard and striving for excellence in my studies and future endeavours. I would like to thank the whole team behind the NAC scholarship for choosing me and believing in the potential of women in aviation. It also validates the contribution of women in the field of aerospace.
What advice would you offer future scholarship applicants?
Dream big! Never question your potential, you are capable of doing anything in the world, the first step is to set your mind towards it. Believe in yourself and honestly put down your struggles and achievements. Elaborate on the motivation behind choosing aviation or aerospace, and express how individuals aspire to make contributions to the field in the future.
How are you finding the MSc course? What are the highlights?
The Aerospace Vehicle Design MSc has been well designed with a combination of practical and theoretical sessions. The lectures are delivered with a blend of experimental knowledge and theoretical concepts by professors. The major highlight is the opportunity to work on real-time industry projects where we can apply the knowledge from taught lectures and closely understand how things work in the industry.
What career path do you hope to pursue after graduating?
After graduating, I would like to apply the knowledge and skills gained during the course in the aerospace sector and be a part of the growth of the Indian aerospace hub. In a few years from now I would like to set up an aerospace company that focuses on creating an affordable and sustainable aviation eco-system.
What would you say to other women interested in getting into your industry?
I would reiterate my words, “Dream Big!”. There shall be no constraints, not even gender. Cultivate your passion for aerospace and let it drive your journey. Your enthusiasm will fuel your determination to overcome challenges. Stay curious and commit to continuous learning as the aerospace industry is dynamic. Trust and believe in yourself. Never fear and grow through the challenges coming in the way. Women should mentor each other and uplift to contribute together to the development of the aerospace industry.
What are your thoughts about the future of the aviation industry?
The future of the aviation industry is shaped by a focus on sustainability, advanced technologies, and digital transformation. Trends include the exploration of urban air mobility, advancements in global connectivity, and potential shifts in travel patterns influenced by factors like the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaboration and partnerships remain crucial for addressing challenges and fostering innovation within the industry. The industry’s evolution is dynamic, with ongoing developments in technology and a growing emphasis on environmental responsibility.
Is there anything else we should know about you?
I have participated in events related to carnatic singing and dancing. I enjoy travelling and learning about the local culture of the people at that place. I have always been known for my observation skills and curiosity towards learning new things in life. I would like to set up an open platform for women in aviation in the future. This platform or organisation will focus on mentoring and uplifting women in the aerospace industry and for women aspiring to enter the aerospace industry.