Kennesaw State undergraduate student pursues Ph.D. following internship with NASA

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 19, 2021

Ryan Foster
Ryan Foster

Kennesaw State University student Ryan Foster has long been fascinated with airplanes and rockets.

His passion for aerospace engineering is what guided him to an internship at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) last fall, and is ultimately what led this undergraduate student to being accepted into a highly competitive Ph.D. program. However, his recent successes are just the latest in a long list of academic achievements at Kennesaw State.

A standout in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, Foster is graduating this month with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in aerospace engineering. Throughout college, he served as a teaching assistant for an aerodynamics course, conducted undergraduate research that he presented at three academic conferences and completed two internships, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. He also was selected as the “Academic Student of the Year” by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and is a Zell Miller and Lockheed Martin scholarship recipient.

“I’m so lucky to have built such a strong foundation during my time at KSU,” said Foster, who was drawn to Kennesaw State’s engineering school because of its reputation as a hands-on program where students gain practical, real-world experience. “I can’t wait to use the skills I’ve learned in my future endeavors, both academic and professional.”

Foster’s internship as a nuclear propulsion intern at NASA, where he worked remotely on a project dealing with computational mechanics and reactor cores for nuclear thermal engines, further solidified his passion for engineering and rockets.

“During the internship was the first time that I got experience in a real-world aerospace application, and I realized that it was something I loved when I was able to talk and collaborate with people at NASA who all had that same level of excitement for engineering, space exploration and pushing the envelope on technology,” Foster said. “I realized that I had found people who liked the stuff I liked and were passionate about the same things that I’m passionate about.”

Foster has also held an internship as a mechanical design intern with Leppard Johnson and Associates, where he designed commercial HVAC systems for hotels, restaurants and apartment buildings. The experience, Foster said, also invoked his love of engineering because he was able to find his passion for technical work while applying his knowledge to real-world situations.

Now, Foster will head to the University of Michigan, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. His long-term goal is to pursue research work in the aerospace sector.

“Ryan has demonstrated his excellence in engineering by securing good grades and performing well above expectation in all his classes,” said Adeel Khalid, professor of systems engineering and coordinator for KSU’s aerospace engineering minor. “Given his impressive academic record, strong work ethic and zeal, I am confident that he will be an asset to any organization he joins.”

– Josh Milton

Photos by Jason Getz

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit