Two juniors named Brooke Owens Fellows

Recipients will both be hosted at SpaceX

Claire Buffington ’21 and Shannon Cassady ’21 have been selected for the 2020 class of Brooke Owens Fellows. 

Buffington and Cassady join a class of 40 students chosen from 566 applicants across the U.S., U.K., and Canada. The fellowship provides “executive mentorship” from senior leaders in the aerospace community and a paid internship, according to the Brooke Owens website. Buffington and Cassidy will both intern at SpaceX. 

The program was developed in honor of the legacy of space policy expert Dawn Brooke Owens “to serve both as an inspiration and as a career boost to capable young women and other gender minorities who, like Brooke, aspire to explore our sky and stars, to shake up the aerospace industry, and to help their fellow people here on planet Earth.”

Claire Buffington: awaiting the first woman on the moon 

Buffington is pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering and is the vice president and recovery lead of MIT Rocket Team. In an email to The Tech, she called joining Rocket Team “the best decision I have made at MIT,” as she was able to discover “a passion for rockets,” learn “practical engineering skills,” and “pass these skills on to other aspiring aerospace engineers.”

Buffington previously interned at Millennium Space Systems, where she worked on a “satellite power model and analyzed battery data,” and as a Systems Engineering Intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, according to the Brooke Owens website. 

She wrote that her experience at NASA was “wonderful” as she was surrounded by fellow space-obsessives and was able to see the Mars 2020 spacecraft. 

Buffington wrote that she is looking forward to interning at SpaceX, where she will work on parachutes “that will bring astronauts safely home from space.” She is also “beyond excited to watch tests and launches of vehicles” that she will work on.

Buffington is also the treasurer of MIT Women in Aerospace Engineering. 

“It is an exciting time for space exploration,” Buffington concluded. “I cannot wait to see the first woman land on the Moon!” 

Shannon Cassady: returning to SpaceX 

Cassady is pursuing a double major in aerospace engineering and physics. Cassady wrote in an email to The Tech that double majoring has provided her “perspective on the sliding spectrum between science and how it's applied in engineering.” Like Buffington, she is a member of MIT Rocket Team, where she serves as simulations lead. 

Cassady previously interned at Raytheon, where she worked on radar system testing and integration; at Robodub, an autonomous drone startup; and at SpaceX on the Development Test team. For her fellowship, she will return to the Development Test team. Cassady wrote that she is excited to learn more and “hopefully see a few more launches, too.”

In addition to serving on the executive board of MIT’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics chapter, Cassady is also a member of MIT’s chapter of the Sigma Kappa sorority.

Wenbo Wu contributed reporting.