Ever since she was a little girl, aerospace engineering senior Elida Sorto-Ramos has been fascinated with space.
“I just remember looking at the moon and thinking, ‘I can’t believe people have been up there. That’s so awesome,” she said.
This fall, Sorto-Ramos will dive deeper into her childhood obsession; she is headed to Stanford University to pursue her master’s degree in aerospace engineering on a full-ride fellowship.
Originally from New York, Sorto-Ramos initially enrolled at Stony Brook University. Her family moved to Texas after her first semester, so she followed.
“I found UTA as a close location to where I moved to and they had an engineering program,” Sorto-Ramos explained. “At the time, I [thought I] was interested in civil engineering, but I actually was not really interested in that. I wanted to pursue aerospace.”
Once enrolled at UTA, Sorto-Ramos wanted to “enhance [her] experience here.” She said applied to the Honors College because she “didn’t want to just take classes.” Sorto-Ramos was also especially interested in research.
“I knew I wanted to do research,” she explained. “But I did not know how to get started.”
Sorto-Ramos believed the Honors College would help her connect with faculty so she could “get [herself] into the field.” She had hopes of attending graduate school but, as a first-generation college student, was unsure of how to get there.
Fortunately, Sorto-Ramos learned about the McNair Scholars Program and decided to apply.
“McNair was pretty awesome because they gave me a lot of resources for grad school,” Sorto-Ramos stated. “It really helped me because I really had no idea of the process.”
For her, the most beneficial aspect of the McNair program was the opportunity to engage in research during the summer.
“You get to experience what graduate school is like,” she shared. “You come to campus every day and you work on your research…it’s good to know before you get there if that’s what you want to do.”
Her research involved shear and pressure sensors for prosthetics, which she completed with Dr. Haiying Huang, Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
“It was a really good learning experience on how to conduct experiments and formulate a thesis and present your research,” Sorto-Ramos said.
She even had the opportunity to attend two conferences of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), one in Orlando and the other in San Diego.
“It was awesome getting to see all the different research projects that are going on right now…and learning how research is done in industry,” Sorto-Ramos remarked.
Looking back on her undergraduate career, Sorto-Ramos feels that the Honors College helped to prepare her for graduate school.
“I definitely think it gave me an edge up on my applications and just, overall, becoming the researcher I am today.”
Sorto-Ramos is grateful for the Honors contracts she completed because they exposed her to a wide variety of research topics. She was able to explore her interests through her Honors coursework.
“Now I am interested in everything,” she said with a smile.
Sorto-Ramos especially values the people she met during her time in Honors. She found a community where she could get to know “like-minded individuals.”
“The Honors College really provided a support system getting through,” she shared. “The CAB (Carolyn A. Barros Reading Room) was always a safe place to come to study and it was just like a homey feel, and that’s what I really appreciated about being here.”
When asked about her future goals, Sorto-Ramos replied confidently, “I have big goals.”
And she is not kidding.
After completing her master’s degree, Sorto-Ramos plans to enroll in the doctoral program in aerospace engineering at Stanford. Once she finishes graduate school, she hopes to apply to become an astronaut. Later on, she wants to become a professor so that she can continue in research and “expand the broader impact and knowledge for aerospace.”
Sorto-Ramos looks forward to teaching in the future so she can “give back to the younger generation.”
“I was really inspired by professors here, so I think that would benefit a lot of people, not just me,” she said.