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Soon-to-be Capitol Alumna, a Star in the Making

With a wisdom beyond her years, Sophia LoSchiavo, a graduating astronautical engineering major and 2018 Gudelsky Scholar, is all that Capitol seeks to help cultivate in its students: intelligent, thoughtful, confident, and ready to make a difference in the world. Sophia came to Capitol as a transfer student, subsequently being accepted to the prestigious National Security Scholarship Program (NSSP), and has since made a huge impact on the Capitol community.

Sophia LoSchiavo 2018 Gudelsky Award

Through her work as part of a group that won a climate change competition, her work as a balloon payload intern or in Capitol’s library, and her significant contributions to several AE projects, Sophia jumped into campus life with both feet during her time at the university. Her most recent project saw her as a co-team lead on successful science payload Project Aether, which launched out of Andøya, Norway earlier this year.

In Sophia’s own words, reaching for one’s dreams is not rocket science. It simply takes determination, resilience, and a supportive network of family, friends, and mentors. We were lucky enough to snag some of Sophia’s time just before her graduation this May 4th:

Q: Why is it important to get more students, specifically females, interested in STEM education? How can we do this – make STEM more interesting and less intimidating to women?

SL: Access to STEM is easier now, but we still need people. We cannot rely solely on technology; we need people to run the technology. It’s important to remember that people inspire, not components or technology.

In response to the less intimidating question, STEM is what you make of it. I grew up with three brothers, so I was always in karate and wrestling – things that society tends to place stereotypes around for boys. Because of this, from an early age, no one could tell me I couldn’t do something that someone else could do. I was already accustomed to being in a male-dominated environment, and that instilled determination in me.

Students should not be afraid to ask for help. My professors and mentors have always been helpful – from listening to me when I’m having a rough week to working with me through assignments.

Q: Many people once had childhood dreams of pursuing a specific profession – doctor and lawyer are two cliché examples that come to mind. Did you have a specific career dream when you were a child?

SL: Believe it or not, the very first thing I wanted to be is a ballerina, which is funny because I cannot dance. Next, I became interested in aviation, and later in elementary school, I dreamed of becoming a pilot. After that, forensics. Then I considered the Naval Academy. Math was always a common element. Hey, even ballerinas use physics!

About five years ago, I was online and came across a photo of what I considered a ‘dream house.’ I asked my mom how could I buy such a nice house, and she said flatly, “become an engineer.” Now five years later, I actually am an engineer. It’s interesting how that worked out.

Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing astronautical engineering?

SL: You can’t be afraid to walk through the door. Even if you are afraid, you just have to walk through it. When I feel intimidated, I want to prove it to myself that I can overcome. Sometimes you have to create your own door. Astronautical engineering has been very helpful with this – fostering the drive to create doors and make things happen.

Q: You currently serve as an assistant to the director of the library. This makes me curious. What books are on your favorite list right now and why?

SL: Well, textbooks are my focus right now, so I haven’t had as much time for leisure reading.

I do have a story about my first all-nighter, which was in middle school. Whenever my oldest brother gave me a gift, it was a bookstore gift card. This instilled a love for reading in me. Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler was my first all-nighter, an 800-page mystery-romance, and one of my longtime favorites.

I plan to read The Selection series soon, which Capitol has in its collection. I identify with the main character who discovers gradually how tough she is. She doesn’t realize it at first, but it becomes clearer to her as the story progresses.

Q: Sometimes we forget that high achievers have made mistakes and overcome challenges on their journey to becoming all that they were meant to be. What piece of advice would you give your peers for being resilient?

SL: When you’re going through something tough, people can give you advice such as “it’s going to be okay” or “you will get through it,” and they mean it. However, unless you believe it in that moment, it will not stick. To be resilient, you really need strength from within. You need to foster your own fortitude. For me, it has been through a lot of trial and error at times. I have gotten to where I am by understanding that it’s okay to ask for help and lean on somebody’s shoulder sometimes. Most people are naturally resilient. We just have to learn to tap into it.

Q: What are your plans for after you graduate in May 2019?

Sophia LoSchiavo Fusion Lab

SL: I recently accepted a job offer with General Dynamics, where I have interned for what will be a year in May. I left my interview more excited than I went in, which is uncommon, isn’t it? I love my team, and I will be working with pretty much the same team when I join as a full-time employee. There is so much for me to learn.

Personally, I love being outdoors, and during college, you’re inside a lot. I am excited about hiking more. I will also read more for leisure. I plan to enjoy the things I put on hold in the years I have been both preparing for and completing my college degree – since sixth grade, actually. College is stressful, and I tend to put all of myself into whatever I am doing. Now, everything I have been striving for is coming together. It’s actually here, and it’s a wonderful feeling.