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U.Va. Aerospace Engineer Sharlotte Bolyard Is Flying High

May 7, 2004 -- Sharlotte Bolyard is dealing with an embarrassment of academic riches. A fourth-year student of aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia, Bolyard was accepted into doctoral programs at the University of Texas-Austin, the University of California-Berkeley, Brown University, MIT (two programs accepted her — mechanical engineering and aeronautics and astronautics), and Cal Tech.

They all offered her fellowships, but she doesn’t need them, and they weren’t a factor in her decision.

She chose to go with aeronautics at Cal Tech, the alma mater of her U.Va. faculty adviseor Ioannis Chasiotis, because of the theoretical bent of its program, although the scenic beauty of Pasadena, Calif., didn’t hurt.

To cover her graduate school expenses, she will draw on not one but two prestigious national fellowships — one from the Department of Defense and one from the National Science Foundation. The DOD Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship provides three years of full tuition plus an annual stipend starting at $27,500, and the NSF grant pays $11,000 a year toward tuition plus a $30,000 annual stipend.

The good news is that she can defer the NSF fellowship for two years and start with the DOD fellowship. The bad news is that the two fellowships can’t overlap at all, so after taking two years of the DOD fellowship, she’ll have to give up the third year of eligibility to tap the NSF fellowship for the following three years. She expects to complete her Ph.D. in five years.

And what kind of career does she have in mind?

“I think I want to be a professor,” Bolyard said. “The professors I’ve met here have been wonderful, selfless people who have given up great careers where they could make a lot more money with a lot more prestige so they could teach and do research. They can do whatever they want, assuming there’s money.”

And in the crucial area of finding money for research, Bolyard already displays a prodigious talent. As a second-year student, she won a scholarship from the Society of Women Engineers. As a third-year student, she won support from the Virginia Space Grant Consortium to investigate hypersonic aero-thermo dynamics, a project for which she received funding again this year. As a fourth-year student, she won a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award to fund her study of fatigue characteristics of MEMs, micro-electro-mechanical systems. And in each of the past three years, she won a scholarship from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Lest all work and no play make Sharlotte a dull girl, she spends some of her rare spare time on music. She plays piano and sings, leading the alto section for Jubilate, a choir sponsored by the University Baptist Church in Charlottesville.

Cheerful and unassuming, Bolyard is an Air Force brat who was born in Albuquerque, N.M.; lived in the Panama Canal Zone; and graduated from high school in Clifton, Va. Her father is a retired lieutenant colonel, who holds a master’s degree in business administration. Her mother is a Korean native who is earning an associate’s degree in accounting while working full time as an account manager for Hecht’s in Northern Virginia.

“I come from hardworking people,” Bolyard said. “My parents instilled in me a wonderful work ethic. I work long and hard, and I always do the extra 2 percent. I want to learn as much as possible, and if I have to do more work, then I’m willing. I’m glad to have the chance to learn something that can make me a better person.”

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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