As students at West Virginia University, their names were synonymous with academic achievement and student engagement. But for mechanical and aerospace engineering alumni Melissa Morris, Kerri Phillips, Corey Snyder, Rob Murphy, Tony Palmer, Andrew Harner, Allison Willingham and Emily Calandrelli one thing is certain: they all credit the education they received at WVU for helping them to ensure their future success.


Melissa Morris, BSME ‘06, MSME ‘08, Ph.D.ME ‘11, Certificate in University Teaching ‘11
Morris can best be described as one of those students who got the most out of her educational opportunities at WVU. She was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers; and Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honorary. She was captain of the 2006 Mini Baja Team and did two internships as an undergraduate at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown. While working toward her master’s degree, Morris worked full-time for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. She served as the undergraduate and outreach advisor and as the assistant director for the Center of Building Energy Efficiency, where she served as the academic advisor for all sophomores in the Department. Those experiences helped her discover her love for teaching and working with students, which led her to pursue her doctorate with a goal toward becoming a professor.

Upon graduation, Morris accepted a position as a teaching assistant professor in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. She is the recipient of the 2012 John R. Williams Outstanding Teacher Award and was named the Statler College’s Teacher of the Year for 2012.

“West Virginia University gives students the opportunity to explore their passions,” said Morris, a Morgantown native. “It has the resources of a large university but the feel of a small community at an economical cost.”


Kerri Phillips, BSME/BSAE ‘07, PhDAE ‘11
Weirton native Phillips was not only an outstanding student while at WVU, she was involved in a myriad of activities. She was a member of the Microgravity Research Team, president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, co-founder of the Student Partnership for the Advancement of Cosmic Exploration, president of the Engineering Student Advisory Council and a student member of the Strategic Planning Committee. She was a Swiger Doctoral Fellow, Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, USA Today All-College Academic Third Team, WVU Honors College Nath Outstanding Senior, WVU Presidential and Promise Scholar, and was inducted into the Order of the Augusta. Phillips also received the Amelia Earhart Fellowship from Zonta International, which works to advance the status of women worldwide.

Upon graduation, she began working for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the Air and Missile Defense Sector of the Guidance, Navigation and Control Group. She also began working on her master’s degree in systems engineering at Johns Hopkins, where she currently serves as a visiting professor of mechanical engineering teaching mechanics of flight. Phillips also serves on two diversity research groups in the Applied Physics Lab.

“Being an engineering major at WVU was great because of the wonderful people and organizations around me,” Phillips said. “WVU has an excellent engineering program and outstanding resources available to the students. Additionally, the faculty, staff and other students really make it a family atmosphere, which fosters personal growth and innovation.”


Corey Snyder, BSME/BSAE ‘09
Snyder made the most of his time as an undergraduate at WVU. He was a member of the Microgravity Research Team, the Honors Program and the Snowboard Club. He also completed internships at PCC Airfoils and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and Ames Research Center. Upon graduation, the Morgantown native attended the NASA Ames Academy for Space Exploration and went on to complete his master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, focusing on astrodynamics and hybrid rocket propulsion. Snyder is currently a test/integration engineer at NASA Ames Research Center in California, overseeing payload assembly for the Rodent Research Missions including a payload currently operating on the ISS.

For Snyder, the best part of engineering at WVU was the opportunities for team projects available to students.

“From mechatronics to guided missile systems, almost every class provides a real glimpse into what it is like working out in the field, with a balance of professional instruction and a focus on ingenuity and teamwork,” he said.


Rob Murphy, BSME/BSAE ‘09, MSME ‘12
Murphy, a native of Beckley, was a member of Engineers Without Borders, serving as both a project lead and chapter president, and an Engineering Ambassador. As a graduate student, he was an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Fellow at National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown and a University Turbine Systems Research Fellow at Solar Turbines in San Diego, where he currently works as a design engineer.

“WVU gave me the launching pad I needed to start a career that has provided me with challenging, exciting projects and opportunities to travel all over the world,” said Murphy.


Tony Palmer, BSME ‘09
Palmer used his experience as a member of WVU’s 2009 Mini Baja Team to secure a position with JTG Daugherty Racing in North Carolina. He currently serves as the head race engineer for the No. 47 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, which is driven by A.J. Allmendinger.

“The best parts of being an engineering major at WVU were the many resources available to the students and a great environment in which to learn,” said Palmer, a Morgantown native.


Andrew Harner, BSME/BSAE ‘09
A Williamstown native, Harner was a member of the Microgravity Research Team and Design/Build/Fly, and he did internships at NASA’s Ames and Glenn Research Centers. He went on to graduate school at Stanford University, where he earned his master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics focusing on dynamics and worked on a high altitude GPS project. For the past three years, he has worked as part of the mission assurance and astronaut safety group at SpaceX, a space transport services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. He has seen 10 successful launches and was involved in the mission in which the first commercial company docked with the International Space Station.

“The best part of majoring in engineering at WVU was the diversity of the classes, professors and experiences to be had,” said Harner. “Each semester was a new journey with challenges and discoveries to be made in school and life.”


Allison Willingham, BSAE ‘10
New Creek native Willingham was a member of the Student Partnership for the Advancement of Cosmic Exploration, the balloon satellites team and researched 3D printed models in the University’s wind tunnel. She also interned at NASA’s Langley Research Center and Goddard Space Flight Center. She continued her education at Georgia Institute of Technology, earning a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. While at Georgia Tech, Willingham worked on the Prox-1 Nanosat, which will be deploying and optically tracking the Planetary Society’s LightSail CubeSat in 2016. She currently works at NASA Goddard in the components and hardware branch, making electronic boxes and mechanisms for NASA spacecraft.

“The best part about the engineering program at WVU was the cooperative atmosphere,” said Willingham. “The professors that I had in aerospace engineering were personally invested in helping students learn.”


Emily Calandrelli, BSME/BSAE ‘10
During her four years at WVU, Calandrelli, a Morgantown native, was named everything from Truman and Goldwater scholar, to Ms. Mountaineer and Order of Augusta to USA Today Academic All-USA First Team. She was a member of the Microgravity Research Team and Engineers Without Borders and she interned at NASA’s Ames and Glenn Research Centers. Upon graduation, she went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics as well as technology and policy. She is currently the host and co-producer of “Xploration Outer Space,” which can be seen on FOX and Hulu. The segment that will air on Friday, Oct. 17, will feature WVU’s balloon satellite team.

“The best part of majoring in engineering at WVU was the other engineering students,” said Calandrelli. “They were fun, social and helped each other get through the hard classes.