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Outstanding Graduate, Spring 2021

James Hansen

In high school, James Hansen became an avid fan of Formula 1 auto racing. So, his first thoughts about a career path were related to the sport.

He wanted to be an aerodynamicist — someone who knows how to design and construct vehicles to make them faster and more efficient.

That’s why he chose aerospace engineering as a major, which soon drove him beyond his interest in automobiles and into aircraft, spacecraft, rocketry and energy generation.

Hansen now envisions a career in which he can contribute to advances in spaceflight that will enable “new discoveries about the world around us.”

Hansen’s accomplishments during his undergraduate years in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University have given him a great start in that direction.

His skills landed him internships with Northrop Grumman Space Systems and the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab, and earned him a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship award that will support his work for a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering. He is now enrolled in the aerospace engineering master’s degree program at Stanford University and intends to pursue doctoral studies there.

Hansen says he is most proud of what he helped to achieve with ASU’s Sun Devil Rocketry team, in which he served over the years as president, vice president, safety officer, outreach coordinator and leader of liquid propulsion development.

“We started with a very small group of students who were interested in building a liquid rocket engine, something that hadn’t been done at ASU before,” Hansen says.

“Over the course of a year, I was able to grow the team substantially, lead the design and review of our first kerolox [liquid propellant] system, and publish our organization’s first propulsion research paper in more than five years,” he says.

He was also served a term as president of the ASU chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, was chief safety officer for the Fulton Schools Helios Rocketry student team, and was on ASU’s rowing team.

Hansen made the dean’s list for seven semesters and received the President Barack Obama Scholarship, ASU’s New American University Scholarship, the Moeur Award, a Pell Grant, a Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative grant, and participated in the Grand Challenges Scholarship Program.

Hansen says he won’t forget what ASU has provided him.

“The Fulton Schools gives so many opportunities to its students,” he says. “I believe anyone who is willing to take advantage of them can succeed.”

What those opportunities have given him is confidence in his abilities.

“There are a lot of challenges involved in engineering,” Hansen says. “But by confronting and overcoming those challenges I certainly feel more confident in trying new things and pushing the envelope on what I’m capable of doing.”

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ Spring 2021 class here.

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