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Industry mentors

Nebraska Big Red Satellite has been very fortunate to have so many industry professional guiding us on our journey to space. These mentors work for many different aerospace organizations and their involvement in our team is to express their own knowledge and to give back to organizations like the ones that helped them as students; it does in no way indicate the endorsement of the organizations they work for unless elsewhere stated

Beth Balerud


Beth is a Mechanical Engineer from Columbus, NE. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in 2018. At UNL she was a part of the Aerospace Club on the Undergraduate Student Instrument Project (USIP) team. As a kid she loved space and wanted to be an astronaut, in high school she joined the automotive department which is where she discovered her passion for engineering. As an undergrad Beth was pushed towards aerospace after working on the USIP team. This team developed a fast-deploying SHEARLESS composite boom that was launched and tested on a sounding rocket, advanced emerging NASA technology to a TRL 6, and developed a system that can deploy 16 times the length of its stored footprint. She credits that experience as the launching off point for her career in the Space Industry; currently

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John Graham


John is a Subject Matter Expert at Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense for energetic materials, component and systems. He enjoys solving problems by research, analysis and test; at Ensign-Bickford, he has been able to contribute directly to the US space program. For example, he designed and developed laser-initiated ordnance that flew in the SELODE experiment aboard the STS-72 Space Shuttle mission and conventional ordnance that participated in the launch of the New Horizons mission to explore Pluto. He wants to continue this journey and excite others to join. John chose to mentor the Nebraska Big Red Satellite team because he has encountered many people who have taken time to help him grow as an engineer and wants to “pay it forward.” He has worked with other student groups enjoys learning new ways of seeing problems and solutions. In his free time John likes to spend time outdoors with his wife gardening, hiking, bird watching, and fishing, which he says she is much better at than he is :)

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Justin green


Dr. Justin S. Green is an Aerospace Engineer at the NASA Langley Research Center. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia. He is the lead developer of the Onboard Autonomous Trajectory Planner, a guidance routine that leverages high performance computing to perform real-time uncertainty quantification analysis on-board that results in robust vehicle trajectory solutions. While at NASA, Dr. Green has applied his flight mechanics expertise in aiding the development of the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology, Adaptable Deployable Entry Placement Technology (ADEPT); the Entry, Descent, and Landing Analysis Study (EDLAS) for investigating human Mars mission architectures, the Mars Sample Return Lander (SRL), and the Human Lander System under the Artemis program.

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Ryan green

Ryan is a Mechanical Engineer from Omaha, NE. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2020; during his time at UNL Ryan was an active member of Undergraduate Student Instrument Project (USIP) which became RockSat which became Aerospace eXperimental Payloads (AXP). He chose to mentor the Nebraska Big Red Satellite team because of these experiences. He states that he believes:


“During my time in AXP I received a lot of valuable experiences and professional help that I do not think I could have gotten anywhere else at UNL or maybe even elsewhere in Nebraska. I hope I can give back some the help I received to the next group of future engineers at UNL that might lead into a career in aerospace.”


Ryan enlisted in the Nebraska U.S. Army National Guard and became a helicopter mechanic. After deployment to Kuwait Ryan decided rather than pursuing a career in the military that he would return to UNL and become an engineer. As an Undergrad Ryan was very involved in the Aerospace club and got two internships at NASA Langley Research Center. He then applied to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s PATHWAY program where he has continued to work after graduation.


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Taylor Kerl


Taylor is a Mechanical Engineer from Lakeville, MN. She currently works as the mission operations lead for propulsions subsystems at Maxar, where she been able to support the orbit raising of more than twelve geostationary spacecraft -and counting. She was incredibly involved in the Aerospace Club as an undergraduate at UNL. As a part of the club she participated in various design teams and served as the outreach coordinator and president. She then co-authored the grant that brought the first ever Undergraduate Student Instrument Project (USIP) to Nebraska.


Taylor was the lead electric propulsion system engineer for the NASA Psyche spacecraft; where she developed, validated and delivered a new electric propulsion subsystem that utilizes high power hall-effect stationary plasma thrusters (SPTs). In the fall of 2020 Taylor was given the Space and Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) Promise Award. Which is an award given annually where SSPI recognizes 20 people under the age of 35 in the space and satellite industry as future leaders, and Promise Awards are given to the top three prospects of the cohort. She is currently serving as a Deputy Program Manager for NASA’s Power Propulsion Element (PPE), she is managing the electric propulsion system development that will be the primary means of delivering the spacecraft to lunar orbit


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Matt Mahlin


Matthew Mahlin is an Aerospace Engineer at the NASA Langley Research Center. He has Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is currently working in the Structural Mechanics and Concepts branch and is the technical lead for the Ceramic Matrix Composite Heat Exchanger project. He obtained a Level 1 certification in High Powered Rocketry from the Tripoli Rocketry Association inc. In 2013. Mahlin has also been involved in many youth mentorship programs; including FIRST LEGO League Nebraska, Girl Scouts of the USA, N-Bots 4H Youth Robotics Club, and through the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, NE. 


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Rachel Welch

Rachel is a Mechanical Engineer from Milwaukee, WI. She interned with the Orion program after high school which inspired her to go on and study aerospace in college by taking classes, and joining the Satellite Development Club. This is where Rachel got to work on different CubeSat projects. After graduating from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2018 she started working at Ensign Bickford Aerospace and Defense as a development engineer. She chose to mentor the Nebraska Big Red Satellite team because she enjoys working on technical projects and sharing her experience with others. In her free time Rachel likes to lift weights, run, make things, and practice martial arts (Krav Maga and Muay Thai).


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