Victoria Coverstone
Dr. Victoria Coverstone
Prof. and Associate Head of Aerospace Engineering, University of Illinois

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Close Up
  • What I Do
    I divide my time between teaching classes, meeting with students and performing research. The time spent interacting with young, bright people who are interested in learning about space is my favorite.
  • Why Engineering?
    I always wanted to be an astronaut. When considering a major for college, I looked at my options and aerospace engineering seemed to provide me with the background that I would need to qualify to be astronaut. Also, with an engineering degree, I figured that even if I didn't become an astronaut, I could be involved in the design of space missions. An engineering degree would set me up in a win-win situation!
  • School Days
    I have a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D., all from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Department of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering.
  • My Day At Work
    I teach a variety of courses but currently I'm involved in teaching several design courses. In one class we are designing, building, and testing a very small satellite to be launched in 2009. It is exciting to be involved in a project that will actually fly in space. Design courses are challenging because many times the design objective is open-ended. This means that there is more than one way to solve the objective and this leads to creativity. I also do theoretical work to determine the trajectories of spacecraft with existing and futuristic propulsion systems.
  • Best Part
    I love interacting with bright individuals who want to learn. There is nothing more exciting and rewarding than to assist each other in the learning process. Universities are a great place to work because of the diversity of people that study and work there. The best engineers are individuals who are open minded to new ideas and can combine them with existing concepts to create revolutionary products.
  • Proud Moments
    I interviewed at NASA Johnson Space Center to be an astronaut. It was an exciting week-long interview that involved many physical and psychological exams. Unfortunately I was medically disqualified for my vision but I met several extremely interesting people, some with which I am still communicating.
  • Challenges
    Becoming an engineer was not easy for me. There were no female engineers teaching in the aerospace engineering department and I was the only girl in many of my classes. I sometimes felt that it would be easier to give up, but I took it as a personal challenge to graduate with my engineering degree. I am certainly happy that I stuck it out!
  • My Family
    I have two beautiful daughters, aged 10 and 8. I love being a mommy! We have an adorable dog named Lila.
  • Inspiration
    My parents had a tremendously positive influence on my decision to pursue engineering. From my youngest days my parents told me that I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. Both my parents were teachers so I guess my ending up being an engineering teacher is a nice balance. Also, when I was an undergraduate I had the pleasure of talking with Steve Nagel who was an active astronaut at the time. I asked him what I should study to better my chances of becoming an astronaut. He gave me some really great advice. He said "Vicki, you should choose a profession that you are really interested in practicing. Then you will be happy whether you are an astronaut or not." Thank you, Steve, for those words!
  • Want to be an Engineer?
    Find a topic that you are really interested in and then work as hard as you can to learn as much as possible about it. Take as many classes in math, physics and chemistry that your school has to offer.
  • Additional Thoughts
    I figured that even if I didn't become an astronaut, I could be involved in the design of space missions. An engineering degree would set me up in a win-win situation!
  • Hobbies
    I love to play tennis and enjoy most physical activities. I also like traveling.
Latest Questions
  • Julia

    Added Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 4:58 PM

    Hello, I'm a junior in high school and currently attend engineering classes at my local Career and Technology center. I would like to major in engineering management, which is not a very common field to get a degree in. Would it be better to get an engineering degree in a field such as aerospace then go to graduate school for my management degree or major in engineering management? If anyone received their degree in engineering management; was it easy to find a job with this particular degree?
    Answers 1
    Victoria Coverstone, University of Illinois
    Answered Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 4:58 PM

    Hello Julia,

    Some universities offer an undergraduate degree in Technology and Engineering Management.

    These programs tend to be extremely competitive and are typically degrees that are co-taught between engineering and business colleges.

    Students ...

    Read More
  • Justin, Walterboro , S.C.

    Added Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 12:49 PM

    Was it frustrating to learning how to do your job? Also could give me suggestions on what I need to take for Aerospace Engineering.
    Answers 1
    Victoria Coverstone, University of Illinois
    Answered Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 12:49 PM
    Learning any profession most likely has frustrating experiences during the training period. I found aerospace engineering to be no different. The math and physic knowledge that one needs to be a good aerospace engineer is broad so start taking ...
    Read More
  • Nathalie Quintero, Daytona Beach, FL asked Victoria Coverstone, University of Illinois

    Added Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    Hello. I just finish my freshman year of Aerospace Engineering. I love all related to airplanes, and my dream job is to something combining airplanes with spaceships just as Virgin Galactic is doing. During my freshman year, it was a bit of a struggle keeping up with the classes, and also coming from Venezuela to USA. I've been really good in math and physics. I currently have a 3.72 of CGPA. Sometimes I doubt myself if I can make it, but I'm more concerned about getting an internship, because ...
    Related to Aeronautical/Aerospace , Internships & Jobs, Opportunities/Challenges for Women, Work Environment
    Answers 1
    Victoria Coverstone, University of Illinois
    Answered Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 3:22 PM
    Dear Nathalie, Congratulations on doing well in the challenging aerospace engineering curriculum. You should be proud of your accomplishments and have confidence in your abilities. I recommend that you consider an internship during the summer after your ...Read More
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