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Morehead State alums selected for aerospace fellowship

Two Morehead State alumni have been selected for a prestigious summer fellowship program.   

Cadence Payne from Shelbyville (17) and Aaron Zucherman from Thousand Oaks, California (19), both graduates of MSU's space science program, have been selected for the 2020 class of the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program, a summer internship and executive mentorship program designed to help undergraduate and graduate students pursuing aerospace careers gain valuable paid experience in the field before they graduate. Payne is a member of the Space Telecommunications, Astronomy and Radiation (STAR) Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Zucherman is a Ph.D. candidate in systems engineering at Cornell University. Payne will have an internship at Millennium Space Systems and Zucherman will have an internship at Starburst Aerospace.   

Aaron Zucherman"I am very excited about this opportunity because Starburst is a unique company that has its hand in almost every corner of the aerospace industry and whose main goal is to advance new technologies and enable economic development," Zucherman said, adding he wants to learn about both sides of the aerospace industry.  

"As someone with a technical background, I look forward to being able to not just evaluate the technology a company produces but learning how to evaluate a company's financial and business acumen."   

Zucherman credits his time at MSU and his work with Dr. Ben Malphrus, executive director of the MSU Space Science Center, for setting him on the path to a future in aerospace entrepreneurship.   
"My acceptance to Cornell's Ph.D. program and the offer to take over their lunar spacecraft mission only happened because of the experiences I had at the (space science) center working on Lunar IceCube and other Interplanetary smallsat proposals," Zucherman said. "I would also not have developed an interest in the business of space let alone consider becoming an entrepreneur if not for my work with Dr. Malphrus."      

Cadence PaynePayne learned about the fellowship at an intern event during a presentation by Steve Isakowitz, president and CEO of Aerospace Corporation, where she has interned for the past three summers. During the fellowship, she will work on a project supporting on-orbit performance and calibration of remote sensing data generated from future spacecraft missions.   

"I'm thrilled to take a deep dive into a very technical topic for the summer while getting to witness the aerospace industry from the commercial perspective," she said. "Though I'll certainly gain new technical skills from this program, I'm also hoping to learn many things from both my mentor, John Grunsfeld, as well as the other fellows regarding navigating my career, choosing opportunities that fit my personal goals, and generally broadening my knowledge on the field. The exposure I'll gain from the great minds who have come before me in the program, as well as the mentors and industry leaders I'll interact with during the summit will be one of the most enriching moments of my career."   

Like Zucherman, Payne credits her time at MSU, and the continued mentorship and support of the faculty, for helping her achieve her career goals.  

"I owe a lot of my success thus far to the wonderful mentors I had, and continue to have, from Morehead State. Thank you to Dr. Malphrus, Dr. Pannuti, Bob Kroll, Jeff Kruth and many others for believing in me and helping to steer me in the right direction. The program there at Morehead is truly something special, and I'm looking forward to witnessing what the next generation of Eagles will accomplish," Payne said.  

The Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program is a nonprofit organization honoring the memory of an engineer, entrepreneur and extraordinary individual whose passion for commercial space exploration led to great strides in the industry and inspired all who knew him. For more information, visit   

For information about MSU's space systems engineering program, visit, email or call 606-783-2381.
Photo Credit: The Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program.