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UC Mechanical Engineering Student Stuns by Winning USRA Award

18 December 2022

Jennifer Berry inspires cohort by becoming the first non-US recipient of the USRA Distinguished Undergraduate Award.


2022 has marked an incredible year for the UC Mechanical Engineering Department. Faculty and students alike have brought insightful research to the world stage, demonstrating the great successes coming from the Canterbury region.

One person in particular that we are delighted to highlight is our very own Jennifer Berry and her recent accomplishment in becoming the first non-US university recipient of the prestigious Universities Space Research Association (USRA) Distinguished Undergraduate Award.

The USRA award recognizes trailblazing students in various fields aligned with aerospace engineering, space science research, and exploration. After a rigorous review process from member universities, candidates are selected based on criteria of career goals and accomplishments, leadership qualities, community outreach, as well as their desire and willingness to reach their aspirations.

Jennifer certainly meets and exceeds these award expectations with her impressive academic career throughout her time at UC. Speaking with Jennifer about what she feels separated her from the other prominent applicants, we were able to get an impression of an incredibly driven individual, humble in her accomplishments, exemplifying the best of UC.

"I've been extremely blessed with the opportunities and incredible communities that have supported my journey so far. The Brooke Owens Fellowship and Women in Space Aotearoa New Zealand are two communities of many that I'm so grateful to be involved with. They have provided incredible inspiration and support, and now it's a privilege to be able to work with them to give back and continue to empower others in the community." 

Jennifer's time at UC has been motivated towards national and international pursuits while remaining poised with her time participating in other ventures. Shes made a localized impact through her role as Finance and Engagement officer for the University of Canterbury Students Association along with other efforts have led her to winning the UC Outstanding Achievement in Community Engagement Tohu Kahurangi | Blues Awards (more on this can be found here). Jennifer's work with Kea Aerospace for her final year project also proved to be an impactful marker on her application.

"I worked with an epic team and epic supervisors to design and launch a scientific payload to 100 000 ft on a high-altitude balloon to test active heating and cooling systems in stratospheric conditions. The launch was successful, and we also ended up with some awesome footage!"

Jennifer undoubtedly has made the most of her time at UC. While possessing impressive accomplishments, Jennifer remains a highly dedicated and earnest individual seeking to promote change and inspire others to pursue their dreams in a traditionally male-dominated industry. She is looking forward to the future and calibrating her efforts between the space industry and climate change initiatives.

"I'm looking to pursue further study in the US in Aeronautics and Astronautics and am waiting to hear back from some dream universities. I'm so excited by the opportunities space provides to not only explore and innovate, but also aid in climate action. Whilst space-related activities are viewed by some as the opposite of sustainability, there are many ways we can use our presence in space to monitor and respond to climate change, so I hope to contribute to the increasing conversations and plans surrounding the sustainability of our growing presence in space." 

Jennifer is balancing her academic and career development by expanding her horizons with new opportunities to gain insights into alternate engineering areas.

"I'm currently shaking things up and working for an agritech startup called Halter in the Growth and Strategy team which has involved a lot of learning and exposure to many incredible people! I'm loving the challenge, specifically being able to develop skills beyond the typically taught engineering skillset. I'm excited for how these skills will compliment my engineering degree for future endeavors."

The past four years have been a thrilling experience, to say the least, for Jennifer. We wish her the absolute best as she ventures to the unknown. We are confident she will continue to represent UC to the highest standards in her future work. Congratulations Jennifer!

Kea Aerospace



Kea Aerospace payload still from Jennifer’s Final Year Project

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