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In celebration of Black History Month, the Department of Aerospace Engineering is highlighting some of our talented and diverse alumni through a series of stories sharing their journeys and advice for aspiring aerospace engineers.

After graduating from UMD, David Mayo (Ph.D. ‘14) was recruited by The Aerospace Corporation, where his academic and engineering expertise, along with his military background, made him an exceptional fit for a company that works with U.S. government, military, and intelligence agencies.

With his work focusing on national intelligence, security, space component design, systems integration and engineering and acquisitions and development, Mayo moved quickly through a series of promotions over the next six years, ultimately becoming associate director of the company’s space systems engineering department. Additionally, he was selected for a Direct Commission as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Most recently, he received  a detailed assignment as a technical advisor to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy – Integration Directorate at the Pentagon.

Where/How did you get started on your aerospace engineering journey?

Engineering has always fascinated me because I have a curiosity about how things work. But I truly started my aerospace engineering journey while in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving with a Combat Engineer Unit. I have had access to military helicopters and have seen some really outstanding, amazing things from some of the equipment within the military. These were things I didn’t think were physically possible at the time, and they sparked my interest in understanding "how.”

Who inspires you?

Drs. Inderjit Chopra, Darryll Pines, and James Hubbard have been outstanding professional aerospace/mechanical engineering mentors, and leaders in the field.

What has helped you succeed in your aerospace engineering journey?

Perseverance strengthened by a foundation of academic/financial support from various communities and diverse mentorship.

What advice would you offer current students?
(Pictured at left, Mayo during his UMD Ph.D. days.)

You can achieve whatever goals you set, but with that comes a responsibility to bring your passion and drive to that mission. You must be willing to put in the work. Everyone has their own, unique set of challenges. Overcoming those obstacles means bringing resilience and tenacity to stick with it until it is done.

What have been some of your greatest personal and professional successes?

Some of my greatest successes include becoming a U.S. Marine and completing my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Military Institute, a master of aerospace engineering degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland.

Encouraging the pursuit of and mentoring my siblings and others through their terminal degrees (Ph.D.s); receiving The Aerospace Corporation's Robert H. Herndon Black Image Award along with the NSBE 21st Century Trailblazers in Space Research Award, and selection for a Direct Commission into the U.S. Navy Reserve as an Officer.



Related Articles:
Jeanette Epps: From Engineer to Astronaut
Celebrating the Impact of Black Maryland Engineers and Leaders
Celebrating Black Engineers: Hermann Kaptui Sipowa
Celebrating Black Engineers: Jeanette Epps
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: Christopher Jones (Ph.D. ‘97)
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: Daniel Scott (’85)
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: Chris Huie-Spence (‘11)
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: James Lankford (M.S. ‘14, Ph.D. ‘18)
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: Louise Ami Ahure Powell ('06, M.S. '09, Ph.D. '14)
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: Jarred Young ('09, M.S. '13, Ph.D. '17)

February 16, 2022


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You can achieve whatever goals you set, but with that comes a responsibility to bring your passion and drive to that mission. You must be willing to put in the work. Everyone has their own, unique set of challenges. Overcoming those obstacles means bringing resilience and tenacity to stick with it until it is done.

David Mayo (Ph.D. ‘14)

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