Kaila Coimbra, a fourth-year undergraduate in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering, has been awarded the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship for graduate studies at Stanford University.
The scholarship, which funds students for up to three years of study in any of Stanford's graduate programs, is awarded to applicants who embody visionary leadership and dedication to social good within their fields. The program also provides scholars with leadership training, workshops, lectures, and travel opportunities.
Coimbra, originally from San Diego, California, will pursue a PhD in aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford's School of Engineering.
"The mission, events, mentors, and community of the Knight-Hennessy program are what make it one of the most unique programs in the world, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be part of it," Coimbra says. "I believe that learning from and working alongside such a diverse community will be a pivotal opportunity in my life, and I'm eager to make the most of this incredible experience."
At Caltech, Coimbra conducted research on the properties of metamaterials during a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) with Chiara Daraio, Caltech's G. Bradford Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and a Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator. Coimbra continued her research throughout the academic year and eventually published the work in Applied Physics Letters.
Coimbra also competed in NASA's BIG Idea Challenge and was a finalist in both 2021 and 2022, where she was one of the leads on a team of Caltech undergraduates who developed technologies for NASA's Artemis missions. Through that experience, Coimbra says she discovered her passion for developing aerospace technologies—particularly those that will be crucial for future waves of space exploration.
As vice chair of Caltech's branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Coimbra co-founded Caltech Air and Outer Space to bring together Caltech's aerospace-related clubs under one initiative to share resources and provide organization.
At Stanford, Coimbra plans to continue exploring and contributing to the field of aerospace engineering. She is particularly interested in the cislunar environment and fostering a permanent human presence on the moon.
"I am over the moon to have been selected for the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship," says Coimbra. "Being part of such a dynamic, interdisciplinary community of scholars is truly a dream come true, and I can't wait to see what we can achieve together."