I'm a Nerd About ... Outer Space

Ryan Udell loves to share his passion with others.

Ever since his 10th birthday, when he slept under the Saturn V rocket on a Cub Scout trip to Kennedy Space Center, Ryan Udell ’21 has been the self-described “space guy.” 

Udell’s interest in space is as wide as it is deep. “I want to know every aspect of the aerospace industry,” he said. “I’ve worked on human spaceflight in internships. I’ve worked on rocketry projects. I’ve worked on satellites. I’ve worked on rovers, a little bit.” At Rice, Udell has taken the initiative to help establish multiple organizations and projects. For example, in 2019, as president of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), Udell initiated the Owls in Space Symposium, an annual event that has drawn figures such as astronaut Peggy Whitson ’86 and former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine ’98. 

When Udell first came to Rice, however, he found many other students who shared an interest in space, but little awareness of outlets for exploring this curiosity. “It took me over a year to find out that the Rice Space Institute was even a thing,” Udell said. From his work with SEDS and projects like OwlSat (a proposal for NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative competition to analyze the relationship between solar activity and the Earth’s lower atmosphere), Udell gained some notoriety among his peers as a “space nerd.” 

From this he found his other passion — sharing his own knowledge to help others explore their interests in space. Udell is one of the founding partners for the Zed Factor Fellowship, established in 2020 to empower undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds across the country. “Because I’ve been so fortunate to make many of the connections and do a lot with the help of others, I want to be able to be that person to help others get into aerospace.” Post-graduation, Udell is working at Boeing in their Satellite Systems Engineering Rotation Program. 

— Savannah Kuchar '22


Udell says there are many ways for students to explore an interest in space. Here are some key resources drawn from an in-depth “Guide to the Space Life,” shared with him by a mentor. 

SEDS is the largest student organization in the world for space and where students will find all sorts of opportunities to gain skills and knowledge.

Apply to as many aerospace fellowships as possible, including the Brooke Owens Fellowship, Patti Grace Smith Fellowship, Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship and the Zed Factor Fellowship.

Check out spaceinterns.org, a website that highlights every single scholarship or fellowship in the space industry — a great resource.