Florida Tech students and faculty have returned from the inaugural Sino-U.S. Space Policy Research Center summer study program in Beijing with a better understanding of how space policy touches a variety of academic disciplines.
Aldrin Space Institute Director Andy Aldrin led the trip that included clinical psychology doctoral candidate Emily Birch, aviation human factors and safety master’s student Alex Coultrup, global management and finance undergraduate Tereza Sedlakova and aviation sciences doctoral candidate Shayan Shirshekar.
The program, which ran July 30 to Aug. 3, was just the start of ongoing collaboration between Florida Tech and the host institution, Beijing Institute of Technology.
“This summer experience was an important first step in our space policy partnership,” said Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay. “We look forward to future collaborations.”
One of the proposed areas of future partnership would involve student workshops alternating between campuses. Next summer, students from BIT and other campuses in Beijing will send a group of 10-15 students to Florida Tech for a space policy workshop lasting up to 10 days.
The second area includes an annual professional workshop of 15-20 specialists from the U.S. and China over 2-3 days. Similar to the proposed student workshops, the sites would alternate. The workshops would focus on commercial space activities. McCay will meet with BIT this fall to further discuss plans.
The summer study provided great professional experience for the students on this year’s trip. Emily Burch noted the program represented her first and only opportunity to get exposed to the realm of space psychology.
“This field is hugely important to space science as a whole, particularly as we move towards long-term spaceflight such as potential missions to Mars,” Burch said. “I was able not only to learn about space psychology, team building, and remote behavioral healthcare, but to add a unique perspective to each discussion as someone coming from the field of mental healthcare.”
Florida Tech students were able to gain cultural experience on the trip as well, visiting The Great Wall of China, China Aerospace Museum and the new space firm called Commsat which is operating a cubesat for education and is looking at larger satellite constellations in the future.
“Although I’m well-traveled and have lived a pretty nomadic life, I’ve never visited China,” Shayan Shirshekar said. “I really enjoyed exploring and understanding the similarities and differences among North American and Chinese culture.”
For Alex Coultrup, the trip meant an opportunity to gain new perspectives. Now that it’s over, she wants to continue building that context.
“In the future, I would like to hear from some more industry voices in addition to academic ones,” she said. “I think it’s important to blend the two perspectives for a more holistic picture.”
The Sino-U.S. Space Policy Research Center summer study program is the beginning of work between Florida Tech and Beijing Institute of Technology, as well as an expansion of Florida Tech’s reach internationally, a source of pride among the students involved.
“Now that we have initiated some type of network between our schools and countries it is our task to work on bettering and strengthening these relationships,” Tereza Sedlakova said. “Also, I hope this was a great way to show students that their hard work and involvement pay off.”