Mihir Kamble is thinking long term — really long term. “At some point in the very distant future, I feel like humanity will need to transition to being a multiplanetary kind of species.” He wants to be a part of that story and loves the idea of human space flight. “I want to be involved in reaching the next destination, whether that’s the moon or Mars — to be able to make some significant contributions and help that become a reality.”
Even setting aside the eventual need for interplanetary elbow room, the everyday technologies that come from space exploration, such as cellphones and GPS, make exploration a worthy investment, he says. Kamble is one of our outstanding graduates from the class of 2022 and is graduating with a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering and a certificate in the elements of computing in computer science.
“Growing up, I always had a fascination with space, planes, planets,” he says. Watching space shuttle launches on TV, he became interested in the historic Apollo and Gemini programs. His curiosity was boosted by trips to Johnson Space Center. “Seeing Mission Control and all of those Saturn V rockets — it’s hard to not be amazed by the engineering and all the effort that people put in.”
When it came time to pick a college, Kamble considered Georgia Tech, but he wanted to go somewhere more academically diverse and not quite so engineering-centric. UT had that breadth. Plus, he could see himself in a UT classroom because he’d been in one many times. His father had brought him to campus often for the Saturday Morning Math Group, a UT outreach program aimed at junior high and high school students, their parents and teachers. (It’s now Sunday morning.)
What’s more, he says, “I’ve always had that UT pride within me, growing up in Austin. It was close to home, but it also had really great programs in what I was interested in.” Also in UT’s favor was the size and diversity of the student body. Having attended a small, elite high school, he wanted a university with a larger variety of experiences within its students. The four-year T.W. Whaley, Jr. Friends of Alec endowed scholarship, awarded through the Engineering Honors Program, sealed the deal.
UT’s range of academics almost led him to double-major in aerospace engineering and piano performance, but he thought better of the workload. Nevertheless, his favorite non-STEM class was Introduction to Western Music. “As a classically trained musician, I gained a lot of insight into musical history from that course.”
During Kamble’s sophomore year, he took an aerospace engineering class with professor Brandon Jones, who became a significant influence because he also was the principal investigator for the Texas Spacecraft Laboratory. TSL designs and builds small satellites, secures launches into space and operates them once in orbit. Kamble has been the flight software lead in TSL for the past three years and has done independent undergraduate research with Jones. He has interned at NASA Johnson Space Center and is currently interning at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab.
His favorite course was Attitude, Dynamics and Control. “That probably sounds pretty nerdy,” he says laughing. “We were designing a controller that would be able to manage a spacecraft regardless of disturbance. Having a set criteria, designing a product, and going out and actually modeling and simulating something was really interesting to me and is why I like engineering so much. You can solve problems and meet that exact requirement.”
His twin passion is helping other students. “I’ve always been interested in mentoring younger students, empowering them to succeed.” He mentors up to five fellow students as TSL software lead, and at the department level he’s a peer adviser, mentoring younger students and counseling them on classes they should take, and an advising coordinator, managing and recruiting peer advisers and planning registration advising sessions.
His greatest challenge in college was getting comfortable in situations he didn’t understand. “I’ve been pretty fortunate to have been involved in research since my freshman year, and one part of research that’s different from other areas of academics is a lot of times you’re working on things that no one’s done before or no one has the answers to. There were times when I was tasked with stuff and had zero idea of where to start. Figuring out how to find people to help you and make use of the best resources available is something I learned.”
“I remember at the beginning of college someone saying get comfortable being uncomfortable,” Kamble says. “That applies not only to academics but socially, just getting involved with different things is important, not boxing yourself in. I think you will grow the most as a person, as a friend, as a student by getting comfortable trying things you’ve never done before, meeting new people, putting yourself out there and not being afraid.”
His fondest Longhorn memory is going to the intramural fields every Friday at 6 p.m. to play soccer with a group of great friends. “You knew the weekend was here Friday at 6 when everybody would pile into the cars and go play soccer.”