Brenna Wells, AHS graduate receives Brooke Owens Fellowship; to intern with San Francisco tech company

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, April 6, 2024

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An Andalusia High School graduate is among a select group of students selected for the prestigious Brooke Owens Fellowship, a nationally acclaimed nonprofit program that awards exceptional women and gender minorities an internship in the fields of space and aviation.

Brenna Wells, a 2020 graduate of AHS and senior at the University of Alabama, is among 47 selected nationwide for the program. Wells is majoring in astrophysics and mathematics and will perform her internship this summer at Loft Orbital in San Francisco.

Fellows take part in the program that will pair each with a summer internship at a leading aerospace company, an executive-level mentor who is a senior leader in the aerospace industry, and a peer-level mentor from the Brooke Owens Fellowship alumnae network. Recipients were selected following a competitive application process that involved written and creative submissions and multiple rounds of interviews.

Wells credits much of her academic successes to the education and support she received growing up in Andalusia.

“A lot of the community pushed students to take responsibility for their own success and my teachers always pushed me to pursue those things I am passionate about. I contribute a lot of the personal values I brought with me to college to the sense of community I had with my family, friends and peers. My teachers in Andalusia helped me build the skills I needed to be successful and to work hard. They were very supportive. I especially want to thank Cavelle Jones, one of my English teacher, for being a great inspiration to me,” Wells said.

Her passion for science began at a young age and was nurtured, both at school and at home.

“I always had a thing for science. I love math and figuring out how things work. I would build things in my back yard and mess around in my dad’s shop. When I started learning higher-level math, I realized how interesting it was and really enjoyed it,” she said.

Wells learned about the Owens Fellowship from a peer she was working at NASA last summer.

“I loved working at NASA and the people there,” she said. “One of the things I discovered while working there was how much I enjoy the diversity in the workplace. This fellowship is specifically designed to promote women and minorities in the workplace. The fellowship also places a high value on creativity and innovation. Those are all things I value.”

The application process involved writing an essay and submitting reference letters. Then, there is a series of two interviews, one with a Brook Owens Fellowship alumni and the second with a potential workplace.

“It is hard process to get through. You have to go through the initial application process and then go through the interview. If you are a fit for the program, the workplace then has to say they will take you on. Even if you are qualified, the workplace may not have a spot for you. I feel very fortunate,” Wells said.

Wells selected Loft Orbital for her internship based on several factors, including their international ties and their unique status as a start-up tech company.

“The main reason I selected Loft Orbital is their emphasis on diversity in the workplace,” she said. “That’s diversity of nationalities, cultures, and background. Having a background in physics and being from a small town, they believe — and I believe — that I can contribute to the workplace with that perspective.”

With plans to graduate in May, and plans to attend graduate school in the fall, Wells said the fellowship will help her in making decisions about her professional future.

“This will probably be the first big step toward my personal career,” she said. “This will be a huge shift in environments, but I’m hopeful it will give me the experience I need to launch my own career.”

At the University of Alabama, Wells is particularly proud of her work with the Women in Physics and Astronomy group, which, under her co-leadership, grew from five members to more than 30 members of various fields and graduate levels. Currently, she is working towards aligning her interest in science with her passion for creation by exploring ideas like the construction of cube satellites through additive manufacturing and the search for intermediate mass black holes through machine learning.

Wells is the daughter of Dr. Ashton Wells and granddaughter of Katy Sue Wells.