Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


28 May 2019

James McKevitt Secures Prestigious Engineering Leaders Scholarship

BEng Aeronautical Engineering student, James McKevitt has secured an Engineering Leaders Scholarship and is keen for other Loughborough University students to apply for these awards, so we have put together a news item, not only celebrating James’ achievement, but also showing what he has done within the field of engineering which led to him receiving the award so that this news piece supports other students who might want to apply for this opportunity.‌‌

The Engineering Leaders Scholarships (ELS) programme aims to provide support for undergraduates in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEI) who have the potential to become leaders in engineering and who are able to act as role models for future engineers.

These scholarships help ambitious and inspiring undergraduates in engineering and related disciplines, who want to become leadership role models for the next generation of engineers, to undertake an accelerated personal development programme.

Recipients get the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to fulfil their potential, helping them to move into engineering leadership positions in UK industry soon after graduation.

All Scholars receive £5,000 to be used over three years towards career personal development activities.

James underwent a formal application process, which began with a written application, answering some set questions:

RAS logo x 300 

“Detail any experience you have that demonstrates your suitability for this scholarship”:

James was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS) in October 2018, undertakes volunteer work in his position as a member of the Rotary Club of Loughborough Beacon Jubilee and designs and delivers STEM Outreach work with the Scouts.

He also sits on the 'Young Steering Committee' for the Royal Academy of Engineering and received the Undergraduate of the Year Award in 2018.

“Provide evidence of your leadership aspirations”:

James is the Chair of the Loughborough Space Society, where he leads a team of Loughborough University students in building a Hybrid Rocket Engine. The society also run a High-Altitude Balloon project, undertake STEM outreach in local schools, and partner with Loughborough College on final year projects for Space Engineering students. This is the place for students interested in space!

The Space Society outreach has included an aeronautics session at a local school, where the team supported high school students to participate in Rocket in a Box - the aim of the session was to teach the students all about the fundamental principles of designing rockets, used by real-world engineers.

This has given him experience including; managing a budget; designing and delivering taught sessions; and; working with teams and individuals within professional settings.

Another facet of the work James and his team have undertaken this year is gaining sponsorship from BOC and the Royal Aeronautical Society to fund the development of their hybrid rocket engine. With support from the School of Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering, (AACME), they have also secured lab space for their projects.

“What are you going to do that will make a difference?”: 

James is currently taking part in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme at Imperial College in London, where he will take his work full-time during summer 2019. His research has involved developing an ‘Aerial Surveyor for Titan with Aquatic Operation for Extended Usability’ (Astraeus). It is hoped by James and his supervisors, (team leaders from the Cassini-Huygens and JUICE missions), that his research will be submitted for the ESA Voyage 2050 mission proposals – an initiative looking for the next ‘headline’ deep-space missions.

This research would not be possible without the support of the Royal Astronomical Society Undergraduate Research Bursaries, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and Imperial College London. Special thanks is sent from James to Dr Ingo Mueller-Wodarg for his support.

“What do you want to do with the opportunities this scholarship provides?”:

James will attend the International Astronautical Congress in 2019, amongst other conferences and he will be developing his research, as detailed in the Research Overview document below.

To support his ESA Voyage 2050 submission, James is also hoping to use the scholarship to present his proposal to the selection panel. It is also hoped he can use the working links that his team at Imperial College have with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to undertake a visit to California, to further develop the research.

In the “Additional” section, James included a copy of his research to date: Enceladus and Titan: Emerging Worlds of the Solar System (ESA Voyage 2050 White Paper)


Following the formal application, James was invited to an assessment centre, where he was interviewed by two Fellows from the Royal Academy of Engineering, did a short technical presentation and participated in a very fast memory game which gave the students the opportunity to show how they operate under pressure within a team.

Ultimately, James was one of 35 students from across the UK to receive a scholarship.

As part of his contract for accepting the scholarship, James has had to write a 25-year career plan and as well as advancing his research, he will receive ongoing support from a Fellow from the Royal Academy of Engineering.  This will be in the form of supporting his research, advising him in terms of his career goals and introducing him to useful industry contacts. 

James stated:

“I am thoroughly looking forward to the opportunities that will arise from being awarded this scholarship and I hope that in the future, I have the opportunity to meet other Scholars of this programme from Loughborough.”

There appears to be no end to James’ enthusiasm for the subject of space and it is a pleasure for the Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering to have a student such as James undertaking his degree with us here at Loughborough University.

We offer our most sincere congratulations to James upon his most recent achievement, but we know that James will continue to further his research and passion and we look forward to reporting on how James gets on throughout his career.