Text by: Heather Montague

The International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA) has chosen bachelor’s student Nadine Duursma as its 2018 TU Delft scholarship recipient. This scholarship is given annually to support women pursuing studies in aviation or aerospace related fields.

Since 2004, IAWA has worked with four designated universities in the US and Canada, awarding one scholarship per year to a student from each school. Last year, TU Delft was chosen to join that group of universities. “We work with the universities to identify candidates with good grade point averages, financial need and a passion for a career in the fields of aviation and aerospace,” said Lisa Piccione, IAWA Director-at-Large and Immediate Past President.

Confidence and creativity

One such candidate, Duursma, saw the IAWA announcement for scholarship applications last year on Brightspace. “I thought, well, I’m a first-year student but I still meet all of the requirements and I thought if you never try you never win,” she said. The application involved writing a motivation letter and doing a creative assignment explaining why she chose to study at TU Delft. “They gave examples like making a video or a pitch or a poster. But I thought those examples were what everyone would do so I needed to find something else,” she explained. “So, I wrote a poem and made a timeline about how I chose Delft, including photos of me with aircraft when I was younger.” Despite her sense of confidence, Duursma was very pleasantly surprised when she got the news in June that she had won.

Choosing a career

Growing up, she always liked math and science and recalls being good at these subjects from a young age. And although Duursma’s father studied at TU Delft and her mother studied mathematics, they didn’t push her into science. She says they encouraged her to freely make her own choice about her studies. “But I was completely sure that I don’t like history or languages so for me it was an easy choice,” she said.

After briefly considering a career as a pilot, Duursma decided what really inspired her was the idea of design and the opportunity to make something new. She began looking at different fields, including life sciences and medicine, but felt that they focussed too heavily on memorisation. “Then I came here to the aerospace faculty and fell in love with the aircraft,” she said. “It was something you could really think about and that’s why I decided to apply. It was also one of the most challenging programmes at Delft and I really liked that.”

Looking to the future

Although it’s still early in her academic career, Duursma has some clear ambitions for the future. She dreams of studying abroad one day, she sees herself working for a company for a while and then later possibly setting up her own business. “I think it would be interesting to try and make aircraft as a means of public transportation,” she said. “So instead of going to work by train, I hope in the future we can all go by plane.” She also has a great respect for astronauts because, as she explains, they have to be smart, physically fit and work really hard. “If I ever get the opportunity to apply to be an astronaut in the future, I will. I will always try. I don’t expect that, but why not try?”

Supporting the next generation

Through their scholarship awards, IAWA continues to support the development of women who are passionate about careers in aviation and aerospace. And Duursma certainly fits that description. “Nadine’s lifelong interest in aviation and her commitment to her aerospace engineering studies really make her a great role model and someone who will be a future leader in the industry,” said Piccione. “We look forward to working not only with Nadine, but really with all of the women studying in the field.”

Piccione emphasised IAWA’s commitment to the next generation and helping those who are seeking to join the industry. Having worked for many years in aviation, she also stressed the importance of developing a professional network, having contacts, and building your presence in the industry. “We hope all of the young women pursuing careers in aviation and aerospace will add their names to our mailing list,” she said. “We have IAWA events happening all over the globe throughout the year.”

On Thursday 11 October, Piccione will be at TU Delft to present Duursma with the official IAWA scholarship award. The event will take place immediately following the first lecture in a new initiative called Diversity Talks at the university. In addition, Duursma and the scholarship winners from the other universities will be honoured on stage at the 30th annual IAWA Conference in Memphis, Tennessee from 24-26 October.

Nadine Duursma
Lisa Piccione, IAWA Director-at-Large