Columbia Mishra

Outstanding Young Mechanical Engineer, 2022
B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Jadavpur University, 2006
M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Texas Tech University, 2008
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 2016

Dr. Columbia Mishra is a Lead Systems Engineer at Maxar Technologies developing the next generation of spacecrafts for a range of missions including proliferated Low Earth Orbit satellites. Columbia was born and raised in Malda - a small town in eastern India. She is the second of three children born to Minati and Jai Prakash Mishra. Her parents, avid space enthusiasts, named Columbia and her siblings Apollo and Challenger after US Space Programs. For them, these missions represented strides in humanity's quest to understand and explore the unknown. Columbia grew up increasingly enthralled by space and was deeply inspired by her role model, late astronaut Kalpana Chawla. The heroic pursuits of Kalpana, the first Indian woman in space, fueled Columbia’s passion to pursue a career as an astronaut. Columbia knew she needed to grow wings to fly and take on adventures beyond her hometown. Her educational pursuits took young Columbia on a journey across the globe - learning not just theorems and principles, but finding stories, cultures, and most importantly, building lifelong relationships.

After finishing secondary education from The St. Xavier’s School of Malda and Salt Lake School in Kolkata, Columbia attended Jadavpur University (JU), Kolkata, India, studying Mechanical Engineering. During her time at JU, she gained engineering experience at Tata Motors and researched fluid mechanics at Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research. A new decade in life and strengthened conviction to experience newer spaces brought Columbia to the United States of America. Columbia received her Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Texas Tech University, Lubbock publishing her thesis on microfluidics. Columbia traveled to Juarez, Mexico with her team from Engineers Without Borders to implement a renewable energy source to improve the quality of life for elderly residents. After her Master’s, Columbia worked at Makino Asia, Singapore in research and development. While away, she missed her adopted home in the USA, and chose to move back to Texas to work for Stress Engineering Services in Houston. During this period, a chance meeting with the then Director of Johnson Space Center reignited her passion to follow her dreams to pursue research and become an astronaut. Columbia joined the doctoral program in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin to specialize in Thermal Fluid Systems. She was supervised by Dr. Jayathi Murthy, an inspiring role model and mentor. Columbia researched on graphene and nanoscale thermal transport and her dissertation was on volume average phonon Boltzmann Equation for simulation of heat transport in composites. Her research won her the prestigious Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship. In addition to research and teaching, Columbia had the opportunity to develop the first Signature Entrepreneurship course with Prof. Michael Webber and work in consumer electronics at Apple, California. During her Ph.D., Columbia was very involved with the UT Austin community and served as the President of the Graduate Engineering Council for two terms and was the first international student to be elected as the President of the Graduate Student Assembly. Columbia received the Cockrell School of Engineering Student Leadership Award for her contributions in advocating for over 13,000 students to the university administration, UT System Board of Regents, City of Austin, and Texas Legislature.

With her newly earned doctorate, Columbia joined Intel’s much coveted Technology Manufacturing Group in Hillsboro, Oregon. She worked on computational photolithography developing Intel’s next generation process nodes and then on thermal mechanical systems engineering with the Client Computing Group. At Intel Columbia led several working groups and task forces bringing innovation to client products for the Intel roadmap. As the Chair of the Technology Development Working Group, Columbia led the innovation process for an interdisciplinary team of 60 talented engineers with a project portfolio focused on market readiness. While at Intel, Columbia authored 12 Invention Disclosures and 5 patents in thermal architecture and innovation in electronic systems. When the entire world came to a halt in 2020, Columbia re-evaluated her life goals and decided to switch industries to follow her dreams in the space industry. What was not possible as an immigrant on student and work visas, was finally an option for her as a permanent resident in the United States. Columbia joined Maxar Technologies - a renowned space technology company, as a Thermal Lead working on the Power Propulsion Element spacecraft as a part of the Lunar Gateway for NASA's Artemis Mission to the Moon. The Artemis mission aims to land the first woman and next man on the Moon and establish a permanent human presence in Lunar orbit. Columbia is now leading development of the next generation of spacecrafts for a range of missions. Her current work impacts the future of space exploration and is a career that was only a dream of a much younger Columbia.

Columbia cherishes the impact role models have had in shaping her career and strives to inspire the next generation at every opportunity. Hoping to spark a passion for the sciences, and for exploration, Columbia has mentored global members of the K-12 community including several cohorts of first-generation students, and early career engineers, especially women. Columbia is a distinguished speaker and has spoken globally at multiple forums communicating the science and technology of spacecraft engineering and sharing her own story and career choices. She serves as the Industry Advisor to the Carnegie Mellon University Rocket Club and supports the Maxar community as a member of the Maxar Space Women’s Network Leadership Team. Columbia is highly involved with the technical community and served on the CTO Technology Advisory Council of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE). Columbia remains an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) where she advises on the Technical and Engineering Communities Board overseeing 36 technical divisions, having previously served as Technical Program Chair for the 2020 Summer Heat Transfer Conference (SHTC). She advocates for technologies policies to the U.S. Congress and was one of ten engineers from across the globe to be selected for ASME’s prestigious Early Career Leadership Program to Serve Engineering (ECLIPSE). Columbia was awarded the inaugural ASME 2020 Lakshmi Singh Early Career Leadership Award for her leadership and service.

Her parents had christened her with a name fit to take on any adventure on earth and in space. Columbia lives up to her name with zest for life and a passion to explore the unknown. Columbia enjoys training as a private pilot to fly small planes and while on ground takes on the fashion runway as a woman in science. She holds the sought-after titles of Miss India Oregon 2019 and Miss Asia California Global 2020. She uses her platform in the pageant industry to raise awareness about social issues including diversity and representation of women in STEM. Columbia with her partner, Dr. Philip Gach, has built a cozy nest in the heart of Silicon Valley, but seizes every opportunity to spread her wings and fly around the globe.