UC co-op medalist thrives in NASA internships
Anna Lanzillotta was awarded the Herman Schneider Medal for engineering co-op
When she was in high school, University of Cincinnati student Anna Lanzillotta dreamed of working as an engineer in the aerospace and aviation industry.
This spring, Lanzillotta is graduating with an electrical engineering degree, experience working at NASA for four cooperative education (co-op) jobs, and a full-time job in the aerospace industry.
Lanzillotta was awarded the 2022 Herman Schneider Medal, which is given annually to a graduating senior in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science for distinction as an exemplary co-op student who has taken full advantage of the unique opportunities of cooperative education. Co-op is integrated into the engineering curriculum, enabling students to alternate semesters in the classroom with semesters of full-time, paid, co-op work.
Lanzillotta’s first co-op at the UC Utility Plant was actually her first job ever. In addition to the hands-on experience she gained working in the power generation facility, she developed the confidence as a working professional that led her to pursue a coveted co-op role at NASA.
The Cincinnati native spent two co-op rotations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston as an audio systems engineer. For one project, Lanzillotta designed and tested solutions for improving the speaker and microphone system for use inside the next generation spacesuit for future Artemis missions.
“I created a 3D designed and printed speaker housing that is still undergoing further testing for consideration of permanent implementation into the spacesuit — which is one of my biggest accomplishments as a co-op,” she said.
For her final two co-ops, Lanzillotta was accepted into the NASA Pathways Program, a career-readiness program, and had offers from three different NASA locations. She chose to work at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia because she felt the experience would be different than any of her previous work.
While at Langley, Lanzillotta performed electromagnetic compatibility testing for spaceflight hardware to ensure the equipment works in a space environment. Most recently, she worked as part of a team for Langley’s Aerospace Flight Systems Branch exploring applications of model-based systems engineering tools for use on the International Space Station.
Armed with her experiences at NASA, Lanzillotta landed a full-time job she will start after graduation with the Idaho National Laboratory, which supports the U.S. Department of Energy in energy research, nuclear science and national defense. She will be joining the Radio Isotope Power Systems group working on nuclear batteries for NASA to be used in aerospace applications. Specifically, she will be supporting NASA’s Dragonfly mission to send a drone to Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan.
Assistant professor Chris Tonnis, Lanzillotta’s co-op adviser, helped connect Lanzillotta to the Idaho National Laboratory to apply for a full-time job after graduation. Tonnis and Jim Tappel, co-op adviser and associate professor, nominated Lanzillotta for the Herman Schneider Medal.
“What stood out to me with Anna is how she went after her first co-op at NASA and then really leveraged that to leapfrog from one NASA co-op to the next. She made relationships at the various NASA sites and it helped her to find the next thing that was really going to get her into an area where she wanted to work,” Tonnis said.
Lanzillotta comes from a family of Bearcats. Her mother is a UC assistant professor in the College of Nursing who is researching rural opioid addiction. Her older sister is a 2020 biomedical engineering graduate and her younger sister is a current student in the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning.
Lanzillotta entered UC in the First-Year Engineering Program, which allows students to take foundational engineering courses to explore different areas before applying to a specific engineering major. Although she didn’t gain admittance to the highly competitive aerospace engineering program she desired, she sparked an interest in electrical engineering during her early engineering classes.
“I realized I could still pursue a career in aerospace and aviation as an electrical engineer,” she said.
In addition to her electrical engineering degree, Lanzillotta minored in embedded systems and was part of the University Honors Program and a recipient of the Cincinnatus scholarship. While at UC, Lanzillotta spent two years as a member of the UC Marching Band, including a role as drum major. She plays the trumpet, French horn, mellophone and double second steel drum. She’s a CEAS Ambassador and member of the leadership team for UC’s Women in Flight student organization.
Lanzillotta also worked with Chris Tonnis as a peer mentor in co-op, a campus job in which she helped students navigate the job search and interview process. In that role, Lanzillotta was instrumental in facilitating accountability groups for engineering students searching for jobs and also leading “first look” tours to support students who are attending their first career fair.
“She’s very intentional about mentoring and trying to give back, which I think is pretty exceptional,” Tonnis said.