Amelia Earhart Fellowships are granted each year by the Zonta International Foundation, an organisation dedicated to advancing the status of women. Over the years, several Aeronautics Doctoral Students have been recipients of the Fellowship - named in honour of the famed pilot Amelia Earhart - which awards $10,000 each year to 35 women pursuing a PhD in Aerospace-related Engineering.

Among the recipients is our current Research postgraduate, Michela Gramola. We talk to her about her award, her research and her advice for those thinking about applying for funding. 


When did you start at Imperial? Did you study elsewhere before?

“I started my PhD at Imperial in 2016, following on from my MEng at Cambridge. Obviously, they’re both great institutions, but I think I fit in better at Imperial. The Aeronautics Department in particular is quite small, so you can really get to know the people around you and get involved in a lot of things to actually make a difference.” 

What does your research focus on?

“I work on developing smart adaptive shock control bumps. In other words, these are flow control devices that can be used for example on the wings of typical Commercial Aircraft to control shock waves and ultimately reduce drag.”

You apply for the Amelia Earhart Fellowship one year into a PhD. Were there advantages to this?

“I had already applied for the Imperial President’s PhD scholarship before starting my PhD to cover tuition fees and maintenance costs. For the Amelia Earhart Fellowship, I applied one year into my PhD, which I think was a good time to do it. By that point you’re more familiar with your research and the direction it’s heading in, so you can talk about it confidently.”

“The application involved sending one essay summarising the research I’d already worked on and its practical implications for the aerospace industry. I also had to say a little about aspirations for after the PhD. I said I wanted to stay in academia, which is exactly what happened: I will soon start a Post-Doc here!”

“My supervisors (Dr Paul Bruce and Dr Matthew Santer) were really supportive during the application: they both looked at the essay and gave great feedback.”

“The actual application didn’t take particularly long to write. The administration, however, was trickier and involved requesting my transcript and references from Cambridge. You need to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to arrange these aspects of the application, as well as giving your supervisors (or whoever else) the time to provide references.”

How did you find out about the Fellowship?

Dr Zahra Sharif Khodaei (the Tutor for Women) brought it to my attention; she sends out an email reminder to all female PhD students to apply.

How did you feel about receiving the award?

“To be honest, I was surprised! I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

What would you say to anyone thinking about applying to this Fellowship?

“They should do it. Generally, when women think of applying for scholarships, they don’t because they tend to think their qualities aren’t applicable to the criteria, but this shouldn’t put you off.”

“The Amelia Earhart Fellowship is not a very demanding application; plus, Imperial students have been very successful in receiving these scholarships in the past – so you really do have a good chance!”