2017 Board of Directors Election Candidates

Below are the bios and resumes of the candidates for the 2017-18 SEDS USA Board of Directors. Elections are held at SpaceVision 2017, followed by an online voting process. You do not need to be at SpaceVision 2017 to vote. Only one vote per chapter. Voting closes at 5pm EST on Saturday, Nov. 18th!

Vote here

Chair of the Board of Directors

Olivia Scharfman


“Though I have always had a passionate love for space, exploration, and education, SEDS has given me the most beautiful gift: the opportunity to combine the three and fight as an advocate for our future in the universe. And I do truly believe that we students are that future.

For the past year I have served as Vice-Chair, raising over twenty-five thousand dollars with the help of Sumayya, our SV Chair, and advice from our Board of Advisors. Our Board of Directors this year has been the most productive Board in recent history. We will start the next year with close to 100 chapters, a 50% growth rate from last year, as well as double the budget for grants and scholarships. I have raised more this year than any previous Vice Chair, not by doing anything fancy, but by having open and honest discussions with the hundreds of companies and other organizations out there who want nothing more than to support us. SEDS has transformed with the support of Jeff Bezos, Lockheed Martin, Virgin Orbit, and our other generous sponsors into an organization with the potential to provide unparalleled opportunities to students across the country who are looking to impact the future of humanity. We stand at a great precipice of possibility, and we are in need of a Board next year that can take us far beyond what we ever dreamed of SEDS becoming.

Though SEDS stands at this wondrous moment in time, we also stand broken. Our communications have often been lost, opportunities have been forgone, and potential has been wasted. Efforts by this year’s Board have gone to incredible lengths to fix these divides in our organization, but we have miles to go.

Spending the last year studying and learning the ins and outs of the organization as a whole has prepared me with an understanding and inspired me with a thousand ideas for projects, how to increase collaboration with the industry and academia, how to increase communications between national and the chapters, and, most importantly, how to ensure SEDS’ future. It starts with the right people (all of you!) and ends with something unprecedented. Please come talk to me at any point during the conference and ask me about some of these ideas and strategies, and please, please, please: if you think you could be one next leaders of SEDS, and are ready to help build it, apply to be on our Board.

SEDS changed my life, just as I have watched it change the lives of hundreds of student members over the last two years. At SEDS the sky is never the limit. As Chair, I promise that with the help of all of you, I will lead SEDS faithfully and diligently to the stars.”

Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors

Rachel Lyons


“In my three years of involvement with SEDS, many, if not all, of the opportunities and connections I have made in the industry have been thanks to this wonderful organization. I am committed to helping the organization grow and be successful. I have the experience needed as vice-chair. As Director of Strategic Partnerships of Space for Humanity, my role is to partner with other space organizations for collaboration. I am the former president of UMiami SEDS. Additionally, I am a radio show host at WVUM 90.5 FM, giving me unmatched experience in sharing science and art with the public.”

Rocky D Kimbrell


“I have a number of years of leadership experience ranging from military service to organizatioal. Along with leadership experience I have worked in obtaining sponsorships for projects, events, and organizations. I have an extreme passion for the advancement of my fellow SEDS members and the SEDS organization as a whole. I would absolutely love to be the Vice Chair of SEDS-USA and be a part of pushing SEDS-USA towards the future.”



Rachael McKee


“I am the current Treasurer for SEDS-MSU Denver. I have worked closely with the SEDS-USA budget when chapter grants began. I have helped nail down how much money should be spent and how much money should be saved in order to make our organization long lasting. There is a large amount of trust that must be established when running for this position. I hope that by my performance as At Large Member on the BoD you all have seen how much I care for this organization and the amount of diligence I take when preforming any task.”

Sam Sorkin


“My enthusiasm and skillset makes me an excellent candidate for Treasurer. I have the passion for and dedication to the national organization, having served on the SEDS staff since last February as the Social Media Coordinator. I also have developed a strong rapport with the other staff members and the Board of Directors. As an economics major, I have developed a strong mathematics and statistics background. Additionally, I serve on the Executive Board of the USC Applied Statistics Club. Next semester I will be taking an accounting class that complements my major coursework. Furthermore, having co-founded and served as president of SEDS at the University of Southern California, I can bring knowledge and expertise from leading a SEDS university chapter.”

Dan Hirst


“I love SEDS and want to be part of how the organisation functions. I am good at numbers and want to learn about the finances of such an institution. And, as a no -resident alien, I would argue there is no bureaucracy more challenging than US visa immigration.”


Christopher Bert


“Realizing ambitious objectives in an organization such as SEDS is dependent not only on vision and passion but also on significant underlying efforts that stitch people, resources, and information together. The latter describes much of the secretary’s work, and I believe that stepping forward in this type of role is a common thread through my past leadership positions. Whether in Boy Scouts, musical ensembles, or project teams, I have helped build these foundations and would relish the continued opportunity to do so for SEDS-USA.

In addition to my preparation specifically for the role of secretary, I firmly believe that SEDS would benefit from having a graduate student on the Board of Directors (BoD). As the PhD program cultivates my long-term thinking and provides insight into the world of professional research, I would add that perspective to the BoD for the improvement of it’s service to chapters and members. Plus, my hope is to help open doors to increased graduate student involvement in SEDS as we strive to diversify the disciplines included in our push to explore and develop space.”

Chair of the Council of Chapters

Nathaniel Peirson

“I believe that one of the fundamental strengths of SEDS is its unity and connectivity. I see the CoC Chair as an opportunity to strengthen the organization by proactively communicating with chapters to build lasting solidarity. Cultivating personal relationships with our chapters will improve information flow that can guide national board decisions, ensure that members get the support they need to flourish, and improve our internal documentation to predict needs before they arise. SEDS is the aggregate of its chapters, and for this reason I consider the health of the CoC an uppermost priority.”

Gautham Viswaroopan


“I have been a part of CU SEDS for 5 years now and have seen the dynamic impact this program has on our students. When I joined in 2013, I was the only freshman in a group of 12 members whom were purely focused in aerospace yet I was a mechanical engineer. The activity and experiences were low so I decided to take the first step. From molding, growing, expanding, and networking, I grew to executive chapter member, secretary, outreach, and now president for two years now. My organization currently runs a society of 80 active members, 4 active projects, a board of 8 dedicated space nerds, and an expansion of involvement to all branches of engineering and (astro)physics.

After having interconnected 9 organizations of my university to combine skilled members into unique projects, events, and experiences, I would like to interconnect our chapters and help increase the value of SEDS across the nation.

Though my foci do not go into accounting, I have however developed a website that helps teach students and create an intellectual network that I make my university organizations and in-state SEDS chapters coalesce and make a difference in the approach to learning. We currently use this site to run our hyperloop project and keep intellectual patent confided but activity open. This drive and motivation is the enigmatic push I would like all students to approach SEDS with in order to bolster an armada of SEDS chapters that can make all the difference of an average college student’s educational trek.”

Zachary Stein


“I have the organization and coordination that is vital to convey the sense of unity, clarity, and comradery among the various SEDS-USA chapters. I know it is with these elements that transforms our local individual chapters from being a group of people with an interest in space into a national organization with the passion and drive to excel and excite the future with regards to space exploration and development. Also being the CoC Representative for SEDS-UCF, I have the experience and the understanding of what is required to listen to, meet, and answer the needs and concerns of the ever growing number of SEDS chapters and the Board of Directors.”

Members at Large (2 positions)*

Rachael McKee


“I am the current At-Large Board member and I have loved every second of it. I owe everything to this organization because it has opened a ridiculous amount of doors for myself and my friends. I came to the board last year because Andrew Newman told me I should run for a position, little did I know what that actually entailed. I have helped create and execute Chapter Grants. I have helped with the development of relationships between the organization and sponsors. I am becoming the main manager of Student on Capitol Hill in order to get SEDS heavily involved with policy and advocacy in Washington, DC or your home district. The board has become the backbone for my leadership and teamwork skills. I could not have done any of the above actions without the Board of Directors, staff, or SEDS members support. If elected again, I hope to make our organization everlasting by helping to shape and develop a “Board of Alumni”. This board would consist of alumni members that have close access to the industry and can help develop future sponsors. This is not something new in SEDS-USA terms so I hope to help nail down final thoughts and make this board official with the approval of you, our members. I love everything about this organization, and hope to continue on as your At-Large board member. The only thing I love more than this organization, is space itself. Ad astra.”

Yash Chandramouli


“I want to be an At-Large Member because I have a strong background in planning and executing initiatives and I know the work that needs to be done (both the exciting stuff and the more tedious but necessary work) in order to turn an idea into a sustainable event. I co-founded the Georgia Tech chapter of SEDS this year, and have worked hard to ensure that it has a strong foundation to grow on, not only doing the exciting work of designing events such as a NewSpace panel/job fair and a Kerbal Space Program XPrize, but also putting in the time for the administrative tasks needed to charter the organization and recruit new members.

Outside of SEDS, I have led and expanded the only tutoring program through the school of Aerospace Engineering as Vice President of the Georgia Tech chapter of Sigma Gamma Tau. However, perhaps most relevant to the role, I have served as both COO and Member At Large for the Georgia Tech Student Foundation, a philanthropic foundation with a $1.3 million endowment. In my roles with that organization I led an outreach initiative that reached record-high donor numbers for the organization, executed multiple events that reached over 900 people each, and worked internally to create a new award and lead the update of our semesterly process whereby we allocate $20,000 a semester to student initiatives. Being a part of the judging for that allocations process itself has also made me very aware of what it takes to create a successful initiative and I have learned to leverage that knowledge towards ensuring that my own initiatives are not only creative and exciting, but have the necessary administrative infrastructure to succeed and be sustainable.

Overall I want to be an At-Large Member because I am full of new ideas, and more importantly than that I am confident in my ability to follow through with those ideas with little outside guidance. I am passionate about SEDS and what it stands for and I would love to leverage my experience with event-planning and the creation of new initiatives towards the continued success of the organization. ”

Daniel Hirst


“I came to the US from the UK to fulfill my dream to work in the space industry, which is what led me to SEDS. I have extensive experience teaching astronomy and robotics to high school and college students, allowing me to lead groups and convey ideas effectively. My experiences have also allowed me to conceive, organize and lead events of up to 300 people that would enable me to carry out my position diligently. I truly believe I possess the skills to excel at this position.”

Fernando Aguirre


“I believe that my background in applied physics and leadership experience will allow me to effectively play the role of an At-Large Board Member. As one of the veteran undergraduates in Geospace Physics Lab, not only do I work on independent coding and simulation projects but also on teaching new research assistants how to build and troubleshoot electronic components in the lab. Delegating lab work eases my burden as well as building confidence and trust in the new research assistants; therefore, incorporating their independence in work without heavy oversight. The same approach pertains to my side projects that include an FIT-SEDS drone competition as a team lead and a space mission design to asteroid 2016 HO3 as the science team lead. Although different in situation, goals, and teammates, both teams require an interpolation of research and application which rely on relaying tasks to the proper people. My leadership provides the vital confidence and organizational skills that the members need to remain on track.”

*note on Members at Large: there are two identical Member at Large positions at SEDS USA. When voting, choose your two favorite candidates, and when voting closes the votes are combined and the candidates with the 1st and 2nd highest number of votes will become the two Members at Large.


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