Aerospace Engineering graduate earns multiple top honors, heading back to Auburn for master's degree

Published: Jun 21, 2024 10:00 AM

By Dustin Duncan

In 2020, Emma Signor was making one of the most important decisions of her young life about where to attend college. She knew little about Auburn University besides the men's basketball team's thrilling trip to the Final Four the previous year and its renowned aerospace engineering department, known for its cutting-edge research and distinguished faculty.

All it took was one visit to The Plains, and she was hooked. Fast-forward to 2024, and Signor has cemented herself in the Auburn Family and has some hardware to remind her of her time on campus.

She won:

  • First place in the Southeastern Regional Student Conference hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) for the Region II undergraduate category.
  • The Undergraduate of the Year award from the AIAA Greater Huntsville Section.
  • The Mark A. Spencer Creative Mentorship Award from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering along with her faculty advisor Joe Majdalani, the Hugh and Loeda Francis Chair of Excellence in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Auburn University.

Signor, who graduated this past spring with a degree in aerospace engineering, earned top honors at the regional student conference for her presentation titled "Analytical and Computational Models of Rijke Tube Pressure Waveforms Using a Sigmoidal Temperature Distribution."

"A Rijke tube is an open-ended tube that produces a loud noise when a flame is placed inside and then removed," Signor said.

 Working in Majdalani's Advanced Propulsion Research Laboratory and building on research conducted by Department of Defense Smart Scholar Cody Shelton, Signor's research focuses on analyzing the Rijke tube computationally and studying how adjustments to the flame's length, temperature gain and position within the tube can impact rocket engine performance.

Signor said she wanted to live in the moment at the student conference, trying to soak in the experience, but upon learning of her top honor, she felt a sense of confirmation of her well-earned academic achievement.  

"It was a surreal experience," Signor said. "I wasn't expecting to win. I was there to share my work and enjoy the moment. It was shocking to hear my name called for the award, but it validated all the hard work and sleepless nights."

AIAA presents the Undergraduate Student of the Year Award to an undergraduate student member in recognition of notable technical accomplishments, active engineering research, outstanding service to the AIAA student section, or active STEM outreach in the local community.

Signor learned of her nomination when she received a call from her advisor informing her that she won and that her nomination came from a faculty member in the aerospace department.

"I remember being in disbelief after receiving that call, but it felt great after all the hard work, all-nighters and juggling extracurriculars," she said. "I'm really thankful to have the aerospace department for their support. The faculty keeps in mind that students work nonstop in classes, extracurriculars and research, and they are very committed to student success and submitting them for these types of awards."

Beyond the honors received by Signor, she has been active in several organizations and leadership positions on and off Auburn's campus. She has served as a member of the payload team for the Auburn University Rocketry Association, a Cupola Engineering ambassador, a Society of Women Engineers member and secretary for the Auburn chapter of the AIAA.

After spending the summer of 2024 interning with Dynetics in Huntsville, Signor plans to return to Auburn in the fall to pursue a master's degree in aerospace engineering.

Media Contact: Dustin Duncan,, 334-844-2326
woman holds award standing in front of Auburn University backdrop.

Emma Signor, an aerospace engineering graduate, holds the Mark Spencer Creative Mentorship Award earned at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering annual spring awards ceremony in April 2024. Signor plans to return to Auburn in the fall of 2024 to obtain a master's degree in aerospace engineering.

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