Group photo volleyball

The SHUTTLE Lab @ Michigan

Em Buten (she/her/ella)

Ph.D. Student, Engineering Education Research

[email protected]

While completing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Dayton in Mechanical Engineering, I became interested in learning how students become professional engineers. Now, my research focuses on individuals’ transition from students to professional engineers and how activities outside of the classroom can impact students’ development. Specifically, I’m interested in studying experiential learning opportunities and their impact on students’ professional development. If the weather is nice I enjoy being outside and rock climbing, but if it’s winter I spend my time cooking and reading.

“What fictional universe would you live in?”: I would choose to live on Pandora from the Avatar movies as long as I’m one of the Avatar. I’d love to experience a universe where the residents and the planet are in a harmonious relationship. Plus I’d get to be outside every day. 

Beyonce Cruz

Undergraduate Research Assistant, Aerospace Engineering

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My research is dedicated to delving into the experiences of undergraduate engineering students originating from low-income or rural backgrounds. Additionally, I’m passionate about integrating macroethics into undergraduate engineering curricula. I’m originally from San Antonio, TX and  currently pursuing a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Philosophy. When I’m not immersed in school activities, you’ll probably find me still on campus or embarking on adventures across Michigan with my friends.

“What fictional universe would you live in?”: If I could exist in any fictional universe, I’d choose the Pokemon world, where I could go on exciting adventures, encounter various Pokemon, and explore vibrant landscapes. 

Cynthia Deneus

Undergraduate Research Assistant, Aerospace Engineering

[email protected]

Currently, I am an undergraduate sophomore student majoring in Aerospace Engineering and minoring in Material Science Engineering. Project teams have always been a core part of my education, whether that be in high school or college. I’ve always wondered if these hands-on learning experiences impact the way I learn in school. This exact reason is what led me to the lab. Outside of the lab, I am a part of student-led organizations Woman in Aeronautics and Astronautics (WAA), Black Students in Aerospace (BSA), project teams, and play rugby for University of Michigan. 

“What fictional universe would you live in?”: Since I am a fan of fantasy lands, I would live wherever Wizards in a Wizardly takes place in. Imagine co-existing with werewolves, vampires, zombies, monsters, and wizards. I think that would be a cool life to live!

Aaron Johnson (he/him/his)

Assistant Professor, Aerospace Engineering
Core Faculty Member, Engineering Education Research Program

[email protected]

My research focuses on how we can re-contextualize engineering science engineering courses to better reflect and prepare students for the reality of ill-defined, sociotechnical engineering practice. I received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from U-M, and a Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to re-joining U-M, I was an instructor in Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. All of these prior experiences in aerospace engineering really motivate my interest in design-based research that has a tight integration between engineering education research and practice. I’m also committed to empowering students and working for social justice within aerospace engineering practice and education. Outside of work I enjoy reading, collecting LEGO NASA sets, biking, camping, and playing disc golf. I hope that you also make time for fun activities in your life, especially if you’re a student!

“What fictional universe would you live in?”:  New New York from Futurama would be quite exciting.  Perhaps they have an engineering education research program at Mars University…

Sabrina (Aria) Olson

Ph.D. Student, Aerospace Engineering

[email protected]

After completing my B.S. in aerospace at U-M, I pivoted and obtained my M.S. in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering from California Polytechnic State University. Before returning to U-M to pursue my Ph.D. in aerospace, I spent a gap year teaching as a lecturer at Cal Poly. My experience teaching has led me to seek out a research pathway that falls within the realm of both engineering education and space systems – I am particularly interested in the intersection of macroethics and technical engineering education.
I am jointly advised by Dr. Aaron Johnson and Dr. Oliver Jia-Richards and am also a part of Dr. Jia-Richard’s lab, SSL.

“What fictional universe would you live in?”: If I were to live in a fictional universe, I would pick Middle-Earth as I’m very much a fan of Tolkien’s work. In my free time I enjoy climbing and hiking, and I would love to be able to wander around in the vast forests of Lorien and Mirkwood.

Boomer Perry

Graduate Research Assistant, Aerospace Engineering

[email protected]

The privilege of pursuing a degree of higher education has provided me with so many opportunities I never knew were possible. For some reason school has always “worked” for me, which makes me wonder why that is and how to make quality education accessible to all students. I was very close to becoming a special education teacher, and performing engineering education research helps to keep my passion for education alive. Currently, I am researching how undergraduate engineering courses can better emulate the knowledge and skills needed for industry.

Outside of school I help coach Special Olympics sports teams, and love to read and lift weights.

“What fictional universe would you live in?”: I would live in Narnia, I was obsessed with the books and movies as a kid and C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. It’s such a magical place and I feel like Aslan and I would be best buddies (I know what happens to him, don’t ruin it for me).

Betsy Strehl (she/her/hers)

Ph.D. Student, Engineering Education Research

[email protected]

My research focuses on understanding the experience of undergraduate engineering students from low-income or rural backgrounds and embedding macroethics into undergraduate engineering curricula. I earned a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from U-M, with a minor in Applied Mathematics, but spent the last few years teaching at a high school in Gallup, New Mexico. Outside of work, I enjoy reading, watching terrible reality TV, and volunteering at local after-school programs. 

“What fictional universe would you live in?”: If I could live in any fictional universe, I’d want to live in Middle Earth, specifically Hobbiton, and hang out with legends Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took. 

Cindy Wheaton

Undergraduate Research Assistant, Civil Engineering

[email protected]

I am a senior in Civil Engineering and I am interested in how the built environment impacts and influences a community. My interest in all the SHUTTLE lab projects are similar in that I am interested in how the surroundings of the structure that is engineering education impact and influence the students’ perspective on their environment and vice versa. 

I love all things music and some say too frequently attend concerts. I am a freeform radio dj at the campus radio station WCBN. I love art museums and botanical gardens.

“What fictional universe would you live in?” The Percy Jackson universe is kinda already set in the real world, but I think the demigod camps and Olympus and all the magical spaces would be fun to be involved in.

“Extravehicular” Collaborators

Corey Bowen (she/hers)

I am an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at California State University, Los Angeles. There, I teach undergraduate courses in the college of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology and do research on systems of oppression and liberation in engineering and engineering education. I am particularly interested in critical pedagogy, critical quantitative research methodology, labor organizing, and theoretical development advocating for social justice. I have master’s and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering from U-M, and a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Case Western Reserve University. In my spare time, I love trail and snowshoe running, snowboarding, playing tennis, collecting and sorting books, and baking.

“What fictional universe would you live in?”: I’d have to go with Middle Earth. As long as I could live in the Shire prior to the Scouring (which was happily avoided in Peter Jackson’s films).


Megan Ennis (she/her)

Aerospace Engineer MSE 2023