This engineer turns his sights on the final frontier


Scott Eastbourn had no idea his dream job would be in the Mojave Desert when he came to The University of Akron to major in mechanical engineering. But that’s where he is — working for Virgin Galactic on projects that could change space travel as we know it.

“Honestly, I didn’t have a dream job in mind when I started here,” says Eastbourn, a member of the Honors College during his years at UA. “I focused on doing well in school and learning as much as I could, and thinking that once I got into the co-op program, that would steer me into something I was interested in.”

VIDEO: What Scott says about his Akron Experience

Through four co-op assignments — two with Goodyear, one with FirstEnergy and one with PCC Airfoils in Minerva, he learned about design, manufacturing, testing and energy, and much more.

Take every opportunity to learn

“The internships were where I grew the most,” notes Eastbourn, who is from nearby Stow and a 2005 graduate of Archbishop Hoban High School. “Working alongside people with 20 or 30 years of experience in a company – you can’t help but learn from people like that. Co-ops are the best thing anyone can do to gain experience. They’re a resume booster and they help fund your college education at the same time, so it’s a win-win.”

Scott with R2D2

Scott Eastbourn met R2D2, of "Star Wars" fame, when the robot paid a visit to Virgin Galactic.

From UA, Eastbourn headed to Wright State University. There, he earned an M.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering and worked on projects in the Wright Patterson Air Force Base Research lab.

His combination of study, research and co-op experiences propelled Eastbourn into a job at Virgin Galactic. The commercial company, founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, is focused on using space in fuel efficient and cost effective ways.

Eastbourn, a development engineer on the liquid engine propulsion team, is designing fluid systems layouts for engines that will be used on a small satellite launcher. The vehicle being created could get today’s ever-smaller satellites up in space for a fraction of the current cost.

The opportunity has been “pretty awesome,” says Eastbourn with a wide grin. “It’s an incredible company to work for. It is a culture that doesn’t promote failure, but doesn’t make you afraid to fail, because what we’re doing has never been done before.”

And the pay off when they succeed?

“Seeing something I’ve designed in space.”

Snapshot: Scott Eastbourn

  • Earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Akron in 2010
  • Currently: Development engineer on liquid engine propulsion team at Virgin Galactic
  • Scott returned to campus to speak to new students as part of UA's Honors Leadership Summit.

About this series

Incoming Honors College students got their first year here off to an inspiring start when five young alumni returned to speak to them as part of the Honors Leadership Summit. The annual program is hosted by the Institute for Leadership Advancement within the College of Business Administration. The institute, established in 2012 by a $1 million gift from The J.M. Smucker Company, promotes the development of leaders with the unique combination of knowledge, skills and principles needed to make an impact on their organizations early in their careers.

Other speakers in the series: 

Capping off the series as keynote speaker was Anthony J. Alexander, president and CEO of FirstEnergy Corporation. He spoke about wise and ethical leadership. He earned accounting and law degrees at UA.

In wide-ranging interviews before their presentations, each graduate talked about the value of his or her UA education. From mentors to motivations, from goal setting to overcoming fear and campus involvement, each shaped an Akron Experience that made them ready for everything that has followed.