Zion Alioto is a graduate student in the B.S/M.S. Mechanical Engineering program. This combined degree is an accelerated program where students earn their undergraduate and graduate degrees concurrently. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Spring 2021 and is on track to finish his MS in Spring 2022. Initially from Kenai, Alaska, he chose UAF because he loves Alaska and was impressed with the engineering programs at UAF. He opted for the accelerated program as it is more economical and provides him with the same education weight while drastically reducing the time required, thus allowing him to begin his career earlier. He currently serves on the Graduate School Student Advisory Board as a College of Engineering and Mines representative.
Zion’s graduate research work is on solar-assisted small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS). He is developing a flying wing blended wing body variant with a 1.5m wingspan. It will support surveillance, surveying, search and rescue, natural disaster monitoring, and more while remaining relatively small and easily deployable.
Though Zion acknowledges the challenges of graduate school, he credits his family and friends for the sacrifices they’ve made for him and their encouragement and motivation to be his best. Zion is an active member in the Chi Alpha campus ministry. He says, “Chi Alpha has genuinely welcomed me like family and not only helped me initially adjust to college life but also helped me become who I am today.”
Zion encourages incoming graduate students to create a schedule and stick to it. Don’t forget to allocate time for constructive breaks, and don’t try to tough it out to get everything done. “Take time for walks, go on a run, read an unrelated book or something that clears your mind to keep yourself sharp and well-rested. Then you can get back to your research or classwork and be much more productive.”
After graduation, Zion plans to work in the aerospace systems design industry or rapid prototyping. He hopes to continue working with solar-assisted flight, which some companies are currently investing in. Zion says, “I am very fond of building things, so engineering is a natural fit for me. Plus, I am always up for a challenge.”