Early Career Alumnus of the Year
To the outsider, the word ‘aerospace’ can conjure notions of fantastic adventures beyond our world. For those within the industry – like Southern Cross University engineering graduate Mitch Lavelle – reality is more down to Earth.
Mitch is a mechanical engineer at Gilmour Space Technologies, a leading provider of Australian-made launch vehicles and satellite platforms. Established on the Gold Coast in 2013, the company will soon be launching its Eris rockets and G-class satellite (G-Sat) platforms into Low Earth Orbits (LEO).
“I am the Responsible Engineer for the first stage oxidiser tank, as well as the entire second stage of our Eris Block 1 vehicle, with oversight and hands-on roles across the areas of design, analysis, manufacturing, testing and integration,” said Mitch.
“Aerospace is engineering at another level. You have very tight margins of safety in your designs, you are working with extreme temperature and vibration environments, and you need to meet very strict mass budgets. And everything is capped by the reality that you are building something to leave Earth.
“Fortunately, I’m part of an amazing team aiming to achieve something important for the future of the Australian aerospace industry. As an engineer, I count my lucky stars – so to speak – because it is such an exciting space in which to work.”
Space is the operative word. As the aerospace industry continues to grow exponentially, what was once ‘the final frontier’ draws ever closer. Thousands of satellite launches are planned for the next few years, so transporting these and other payloads – including astronauts and future space tourists – is big business.
“I'm a young engineer and the next 20 years in aerospace is going to see huge expansion,” said Mitch. “That includes the goal of putting an Australian astronaut in space in an Australian rocket in the next decade.”
The seeds of Mitch’s engineering career were planted on the family macadamia farm at Casino in the Northern Rivers of NSW. Many childhood hours were spent tinkering with go-karts, farm vehicles, radios, tools and other machinery.
After starting his degree at the University of Sydney, Mitch relocated to Southern Cross University in 2016 and was a member of the first student cohort for the Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. He graduated with First Class Honours in 2019 and joined Gilmour Space Technologies in January 2021.
He looks back fondly on his time at Southern Cross University.
“The course material was high standard, but the biggest advantage was such ready access to the lecturers. I thrived on that,” he said.
“Being in a smaller cohort allows you to make stronger connections. A more individual and intimate approach sharpened my skill set and my initiative and it gave me a strong work ethic that I am applying now at Gilmour Space.”
2023 Alumni Impact Award Recipients
Alumnus of the Year, Ben Newton OAM
After graduating from Southern Cross in 2010 with a Bachelor of Psychological Science with Honours, Ben went on to win a gold medal at the 2012 summer Paralympics and was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal in 2014. Ben now works as the Queensland Paralympics High Performance & Development Coach (Wheelchair Rugby) where nurtures talent and inclusivity within the sport.Learn more about Ben
Young Alumnus of the Year, Miranda Luby (dual recipient)
Nominated as an award-winning author, journalist, and copywriter, Miranda’s work spans renowned publications to inspiring novels, showcasing her passion for mental health and conservation issues. A role model for young adults, she inspires and empowers through her talks and workshops where her dedication to community service and impactful storytelling shines through.Learn more about Miranda
Young Alumnus of the Year, Dr Cooper Schouten (dual recipient)
Cooper has completed three degrees including a PhD at Southern Cross. He is the Director of Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods research group and oversees several programs promoting education, research and capacity-building within beekeeping industries in Pacific Island partner countries and Australia. He also teaches into the Regenerative Agriculture program at the University.Learn more about Cooper
International Alumnus of the Year, Dr Sara Shashaani
Completing her Bachelor of Applied Computing at Southern Cross in 2010, Sara is an esteemed researcher in climate-induced learning and prediction. As Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University, she aims to contribute to sustainable solutions and support vulnerable communities.Learn more about Sara
Early Career Alumnus of the Year, Mitch Lavelle
Mitch is a mechanical engineer at Gilmour Space Technologies, leading provider of Australian-made launch vehicles and satellite platforms. The company is on track to launch its Eris rockets and G-class satellite platforms into Low Earth Orbits soon and Mitch is the responsible engineer for the first stage main tank, as well as the entire second stage of the Eris Block 1 vehicle.Learn more about Mitch
Community Impact Alumnus of the Year, Evangeline Wood
Evangeline recently completed a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and is also a volunteer firefighter and Founder and President of Coolamon Community, a group dedicated to connecting Aboriginal mothers with culturally safe healthcare. Evie started Coolamon Community in 2021 and the group has since delivered more than 400 Coolamon cribs to First Nations mothers.Learn more about Evangeline