One of the ways in which SGAC empowers its young professional and student members is by facilitating access to the world’s major space conferences. SGAC is delighted to announce the winners of the second Global Rising Star Award given to individuals that showed outstanding engagement in space activities in their local communities.

The Global Rising Star Award will bring six outstanding SGAC members to Baku, Azerbaijan to participate in the 20th Space Generation Congress (September, 28 –30, 2023) and the 73nd International Astronautical Congress (October 2 – 6, 2023).

We would like to emphasise that this year we received a large volume of high-quality applications and that the selection process was difficult to narrow down to only six candidates. However, we are honoured by the opportunity to recognise the work of our volunteer members to further SGAC’s efforts.

Helen Haile (Eritrea)

I hold a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering and recently completed my Master’s in Space System Engineering. I am SGCE NOPC for Eritrea, I am passionate about promoting the incredible benefits of space exploration for humanity. I actively contribute to the diversity and gender equality team at SGCE (Space Generation Advisory Council) and advocate strongly for inclusivity, particularly in relation to gender and disability, as I firmly believe in equal opportunities for all. My primary focus is raising public awareness and fostering a deeper understanding of the numerous advantages and positive impact that space endeavours have on our society. By combining my academic background, advocacy efforts, and continuous personal growth, I aim to make meaningful contributions to the advancement of space technology, positively influencing society. I am committed to shaping a more inclusive and forward-thinking future for all.

” An inclusive society is something we should all aspire to and inspire to make a change in things we should change.”

Gillian Chin (Singapore)

Gillian is an Assistant Manager and Senior Instructor at Space Faculty Private Limited. In her role, she assists in design, planning, and execution of education and outreach programmes for children and youths, such as International Space Challenge (ISC) and Space Buds, a space immersion programme for kindergartners. These programmes aim to develop a robust talent pool in emerging Space faring nations and raise awareness for Southeast Asia’s space ecosystem. She also serves as the SGAC National Point of Contact for Singapore, the Kibo-ABC Singapore Point of Contact, and a member of the IAF Space Education and Outreach Committee.


“Words cannot describe how honored and grateful I am to be selected as a recipient of the Global Rising Star Scholarship. A huge thank you to SGAC and the community for making it possible for a girl from a country no bigger than a dot on the world map to achieve her space dreams.”

Alita Regi (India)

Alita Regi is a Ph.D. student at the Florida Institute of Technology, studying human-centered design specializing in human space flight. Hailing from the United Arab Emirates, she is an Indian citizen with a deep commitment to promoting STEM and outreach initiatives on a global scale. With an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering and a minor in physics, her academic foundation is complemented by a master’s degree in space sciences. While an intern with NASA Proposal Writing and Evaluation Experience (NPWEE) Academy, her team secured first place and a NASA grant to further develop their project, the Automated Medical Yeoman (AMY). As a researcher, she explores astronaut health and performance within the Deep Space Initiative’s (DSI) Andromeda program, a rigorous 12-month research program. Alongside her academic pursuits, she dedicates her time as a part-time member of the Outreach Organizing Committee with the International Centre for Astronautical Development (ICAD). In recognition of her expertise and dedication, she was bestowed the title of Mars Society Ambassador in 2022 and Space4Girls Ambassador in 2023. Embracing these roles, she actively advocates for STEM education and outreach, empowering students across the globe. Her journey as an aspiring astronaut reached new heights when the International Institute of Astronaut Sciences selected her for the PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Class 2001. Through this esteemed program, she had the privilege of collaborating with fellow space enthusiasts from various nations. She honed her skills in mitigating G-induced blackouts through mechanical countermeasures and AGSM breathing techniques, undertaking rigorous training sessions in an Extra 300L Aerobatic aircraft. Outside her academic pursuits, she holds open-water diver certification and a UAV-FAA Part 107 license.

“Receiving this scholarship fills me with an overwhelming sense of honor as I recognize its remarkable capacity to ignite a flame of leadership and STEM outreach within me. It empowers me to wholeheartedly pursue my dreams while inspiring me to create pathways for others to embrace their potential. Together, we can forge a future teeming with endless opportunities for personal growth and collective success”

Ilaria Merli (Switzerland)

Specialising in medical technologies for human spaceflight, Ilaria Merli is committed to enabling the future of humankind exploring deep space and to investigating the role this endeavour plays in protecting the health of communities on Earth.
Academically, Ilaria is pursuing a graduate degree in Biomedical Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zürich) and holds an undergraduate degree in Health Sciences and Technology from the same university. As part of her studies, she completed two training courses related to space medicine at ESA Academy as well as a traineeship with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Medicine Team at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. There, she contributed to the development of a comprehensive medical system for the upcoming crewed exploration missions to the Moon and beyond. Next to her university studies, she is working part-time as a project manager at ETH Zürich’s Institute for Astrophysics. In that position, she manages a team of engineers and scientists that contributes to the world’s largest radio telescope which is currently being built in South Africa. To enrich her professional and academic profile, she actively engages in various space-related endeavours such as space analog missions, outreach activities and mentorship programs.

“When I joined the SGAC a few years ago, I could have never imagined on what an exciting journey I was about to embark on. Today, receiving this award that enables me to attend SGC & IAC in Azerbaijan fills me with deep appreciation and honour, and I sincerely thank the SGAC for this invaluable opportunity.”

David Andres Diaz (Colombia)

David Diaz is an aerospace engineering student from last semester at the Universidad de Antioquia. As part of one of the first ten aerospace engineers in his country, he has worked in applied research field for more than four years. David is the founder and former coordinator of Voyager, the first aerospace research group at Universidad de Antioquia, and implemented STEAM aerospace projects with children from 11 to 16 years old in his community, Rionegro, Antioquia. He was the executive officer of the EAR analog crew at the analog mission held in September 2022. He excelled as team leader of the ENCANTO team in the Space Design Mission Contest 2022 of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and also supported the 8th South American SGAC Workshop as program team leader. He has been working as a volunteer with indigineous communities in La Guajira for three years.At the moment, David works as a system engineer for the the design mission team at the FACSAT program of the Colombian Air Force. He is a natural leader who has motivated all his classmates to be part of the research groups and develop projects that can change Colombia.

“I am honoured to be awarded with the Global Rising Star Award. For the time I have been part of the SGAC I have noticed the impact it has had through my career and thaught me the opportunities we have from emerging countries

 Fiorella Arias-Bonilla (Costa Rica)

As Co-founder and Lead Strategist of Orbital Space Technologies, Fiorella has made significant contributions in the fields of Space Biology, Entrepreneurship, Space for Sustainability, and Science Diplomacy. Her achievements have earned her recognition as a Latin American Leader in Biotechnology 2021 by the Allbiotech organization and as an Emerging Space Leader 2021 by the International Astronautical Federation, acknowledging her expertise and accomplishments. Fiorella is part of the MUSA Project, which secured First Place in the ICECubes category and received the International Academy of Astronautics Award at the Tokyo 2019 Mission Idea Contest hosted by UNISEC, further showcasing her dedication to advancing space research applications. Additionally, Fiorella has been a member of SGAC since 2019, taking on roles such as Event Manager of the 4th NCAC SGW and Communications Manager for the North, Central America, and the Caribbean Region. Currently, she is contributing her expertise as an advisor to the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica, working on the development of the Costa Rica National Bioeconomy Law, as part of her efforts to endorse the development of new sustainable bioproduction systems.

“I am profoundly grateful and overjoyed to have been granted this scholarship. I wholeheartedly embrace this opportunity, knowing that it offers a powerful opportunity to pave the way for my goals to take flight. Thank you.”