40 under 40 — Akil Middleton
Rho Alpha, 2008 — Recognized in: 2020
Graduating in 2008 with a B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics, Akil immediately returned to MIT to pursue his Master of Science degree in the same field. As a graduate fellow at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, his thesis centered around design and simulation of a new lunar exploration vehicle. After graduating Akil received a full-time offer at Draper where he remains to this day. In the almost 10 years since, Akil has worked on a variety of projects involving flight vehicles and autonomous systems as part of the Autonomy and Perception Group. He has led various teams: to develop unique guidance solutions for autonomous parafoils, to create robots that work alongside a human squad, and to design a mission manager for an in-orbit satellite servicer.
On the volunteer side, Akil is the chair of the board of the Association of Independent Living Groups (AILG)–the organization that coordinates between the alumni boards of MIT’s fraternities and sororities and represents the alumni to school administration. Last year he led the board and the community on a redesign of the longstanding peer Accreditation Program, resulting in a refresh that better suits today’s students and alumni. Currently, he is working closely with MIT administration to provide relief and support to the independent living groups as a result of various COVID-19 measures.
“I credit much of my success in all my work to experience and lessons learned with Zeta Psi, both as an active and elder. Communication, organization, and taking smart risks are definitely valuable skills that not everyone has, and I was able to develop these in undergrad and even in my early days on Rho Alpha’s Elder Board. I find there’s a lot of synergy between my various “hats”. For example, there are project planning techniques I learn at Draper that I can apply to our Elder Board, and there are ways our Elder Board functions that I try with the AILG, and vice versa. And these experiences give me confidence to take charge of tasks at the office. To the actives: you may not realize it now, but much of what you’re doing within your chapter will pay off!”
Akil also co-authored a paper on an experimental space suit, designed to help astronauts stay oriented while in zero-g. You can find it here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnsys.2015.00055/full