Young Alumni Award (Est. 2020)

The Young Alumni Award is bestowed upon alumni by the University of Illinois Alumni Association on behalf of the University of Illinois. This award recognizes alumni who are under the age of 35, and who have emerged as early leaders in their respective professional or civic endeavors. These individuals have demonstrated leadership and innovation and have proven themselves to be exceptional ambassadors for the University’s recent graduate and young alumni communities.

2023 Recipient

  • Douglas A. Litteken, 11 ENG, MS ’16 ENG

    Douglas A. Litteken is a structural engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He is an expert in the emerging field of structural softgoods, including inflatable habitats, made of high-strength, flexible materials that provide impact resistance, durability and stiffness comparable to metallic structures. His expertise focuses on the design, analysis and testing of crewed inflatable softgoods structures including low-Earth orbit space stations, lunar surface habitats, airlocks and Mars transit vehicles. He supports the International Space Station program as the manager for the Bigelow Expandable Activities Module, the only human-rated inflatable habitat, and recently concluded six years as a structural manager for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. His efforts led to a successful Artemis I test flight in 2022 that took the Orion vehicle on its first trip to the far side of the Moon.

    Litteken has helped to shift the paradigm of space structures within NASA and across the aerospace industry. As a young engineer, he developed collaborative groups to bring together engineers from across NASA, including an early-career forum and a structural softgoods working group. He currently works remotely and is developing post-pandemic strategies to incorporate hybrid in-office and work-from-home models.

    At the University of Illinois, Litteken excelled as a student leader, taught courses as an engineering learning assistant and held numerous management roles in Engineering Student Alumni Ambassadors and the Engineering Open House committee. His dedication to alumni relations continued upon graduation as an active member of the Houston Illini Club, where he served as the director of activities and club president from 2018 to 2021.

Past Recipients

  • 2022

    • Arshan Nasir, MS ’12 ACES, PHD ’15 GC

  • 2020

    • Markita Landry, PHD ’12 LAS