5 Questions with Aerospace Engineering Senior Grace Calkins

October 16, 2020

photo of grace calkins in remot office
Grace Calkins giving her final presentation for her remote internship at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory..

Grace Calkins, a senior in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and the student director of engineering for the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab, discusses her inspiration for pursuing a career in aerospace engineering, how being involved with student groups has made a difference, and how she’s coping with the transition to virtual learning during the global pandemic.

Why did you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree? 

I wanted to be an aerospace engineer after I attended an earth science camp at NASA Langley in 8th grade. I liked aerospace because you can apply many engineering topics – electrical, materials, mechanical and fluids – to a unique, fascinating subset of projects.

How has involvement in student groups made a difference in your education?

Student groups have made an immense difference in my education – both by allowing me to connect to other students across UT and by giving me a place to learn with hands-on projects. I have been involved in the Longhorn Rocketry Association, the Texas Spacecraft Lab, and the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab in the aerospace field. When applying for internships, jobs and grad school, I know that the experiences of teamwork, leadership and real engineering projects with no answers in the back of the book makes me stand out. I also was a member of the Texas Polo Team (horses not water!), which was loads of fun.

How are you adapting to this new form of virtual learning and communication due to the pandemic?

I am not going to lie, learning virtually has been pretty hard. I have made sure now more than ever to go to office hours for my TAs and professors, so I still get some "face-to-face" learning opportunities. I also am a big fan of going on at least one walk/outing per day to reduce my screen time. Socializing outdoors (following social distancing guidelines) at Zilker and other Austin parks have been game changing.

What helps you stay motivated?

As a senior, I am really excited for what's next. I am looking forward to going to graduate school after this year, so researching all the cool places I could go for future studies has been a good way to break out of the everyday monotony. I also have a great core group of friends who help me stay motivated on school. Finally, my extracurricular work in TREL has also kept me going. Being able to go into the lab to work on hardware has helped shift my perspective and keep my focus on what's next.

What advice can you offer for current and prospective students?

Zoom study sessions are really helpful! You have to be really clear about what problem you are facing when you talk to someone over the phone/over the internet, which forces you to understand your own problems better. 

Read the full student profile