photo of grace calkins

Grace Calkins


Aerospace Engineering

Technical Area

Space Flight


Lanexa, VA

What made 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.

What has been your biggest reward while pursuing your aerospace degree at UT?

My greatest reward was getting my internship at NASA Langley after my sophomore year. As the end of spring semester neared, I did not have a solid summer plan and had pretty much given up on internships. One night, after studying with friends, I listened to my voicemails and heard the offer. I was over the moon excited, and I learned so much from that experience that I can apply to my classes and student projects here.

Who has been your most influential ASE or EM professor and why?

Dr. Mahalingham has been the best professor I have had so far. I went into Low Speed Aerodynamics expecting it to be a more boring class I just had to take to get to the exciting, higher level classes, but I was inspired by Mahalingham's passion for the topic. After that class, I knew I wanted to learn more about the fluids side of aerospace.

What has been your most influential ASE or EM course and why?

My favorite courses have been the fluids courses I have taken – Low Speed Aerodynamics and Compressible Flow. I was so interested by the transfer of energy in flows and the applications to aircraft (and spacecraft) design.

Has involvement in student groups and/or organizations 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 do you plan to use your degree in the future?

Right now, my plan is to get a masters, hopefully abroad. I want to take the foundation I have gotten here at UT and build on it so that when I enter the workplace, either in academia or industry, I have a good idea of what my dream job looks like.

If you participated in study abroad, please include a brief description about your experience.

I studied abroad with a UT Maymester for Engineering Design and Graphics in summer 2018 in Freiburg, Germany. It was the most fun I have ever had –I got to travel to Paris, Geneva and Vienna on weekend trips too. Learning about engineering fundamentals in Germany, which is renowned for the quality of their engineering products, was a great way for me to understand the skills needed to be a great professional engineer. We also toured some companies –Northrop Grumman office and Grohe.

Where is your favorite place to study?

I love studying in the Fine Arts Library when I really need to be productive, but if I just want to hang out, my top choice is the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab in EERC.

What are some things you really enjoy about living in Austin, TX?

I am a big hiker, and so I love being 30 minutes away from a whole bunch of nature. I never lived in a city before Austin, so being able to walk to places to eat and shop has been awesome. Everyone says that the food is awesome – but that's because it is. Not only is the Tex-Mex super great, but there is awesome Asian food and barbecue too. Pro tip – if you like to run or hammock, the Shoal Creek Greenbelt and Pease Park are a 10-20 minute walk from campus and usually pretty quiet.

List three things that most people don't know about you.
  • I rode and jumped horses growing up, and I love animals so much I also went into biology to work at a conservation-focused Zoo.

  • I am minoring in Latin. I went to a liberal arts-focused high school, and I loved the classics we had to read.

  • I have a leopard gecko named Banana and she is the best gecko in the world.