KirstenGradelMAE

KirstenG1In my fifth grade yearbook, when asked to state what I wanted to be when I grow up, I said “an aerospace engineer” because I was inspired to study airplanes from a very young age.  At this age, I was inspired to study airplanes even though I hadn’t even realized what being an aerospace engineer would encompass.  Neither of my parents were engineers, but they supported my decision from the beginning.  When it came time to apply for college, I knew that I wanted an engineering school with a stellar reputation, and I chose UCLA.

As the current President of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and a member for the past four years and as a student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, I’ve had many great opportunities. 

AIAA helps connect students with the Aerospace Industry through workshops and info sessions, which has been a great asset for many of us as we prepare for graduation.  AIAA also gets students involved in multiple hands on projects including the Design-Build-Fly Project, the Rocket Project and the Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Project.  All of these competitions give our students the opportunity to step up into leadership roles and learn a lot about our field.  It has been very rewarding for me to be a part of so many students’ involvement with AIAA, since the club really helps guide students in learning what kinds of industry projects and internships they might be interested in.

I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with other engineering students as well.  Last year, I was the Director of Materials for the Concrete Canoe Competition coordinated by ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers).  The year before, I actually paddled the concrete canoe in the competition, which went all the way to nationals.  This year, as we’re preparing for graduation, I’ve joined the Senior Class Campaign (SCC) Committee, where students from all seven departments work together to leave an impact on our School.

One project that I’m currently working on is a collaboration with USC graduate students.  We’re submitting a 100-page design proposal for a Transonic Stealth Bomber in June for the AIAA Foundation Graduate Team Aircraft Design Competition.

Outside of engineering, I’m a member of the Chi Omega sorority and also participated in UCLA’s California Teach Program, where I spent one day a week helping teach fifth graders math and science at UCLA’s Lab School.  The quarter culminated with me developing and teaching a full lesson plan for the class.  This experience was really inspiring to me because it made me realize how far I had come and how much I had learned.  To be able to motivate the kids, especially to help them enjoy what they were learning in math and science, was such a rewarding experience.  Even working with a small group of students once or twice a week made a huge impact, which is what I wanted to accomplish.

Growing up in Seattle, I was surrounded by the aerospace industry, so I’m excited to be heading back to Seattle after graduation to work for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.  I interned for Boeing for the past two summers, both in Propulsion Systems Engineering and in Aerodynamics Performance Engineering.  I know that my education and all the experiences I’ve had at UCLA have prepared me for my new job and I’m excited to be joining our fabulous group of Bruin Engineer Alumni across the world. 

My fellow engineering classmates and the engineering groups that I became invested in during my time here at UCLA have influenced and motivated me more than anything.  Being surrounded by friends who share the same passions that you do is such a stimulating environment to be in and I can’t imagine having more genuine and intelligent peers than the ones I’ve had at UCLA.  I know that I will carry my experiences that I’ve gained here at UCLA with me throughout my career and even in my personal life.