In the Field: Katelyn Kufahl

The phrase “STEM career” is a vague term that actually represents an exciting array of jobs. For STEM month, we at Girl Scouts of Central Maryland would like to introduce you to several women who work in STEM fields. They will tell you in their own words why STEM careers are the best!


 

Katelyn KufahjlKatelyn Kufahl
Electrical Engineer at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Education History: Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Electrical Engineering, Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering in progress

What do you do?
I work on a NASA mission called Solar Probe Plus, which is a spacecraft that will launch toward the Sun in 2018 and collect scientific data from up close. My group is in charge of making a special radio transceiver on the spacecraft, which is used to communicate with it after it has left the Earth.

How did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
I always loved outer space when I was a child. Later, in college, I figured out that you can do “space” for your job.

What is a typical day like at your job?
I work in an electronics laboratory where you have to wear a special coat and wrist strap to prevent static electricity. I spend a lot of time running tests on the special radio, writing computer programs to help run those tests, and figuring out what the problem is if the test doesn’t work properly.

What is the best part of your job?
The project I am working on will end up in outer space, and will give back to us scientific knowledge about our universe. I love that. I feel like I’m living the dream!

What is the most surprising thing that you have discovered about your field?
As everyday users of modern technology, we underappreciate its beauty and complexity. In studying physics or electrical engineering, you begin to see how even the simplest of our electronic devices require hundreds of years’ worth of scientific progress and sophisticated mathematics to create. Almost daily at my job I feel surprised by how complicated it is to make a radio from scratch.

What did you have to learn in order to do what you do?
Computer programming and some heavy-duty math.

What is one piece of advice you would give to girls about careers in STEM?
Studying a STEM subject in college is not easy for anybody, but it is very rewarding in the end. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, but rather how interested you are and how hard you are willing to work for your own learning.

What is something girls should know about STEM?
At school or at work, there might not be a lot of girls around. Make sure you have enough time with your girl friends to balance out your social world a little.

Were you a Girl Scout?
No (but I wish I had been!)

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