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Mav Roundup

Focused on the Stars

Doctoral student earns prestigious fellowship

Kelly Patterson

Kelly Patterson

Civil engineering doctoral student Kelly Patterson had her sights set on reaching the stars. A practicing engineer for several years, first as an aerospace machinist and then as a space launch officer for the Atlas V rocket with the U.S. Air Force, she was determined to become an astronaut. She was on her way to achieving that goal when an injury forced her to retire.

Now, Patterson’s focus has shifted from exploring space to the structures that support that exploration, serving as director of space launch complex construction for a private aerospace firm.

For dedication to her field and outstanding work, she received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship provides financial support and opportunities for research and professional development at institutions worldwide.

“I’m grateful to have received this fellowship because it’ll allow me to move to campus full time,” she says. “But the real value is in the network it provides, with access to NSF supercomputers, conferences, and fellow graduate students.”

Patterson credits the immense scale of space launch complex construction with her shift to structural engineering.

“A space rocket embodies possibility; it embodies progress and opportunity,” she says. “Infrastructure, be it the launch pads that lead to stars or the roads that lead to schools, provides opportunities for and access to the future for all.”

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