Engineering grad takes aerospace interest to NASA

Taylor Winkelmann-Kerl
Taylor Winkelmann-Kerl

Ask an Alum | Taylor Winkelmann-Kerl
by Katie Black | University Communication

Editor’s Note — This is part of a conversation series highlighting outstanding Husker alumni on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. Today, we’re featuring Taylor Winkelmann-Kerl. After a trip to the Strategic Air and Space Museum in elementary school, Winkelmann-Kerl was determined to become a rocket scientist. She came to Nebraska as a mechanical engineer searching for aerospace experience, and immersed herself in the aerospace field, gaining experience through undergraduate research and Aerospace Club. Today, that interest in aerospace has turned into a career as she works on the NASA Power Propulsion Element.

Where did your interest in aerospace start?

When I was in elementary school, we took a field trip to the Strategic Air and Space Museum that blew my mind. I remember looking at my dad at the end of the day (who had chaperoned) and telling him I was going to be a rocket scientist. Ever since then, I was the odd kid who set the goal and didn’t waiver from it. I honestly can’t remember ever wanting to be anything else. I’m lucky that even once I learned what it actually meant to be an aerospace engineer, that I still enjoyed it and wanted to pursue it further. I’m even more fortunate that the dream still lives on now that I’m in the industry.

You were pretty involved during college, from the Aerospace Club to undergraduate research. How did that help you prepare for post-grad life?

The skills and experience I got from the Aerospace Club prepared me more than anything else for what it’s like in the industry world. The academic principles that we learned in class surely set great foundations and taught me ways to think about problems, but the actual application and execution of those academic endeavors came through in my extracurricular activities. When I started my job, I already had years of experience presenting to NASA design review boards due to the Aerospace Club and USIP, though I understand now that those review boards were much kinder to undergrad students than they are in “real life.” Ha! But in all seriousness, I had a jump start at understanding expectations and how to ask and answer questions in those crucial situations that every design engineer has to go through at some point, which has helped me set myself apart from my peers.

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