Kendra Schuettpelz earned her optical engineering degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Here she shares a little about her career and the inspiration behind it.
What is your specific area of STEM?
How would you explain your STEM field to young girls?
I play with lasers. I work with lenses to manipulate how light moves through systems like cameras.
What traits might a child possess that may indicate an interest or aptitude for your STEM field?
Playing with laser pointers, using mirrors to manipulate where the laser beam goes. Playing with magnifying glasses and focusing the light to a point to see what you can set on fire.
What did you know about your STEM field when you were a child?
I didn't realize STEM was something that women didn't do. My parents encouraged me to do whatever I loved. In Girl Scouts we also did some science things... we spent a lot of time outside with bugs and stuff. Somewhere I learned that I wanted to be an astronaut, then in high school I looked into what majors in college I should study to be an astronaut.
Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?
My high school physics teacher had a HUGE impact on me with all the fun hands on experiments. He also taught an astronomy course, and again it was the engagement that I loved! We had to go look at the sky for astronomy class, not just look at pictures in a textbook.
What are some really cool things that people in your profession work on?
Most of my work right now is lidar (light detection and ranging). We build systems that use lasers to characterize the atmosphere (optical turbulence, water vapor profiles, and atmospheric transmission) or to map the sea floor and land profiles.
Some optical engineers also work with the medical field, creating lasers that are used in surgeries. Some optical engineers design car headlights or warehouse lighting.
Anywhere that you see light, lenses, or laser, an optical engineer has been involved.
What inspirational message would you give young girls to inspire them to pursue STEM?
Do you what you love! With STEM the possibilities are endless and you have the ability to change the world!
Thank you for contributing, Kendra!
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