Kennesaw State graduate primed for future in aerospace industry

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 11, 2021

Kristen Padgett
Kristen Padgett

Two years ago, Kennesaw State University student Kristen Padgett couldn’t fully envision herself as an engineer.

Then a sophomore in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (SPCEET), she was admittedly a bit insecure about the prospects of joining an industry where change was the only constant. That is, until she landed her first internship.

“To me, internships represent a major pivot point in my college career because it provided a great deal of perspective and allowed me to carve out my niche in engineering,” said Padgett, who graduates this month with a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering. “All of a sudden, I had an outlet to apply my studies and an avenue to try new things.”

A recipient of the 2020 SPCEET Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award, Padgett has gone on to hold three internships in her time at Kennesaw State, all in the aerospace industry. The daughter of an avionics engineer, she said she was drawn to aerospace engineering at a young age and promptly enrolled in KSU’s minor program after arriving on campus.

She landed her first internship while attending a Society of Women Engineers conference in Minneapolis. There, Padgett met with representatives from Collins Aerospace, who invited her to spend a summer interning at their Iowa location. She later secured an internship with Lockheed Martin. Currently, she serves as a student research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

“As a student researcher, I think it’s important to get experience in several areas so that you can start to figure out where you want to be,” said Padgett, who earned four engineering scholarships as an undergraduate. “I’m fortunate to have so many opportunities to conduct research that impacts Department of Defense projects, spanning everything from electrical engineering to industrial and systems engineering. I would say it has given me a huge boost of confidence as I near graduation, as I will be entering the industry with a great deal of real-world experience that will help me on Day 1.”

Having already fielded a job offer from Lockheed Martin, Padgett anticipates jumping into industry immediately after graduating. Her long-term plan is to pursue a Ph.D. and eventually return to academia with professional experience.

“Kristen has been a model student in her time at KSU and certainly serves as a role model for all who wish to pursue a career in engineering,” said Robert Keyser, associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “It has been a privilege to see her chase a passion and find a way to leave a mark on the aerospace industry.”

– Travis Highfield

Photos by Jason Getz

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit