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University of Missouri

Planes, Chemistry and Automobiles

Kate Nolan graduated in May 2013, then moved to St. Louis to work with fighter jets.

Kate Nolan

Kate Nolan. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

In the space of two months in 2013, Kate Nolan graduated from Mizzou, started a full-time job at Boeing in St. Louis and bought her first new car.

It was a good year.

Growing up in St. Louis, Nolan, BS ChE ’13, knew she wanted to do something in the math and science fields. One day when she was in middle school, her dad, an electrical engineer, brought home an engineering careers magazine. She remembers flipping through and being enamored with chemical engineering.

“I didn’t know much about chemistry other than H2O is water,” Nolan says. Nevertheless, the idea stuck. Engineering camp at Mizzou before her senior year of high school confirmed it.

At Mizzou, Nolan never sat still. She minored in German; earned an honors certificate through the Honors College; spent two years in the Discovery Fellows undergraduate research program; performed on her church’s praise team; cheered for four years in Tiger’s Lair and Zou Crew; got involved in MU’s section of the Society of Women Engineers, eventually serving as president; recruited for the College of Engineering through the Mizzou Engineering Ambassadors program; and interned with Lexmark in Lexington, Ky., and Boeing in Seattle.

By the start of spring semester senior year, she accepted her job at Boeing, working with fighter jets, including the F/A-18 and F-15.

“It took me a long time to process, I have a full-time job offer from Boeing,” she says. “It was really exciting.”

Her new office is mere feet from the production floor where she helps troubleshoot problems, reviews new materials used in the planes and ensures the various chemicals used are not hazardous.

But of course that’s not all. She’s also involved in a professional section of the Society of Women Engineers, serves on the College of Engineering’s Recent Alumni Development Board and is involved in a program at Boeing for young professionals. She’s finding she loves not having homework and getting a paycheck, rather than a grade, for her work.

“Engineering is way more fun in the real world than in school,” she says. “I’m really excited … to not have a major final looming over me.”