Stars of Into the Unknown – Katheryn Friend

Katheryn Friend


Katheryn Friend


Mechanical Engineer

Job Title:

Integration & Test Engineer/Manager

What that means:

I make sure all the major parts of the satellite get put together correctly and then tested to make sure the satellite works as it is supposed to before we ship it to the launch site to go onto space.

I grew up in:

Riverside, California

Who/what inspired me to do what I am doing now:

I remember getting to go to my Grandmother’s house to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. To this day I like to look at the moon and think about what an amazing accomplishment that was. I wanted to be part of something like that. As a kid I always enjoyed taking things apart and trying to put them back together in a better way.

I went to College/University at:

University of California at Davis

I hold a degree(s) in the following areas:

BS Mechanical Engineering

What I’m most looking forward to seeing or learning about from JWST:

I hope that JWST will look at the atmospheres of planets in the goldilocks zone and we will find proof that life exists on another planet!

Advice someone once gave me that really impacted me:

Do what you love, love what you do.

Share an experience or obstacle you’ve experienced in school or early career and how you overcame it:

I really struggled in college to get good grades because I did not have good study skills. I learned to ask for help from classmates, teachers and tutors. And I learned that learning and finishing college is the goal.

What I do in my spare time:

I like to read, go camping, go snow skiing and just be in the outdoors.

What do you feel is the world’s greatest scientific accomplishment?

Wow, that’s a hard question – there are so many. The internet has brought people together, medicine saves lives, I like that we have electricity, clean water and air-conditioning. But I think the greatest scientific accomplishments are yet to come.

Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?

Yes. I think I wanted to be an engineer in the space industry before I even know what an engineer was.

What advice would you give to kids who are interested in a STEM career?

Just go for it! Math or science classes don’t have to be your best subjects, they just have to be something that interests you.

What skills are important for you in your work?

I use my math and science background to help me with practical thinking – figuring out how to solve challenges.

With 1 being never/not important and 5 always/very important:

How important, or frequently used, is Science in your day-to-day job activities?

☐1 ☐2 ☒3 ☐4 ☐5

How important, or frequently used, is Technology in your day-to-day job activities?

☐1 ☐2 ☐3 ☐4 ☒5

How important, or frequently used, is Engineering in your day-to-day job activities?

☐1 ☐2 ☐3 ☒4 ☐5

How important, or frequently used, is Math in your day-to-day job activities?

☐1 ☐2 ☒3 ☐4 ☐5

Other skills, in addition to STEM, that are necessary to be successful in my job:

Writing skills are important in any job. Being able to look at the big picture – seeing how the pieces fit together and interact. Practical thinking – how can I make this better. Leadership skills – how to get a team to work together.

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