Kelly Kozdras

Electrical Engineer · University of Washington

“Growing up I excelled at math and science and heard engineering was a good thing to study from engineers in my family. I earned a BS in Electrical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. But it was real experience that showed me how exciting working as an engineer can be and how I can benefit communities through my work.”

“I did a one-year contract as a field and construction engineer at the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Station in Antarctica through the Raytheon Polar Services Company. Because the site is so remote, the electrical system had components and challenges that were somewhat unique and always interesting such as exploring why motor controllers were intermittently tripping off — a problem made more interesting by the small, isolated diesel generator-fed electrical system they were connected to. Or dealing with electronic equipment problems or failures that were likely exacerbated by operating at a site with elevation and low humidity outside the product’s operating specifications. After that year, I was eager to learn more about power engineering to better understand the systems I had worked with and be able to continue work with systems like this.“

“After college, I worked at consulting engineering firms designing electrical system for transportation projects for light rail stations and tracks, tunnels, roads, and bridges. I’m licensed as a professional electrical engineer, which means I can sign my design plans. Being responsible for my designs, having it part of a larger project, and seeing it exist in the world makes me proud.”

“My interests and personality aren’t aligned with a stereotypical engineer and I used to think that I needed to fit the stereotypical mold to be a better engineer. After seeing something I designed in the real world, it was concrete evidence for me that I can both be myself and be a great engineer, in spite of how little or much that conforms to anyone’s stereotype of an engineer”.

Kelly’s advice working through tough problems is “persistence in trying to understand and solve the problem is essential”. “When solving complex problems trying to understand or solve just tiny pieces of the problem at a time helps me to chip away at what could seem very tough when starting. It also boosts my self confidence when I work through a challenge that took a long time.”

“Maintain curiosity, wonder, and passion about what you are spending your time doing. There are many exciting things to understand and study in the world, so maintaining this curiosity doesn’t end up being that difficult. For me, this has most recently meant returning to school to pursue a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Washington to learn more about power, energy, and renewable energy. For her thesis project, Kelly is working with the Hydro Research Foundation on a microgrid that consists of a battery storage system and a small hydropower site within a small Washington mountain town.