Graduate student has her sights set on NASA

Paige+Feikert+is+a+grad+student+in+Mechanical+engineering.+Her+fascination+with+problem+solving+leads+to+a+dream+of+working+for+NASA.
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Graduate student has her sights set on NASA

Paige Feikert is a grad student in Mechanical engineering. Her fascination with problem solving leads to a dream of working for NASA.

Paige Feikert is a grad student in Mechanical engineering. Her fascination with problem solving leads to a dream of working for NASA.

Khánh Nguyễn

Paige Feikert is a grad student in Mechanical engineering. Her fascination with problem solving leads to a dream of working for NASA.

Khánh Nguyễn

Khánh Nguyễn

Paige Feikert is a grad student in Mechanical engineering. Her fascination with problem solving leads to a dream of working for NASA.

Paige Feikert wants to work for NASA.

“I do want to be an astronaut at some point,” Feikert said. “That sounds crazy, but I really do.”

Feikert is pursuing a graduate degree in material science, but she has another side that’s somewhat unusual for a science major. Feikert has spent much of the last six years using her communication minor, working as a TV news producer at KWCH Channel 12 News.

Feikert graduated from Wichita State with a degree in bioengineering and a minor in broadcast journalism in 2013. She likes surprising people in the science world with the work she does as a news producer, she said. And vice versa. People in broadcast journalism are often surprised to hear of the work she does outside of the newsroom.

Feikert, a single mom, got her start in TV news here at WSU, through the help of some faculty in the Elliott School of Communication. She wound up at Channel 12 when some unforeseen circumstances made her think about producing professionally.

“The money maker is engineering, so I should be an engineer, right?” Feikert said. “Well. then I had my daughter right after I graduated. I got fired and I was like, what am I going to do?”

She applied for a producer’s job at KWCH and got the position. She was there for three years, then left, and has worked there off and on since. Earlier this month, she once again said goodbye to KWCH to give her full attention to her graduate studies.

“I’ve never worked with better people than I have here (at KWCH), so it’s definitely really hard to leave,” Feikert said. “But I have to dedicate my time to school.

“I’m not trying to be a student forever. I already spent six years on an undergrad. Hopefully, I’m done in a year and a half.”

Feikert is a TA and now works in a lab on campus, as her academic advisor recommended.

Feikert said she struggles to put as much time into creative aspects of her life as she does her engineering graduate work.

“There are ways to be creative in engineering — there are,” Feikert said. “But a lot of stuff that you do is kind of by the book. You have to problem solve and I really enjoy that. My brain is very creative, but it’s also very practical and technical.

“But I never really felt like I had the opportunity to be creative, minus you know, presentations and stuff.”

Feikert is considering getting her PhD next, she said.

“After I graduate, I’ll either do that or I will, maybe try to get on with one of the aircraft companies. I mean materials is huge for aircrafts and aviation,” Feikert said. “All of those airplanes are made out of materials that need specific properties.”

Though Feikert isn’t an airplane aficionado, she said she sees the practicality of working for an aviation company.

“There’s a lot of connections between here and NASA as well,” Feikert said. “So it’s not super unheard of. Hopefully, I’ll end up there.”

The hardest thing for Feikert is finding time to dedicate to her five-year-old daughter Aaliyah, she said.

“She will tell me sometimes, ‘I don’t ever get to see you anymore,’ and I’m just like, ‘I know,’” Feikert said. “It breaks my heart. But at the same time, I have an end goal. This is for the best for both of us. I’m doing this because I feel like I have to do this. I have to get a career that I want that’s going to benefit us both.”

At the same time, Feikert is lying the groundwork for her daughter’s future success.

“My daughter thinks it’s so cool that I go to school,” Feikert said. “I took her to Ablah when I was studying for finals, and she told her teacher about it. She wanted to check out books and walk all over campus. She loves it here.”

Feikert isn’t letting anything get in the way of her end goal — working on space exploration projects.

“I even looked up the requirements to be an astronaut,” Feikert said. “I just find space to be so fascinating, so anything I can do to contribute to that, I think, would be extremely rewarding. The dream is to work at NASA.”