A conversation with Katelyn Keberle starts with the unexpected: “I was fortunate enough to not know what I wanted to do before joining college, so I tried my hand at everything.”
Channeling her inner urge to create and try different things, Keberle decided to major in materials science and engineering. The 21-year–old, set to graduate in May 2014, has focused on exceeding expectations at every opportunity that crosses her path, and so it comes as no surprise that she is this year’s winner of Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award.
“Materials science goes down to the fundamentals,” she said. “It’s the interface of chemistry and physics that explains why things are the way they are, and how we should work with things that are the way they are. Without materials science and engineering, modern technology such as computers, semiconductors, urban developments and biomedical devices wouldn’t exist.”
A Tempe native, Keberle applied to engineering schools at ASU and the University of Arizona, and chose ASU’s Fulton Schools for their quality of engineering programs and affordability.
“Even as an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to work on research that looked at applications of carbon nanotechnology to detect and treat diseases like cancer and heart ailments. It was a cool experience because I saw how my work could directly affect and help people,” she said.
At ASU, she was also encouraged to add to her academic experience by pursuing volunteer opportunities and internships.
“I was involved in growing the ASU chapter of Materials Advantage Club to promote networking among students of materials science and engineering,” she said. “Another volunteer opportunity I enjoyed most was my time as a Fulton Ambassador. It allowed me to share my experience as an engineering student at ASU with high school students and answer any questions that they have about pursuing the field.”
Keberle is also the youngest member of the FlashFood team, an award-winning project that evolved out of Engineering Projects in Community Service, social entrepreneurship courses offered by the Fulton Schools of Engineering. FlashFood is a mobile application to help food service businesses, food recovery organizations, local community centers and volunteers to work together to recover perishable food and connect it with those in need.
While working on FlashFood, Keberle was pleasantly surprised by ASU’s encouraging culture of openness, innovation and social entrepreneurship.
“What I really liked about ASU is that we are not afraid to look at ourselves and ask what we could be doing better, and to continue to strive and create better experiences for the next generation,” she said. “It has been great to be able to share services and facilities that are continuously evolving and getting better with incoming freshmen.”
For Keberle, being in college has allowed her to evolve into becoming a confident, young leader.
“The amazing experiences at ASU have shaped and allowed me to become a better version of myself,” she said. “Developing leadership qualities and knowing that as future engineers we can do anything have been immensely valuable lessons to learn as an undergrad. The skills that I gained through the engineering school have prepared me to go after any opportunities that I’d like to.”
Driven by an innate curiosity, a love of creating and doing things that haven’t been done before, helping people and making the world better a day at a time, Keberle hopes to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. She is due to start work as a process engineer at the medical products division of W. L. Gore and Associates, Inc., as soon as she graduates.
When asked about winning the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Alumni Association 2014 Outstanding Graduate Award, Keberle smiled sheepishly.
“I am humbled beyond words to receive this distinction,” she said. “I feel that I represent all ASU students who believe that education is not limited to doing our best in the classroom. We are also serving our communities as part of our learning process.”
To continue that learning process in the real world, Keberle is ready to graduate.
“When you prepare to leave a place, you feel a lot better when you like the direction it is going in,” she said, sounding wise beyond her years. “It has been exciting to have been a part of this period of growth with its various programs and internships, to be a part of many ‘first times’ of doing so many things and to see them continue to be enriching experiences. It’s time to go. I’m sad, but also excited to leave.”