• YEAR: Senior
  • MAJOR: Aerospace Engineering
  • HOMETOWN: Harlan, Iowa

Krista Garrett

Purdue senior Krista Garrett launched her aerospace career in the first grade, a 6-year-old who was mesmerized by Space Week and the launch of model rockets.

When she graduates in May 2014, she'll be heading to Houston, where she has been hired as an attitude determination and control officer at NASA.

Reverse the thrusters and head back to seventh-grade Career Day, where she dressed up as a flight controller complete with a NASA "badge" that her dad crafted. Krista's aptitude in math and science — and her engineer dad — cemented her decision.

Strike up the band

But it wasn't just the University's reputation as the cradle of astronauts that drew Krista to Purdue Engineering. It was an additional "big" draw — the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band. A clarinet player, Krista had a goal of studying aeronautics and astronautics AND performing as a member of the band.

"Being a student leader of a band requires leadership and conflict resolution skills," Krista says. "Marching band is a complete mental break from studying aerospace engineering."

Those skills and classroom experience earned her a co-op at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she sat in the Mission Control Center observing her flight controller mentor.

"Each controller is required to take an exam as the first part of the training," Krista says. As part of the internship, she took the same exam — and passed it.

"It was the hardest test I've ever taken!" she says.

Seeing double

People might be surprised to learn that Krista has an identical twin with a degree in mechanical engineering. Dad, mom (an accountant), her twin and her younger sister all graduated from Iowa State University.

"They call me the Gold & Black sheep of the family," she says with a laugh.

Back to the classroom

As part of her new job at NASA, Krista will begin a two-year training program to become certified to support the International Space Station. The International Space Station is not only an orbiting laboratory but also a spaceport for a variety of spacecraft from NASA's international and commercial partners.

Although living a thousand miles away from family and friends will be difficult, Krista is excited to begin the job she always dreamed of.

"With a goal, you can always find a way to achieve it," she says. And music is something she says will help with the transition.

She embodies the mission of Purdue bands whose members reflect a lifelong love of music performance and leadership.

"There are a lot of community bands in Houston, and many of the engineers and scientists at the Space Center play instruments or sing."