Experiences pay off as Abigail Penfield earns mechanical engineering degree

December 08, 2023

Abigail Penfield

Abigail Penfield has spent her time at Mizzou taking advantage of every opportunity she could find. She got involved in undergraduate research and numerous student organizations, including Mizzou Space Program, Mizzou Engineering Student Council, Society of Women Engineers, TEDxMU and Engineers’ Club. Her undergraduate experiences in mechanical and aerospace engineering have been out-of-this-world, from building rockets to conducting experiments on a Zero-G parabolic flight with Chung-Lung “C.L.” Chen’s research team.

And all of that experience has paid off, with Penfield having multiple job offers to choose from after graduating this December.

Continue reading for a Q&A with Penfield about her time at Mizzou Engineering.

Why did you choose Mizzou?

I chose Mizzou because I have family ties to the university, and I was accepted into the Honors College Discovery Fellows program, which places freshmen in university research labs and is an opportunity that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

What’s your favorite thing about mechanical engineering?

The labs are hard work, but I enjoy the hands-on aspect and the chance to engage in experimental testing, data analysis and technical writing. I also appreciate how easy it is to obtain an aerospace engineering minor as a mechanical engineering student. My favorite classes have been the electives that I’ve taken for that minor.

What’s your favorite Mizzou Engineering memory?

My favorite memory is watching Mizzou Space Program’s 2023 Spaceport America Cup rocket, the Space Moped, finally lift off in New Mexico this past summer. The Space Moped (which was actually named after a Mizzou figure) was MSP’s first rocket flown using a motor designed and manufactured by us students. I spent a lot of time contributing to this competition project, so it was incredibly satisfying to see all the hard work result in something pretty spectacular.  I’ve been the propulsion lead this semester, and my goal has been to develop a fuel recipe and design a motor configuration that results in an even better motor so that MSP members can fly another rocket with their own motor at a future competition and feel the same pride that we all felt this summer.

How has Mizzou Engineering helped you achieve your goals?

Outside of gaining marketable skills and securing a full-time job after graduation, I wanted to grow as an individual and I’ve definitely learned a lot more about my interests and passions, developed my strengths, and identified my weaknesses during my time at Mizzou. I think the most important thing I’ve learned though is how to go outside of my comfort zone and embrace change and every opportunity available to me. Because of this, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a lot of really cool experiences, including traveling across the country, because of Mizzou Engineering. 

What would you tell someone who’s interested in coming to Mizzou?

Look at what a school has to offer outside of classes. Mizzou makes undergraduate research very accessible and has amazing student organizations which provide a lot of opportunities to make friends and network, build interpersonal and technical skills and learn about future career opportunities. Student organizations have been a significant part of my college experience and the reason why I stayed at Mizzou. I’ve also gotten amazing internship and full-time offers largely because of my experience in the Mizzou Space Program. I feel like the College of Engineering is very competitive in regard to student organization involvement, and after seeing how much the organizations have grown in the time I’ve been here, I’m excited to see what they will accomplish in the future.